Posts tagged with "Flooding":

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Softbank CEO, Tony Blair, and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince will help build Indonesia's new capital

Indonesia is building a new $34 billion capital city that will be steered by none other than Softbank CEO and WeWork financier Masayoshi Son, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Abu Dhabi Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  Bloomberg reported that the three will be part of a committee to conceive of and oversee construction of a new capital in the province of East Kalimantan on Borneo Island, the third-largest island in the world at 287,000 square miles. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in August that he aimed to move the government and as many as 7 million people there beginning in 2024 to a new city spanning 632,500 acres—four times the size of Jakarta. Construction is anticipated to begin later this year with office space and homes for 1.5 million civic workers. According to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment, the oversight committee, including Son, Blair, and the Crown Prince, among others, is meant to help boost investment for the new project and encourage other entities to give. President Widodo wants private and state-owned groups to fund 80 percent of the build, noted Bloomberg. Softbank has already committed $40 billion while companies across Abu Dhabi have given up to $22.8 billion. The rush to ditch Jakarta comes after years of overcrowding; the interior city holds 10 million people while the total metropolitan area boasts nearly 30 million people. Costly effects due to climate change have also wreaked havoc on the capital city, forcing the country to rethink its plans. It’s no secret that the city, located on the northwest coast of Java, the world’s most populated island, is sinking into the sea at a rate of 6.7 inches per year.  Flooding has become a regular issue as well. In early January, Jakarta experienced the most intense period of rainfall in the city's history. Flash flooding forced tens of thousands of locals to evacuate, displacing most, and left 66 people dead. Residents are now taking steps to sue the city's governor. Set at a higher elevation just north of Java, Borneo Island doesn’t see these types of natural disasters as commonly. East Kalimantan, for example, is a more heavily forested area and suffers from heavy rain or dry seasons as well as monsoon winds.  Government officials argue that the move isn’t just about Jakarta’s physical state, but about its economic situation as well. Congestion alone costs Indonesia an estimated $6.5 billion per year, according to Al Jazeera, which has further stymied the nation's growth.
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Governor Cuomo unveils $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a $300 million proposal to upgrade the Erie Canal with recreational hotspots and a series of environmental improvements to combat flooding, restore wetlands, and enhance agricultural irrigation across New York State. Revamping the 19th-century waterway, which spans 363 miles from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, is expected to bring a wave of economic development to the 225 communities that surround it.  The news comes based on research conducted by Governor Cuomo’s Reimagine the Canals task force, a group assembled last May to produce a report on how the Canal’s historic infrastructure could be used to advance the health and well-being of area residents, economies, and ecosystems. BuroHappold Engineering was selected to head up the task force as the lead consultant.  The first phase of funding will be granted this year and will provide $100 million in investment to support projects that innovatively reuse canal infrastructure, according to the governor’s office, and create new ways to enjoy the water. A separate $65 million will go to helping prevent ice jams along the Canal and flooding.  Last restored in 1999 and designated as a National Heritage Area the following year, the Erie Canal has long-been underutilized, the task force noted. Cuomo aims to repurpose it to “fit our state’s 21st century needs.” “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail,” said the Governor in a press release, “grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve the resilience of today’s Canal communities, and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”  The Empire State Trail, stretching 750 miles long, is expected to be finished later this year and will further tie in the Canal improvements as they are built-out over the several years. The second phase of the initiative will involve the remaining $135 million and any further project recommendations suggested by the task force.  In an email to AN, Alice Shay, an associate in BurroHappold's Cities practice, said all phases will heavily involve the input of canalside residents. "It's critical to ensure that local communities are brought into the process and that the reimagining celebrates the history and heritage of the canal," she said. "We're looking at ways to adapt the system's assets for new uses that tap into this heritage, including transforming historic structures into tourism and recreation destinations and celebrating the canal's infrastructure with hydro-powered illumination."
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Venice is slammed with floods as architectural treasures are submerged

Over the last 24 hours, the city of Venice, Italy, has experienced record-breaking flooding—the highest its been in over 50 years. According to city officials, 85 percent of Venice was underwater by yesterday evening with peak water heights reaching just over six feet.  Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called for a state of emergency, citing the flooding as more than just a city-wide problem, but a global issue and a result of climate change. The “Acqua Alta” as it’s officially called, was caused this week by high tides and a strong, low-pressure storm system in the north Adriatic Sea, reported The Washington Post. Hotel lobbies, churches, and even plazas like St. Mark’s Square, which through photos you can see was swimmable at one point, have been submerged and are now barely walkable.   Reports are also coming in that the 925-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica has been severely damaged by the event. It’s the second time the architectural icon has flooded in the last two years but could turn out to be the worst. The basilica has only flooded six times throughout its entire history.  Venice has been more strategically striving to stop such catastrophic flooding from happening in the last several decades. Its MOSE project was established in the late 1980s and construction began in 2003 in an attempt to protect the city and the Venetian Lagoon by building an underwater floodgate system to seal off the city’s inlets during acqua alta. Due to cost overruns, construction delays, and corruption within the Italian government, the build-out of all 78 gates essentially halted for five years and missed its target deadline of last year. With the goal of protecting Venice from flooding of up to 10 feet, work on MOSE is expected to be completed by 2022, although that could change thanks to this week’s devastation.  The Conversation US reported last September that without intervention like the completed MOSE project, Venice could be totally underwater by the year 2100. The publication conducted a research study with the National Research Center of Venice and found that such disastrous flooding could occur with nearly every high tide in 50 years. 
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FEMA's flood insurance program continues through shutdown after lobbying by real estate industry

The night before President Donald Trump announced the federal government shutdown, he signed into law a stopgap bill that would reauthorize FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). "Adversarial journalism" outlet The Intercept reported on the bill and its potential connections to the nation's real estate interests.  Enacted in 1968, the NFIP was established in order to protect homes built on federally designated floodplains. Getting insurance through the program is a prerequisite for banks in providing mortgages to individuals buying relevant property. When FEMA announced on December 26 that it could not continue work, enter into contracts, or spend federal dollars because of the shutdown, many real estate interest groups got upset about the NFIP interruption. The Intercept reported the president and Congress essentially forced FEMA to carry on issuing certifications after these parties cried out over the estimated 40,000 coastal home closings that would be lost per month without the service. The National Association of Realtors, among others, made it clear that shuttering this program during the shutdown would be a detrimental loss to the real estate business in the U.S.
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New Orleans property swap may yield largest public riverfront in the U.S.

On October 26, a historic deal was implemented in New Orleans: the Port of New Orleans (PNO) and the Public Belt Railroad (PBR) swapped riverfront properties, unlocking a key stretch of land to what may soon be the largest uninterrupted public riverfront in the U.S. In the swap, PNO took ownership of a stretch of railroad along the Mississippi River and PBR took ownership of two large wharves–Esplanade Avenue and Governor Nicholls Street Wharves. PBR is owned by the City of New Orleans, which now plans to redevelop both wharves as public space (à la Mandeville Wharf). This redevelopment will connect two existing riverfront parks, Bywater's Crescent Park and the French Quarter's Woldenburg Park. This linkage is key in the long-term vision to develop the entire New Orleans riverfront as one contiguous public parkway, as detailed by Eskew Dumez + Ripple's 2008 Reinventing the Crescent plan. In a press conference on October 27, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced several major riverfront redevelopments, including the keystone wharf redevelopments. The wharves themselves have been allocated $15 million. The other developments announced are generally focused on improving existing public amenities along the Mississippi riverfront from the French Quarter to Bywater neighborhoods. They include a $7.5 million renovation of Spanish Plaza, a $400 million renovation of the World Trade Center at the Four Seasons hotel, a new $37 million terminal for the Canal Street Ferry, a new $7.3 million pedestrian bridge over the railway to the ferry terminal, $6 million in park improvements for Woldenberg Park in the French Quarter, $3 million in green space improvements for part of the Riverwalk, and $31.2 million for expansions to Crescent Park. Many of these projects are ongoing. After a series of major floods this summer, water experts in New Orleans are paying close attention to how the city is spending on water management. "The challenge in New Orleans is that we can't rub two nickels together to wrap up our water infrastructure and drainage problems," said Ramiro Diaz, a designer at architecture firm Waggonner and Ball, in a call with The Architect's Newspaper (AN). "Overall, I think it's a positive development, though. People have been waiting for these riverfront projects for years." Waggonner and Ball were the lead designers behind the Greater New Orleans Water Plan. According to Eskew Dumez + Ripple principal Steve Dumez, his firm is now looking into implementing the western end of the Reinventing the Crescent plan. This would open up riverfront property around the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, extending the parkway even further.
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Jean Nouvel's Miami Beach high-rise is back on schedule

Monad Terrace is its name. Jean Nouvel is its claim to fame. Its submerged future is ... quite a shame. After a period of uncertainty, the developers of the Miami Beach tower, New York-based JDS Development, have finally secured the $62.5 million necessary to undertake the project. Now the company has the go-ahead to complete the tower squarely in the middle of one of Miami Beach's most vulnerable flood zones. The Miami Beach tower by Nouvel made a splash last year for the wild and overgrown manmade lagoon at its base. Looking like a modernist structure reclaimed by nature after an environmental disaster à la J.G. Ballard, the structure may well fulfill its own prophecy. JDS' Michael Stern told Curbed Miami that the design "is very conscious of what is going on to changes to the streets and concerns about sea level rise." What this means is that the building will have a below-grade car garage to displace floodwater as well as incorporate landscaping features meant to absorb water, including the lagoon. Ateliers Jean Nouvel stated that the development will be the first condo of its kind to be built surpassing Miami Beach's revised flood regulations, at 11.5 feet above sea level. The interiors are minimalist and luxurious, with marble and oak siding and floor-to-ceiling glass windows boasting expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean. The building's 80 residential units contain terraces framed by draping bougainvillea and passion vine. Beneath the vines, the structure's facade consists of an aluminum honeycomb sawtooth screen designed to diffuse direct sun and create the visual effect of light playing on water. The question now is whether the building's flood alleviation measures will be enough to shield the structure from a Category 5 hurricane. Awareness of Miami's Sisyphean struggles with the rising tide has never been higher, but investment seems to keep pouring in for steel-and-glass boxes on the sea. The project is scheduled to be completed near the end of 2019.
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A grassroots organization starts an environmental movement in Iowa City

One might not expect Iowa City, a midsize heartland town of 70,000, to be on the forefront of urban sustainability issues. But Iowa City has everything to lose if climate change isn’t addressed. In 2008, a massive flood caused an estimated $64 billion in damage to the state, roughly equivalent to that caused by Hurricane Sandy. That flood was preceded by 239 tornados, which hit the Midwest over a nine-day period.

Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature, has a strong, culturally active citizenry, and now it is working to channel that energy into securing its environmental future. After the flood waters subsided, and the tornado damage was clear (damage from both of those events is still evident eight years later), a group of Iowa City residents began to seriously think about how design could be used to achieve a more sustainable urban center. “Ecopolis Iowa City” was organized to brainstorm urban restoration, biodiversity, local food, inclusionary and urban designs, renewable energy, and transportation initiatives for the future of the city. Initially holding informal meetings, Ecopolis Iowa City eventually started to sponsor forums that would use storytelling, music, and conversation to identify and generate ideas. From 2014 to 2016, the events eventually turned into a movement.

The city’s 2015 fall election saw a progressive council majority win for the first time in nearly 50 years. In spring 2016, Mayor Jim Throgmorton issued a “Regenerative City” proclamation. The proclamation set goals to “replant native prairies and trees to store carbon in the soils; expand urban agriculture; to power our city and neighborhoods efficiently through green building designs and renewable energy; to expand citywide recycling and composting through a zero waste ordinance; to make low-carbon transportation choices; to grow green jobs and support companies actively greening their operations.” By summer, the ideas from the Ecopolis Forums were worked into a proposed Iowa City Climate Action Plan.

The plan aims to expand and guide the regenerative city initiatives. Iowa City is already investing $60 million into raising a major route into the city above the 100-year flood level, but the plan calls for many more actions at different scales. From establishing protected “ecodistricts” to enforcing new sustainable building requirements, the plan may greatly affect the city’s future fabric. The plan sets greenhouse gas emission and transit diversity goals through 2030, with an eye on changing the way average citizens understand their impact on the environment.

Though the Iowa City Action Plan has not been formally adopted by the city, Ecopolis points out that the six million sandbags Iowa City residents filled to try and save their city in 2008 is a sign they are ready and able to make major changes. And with Ecopolis founders now on the city council, the time is better than ever.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

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This company is designing floating buildings to combat climate change disasters

What if, instead of washing out, a city could float when it floods? "Our system takes the onus of flood protection off the taxpayer and puts it onto the developer, the owner, and the builder. Why is the public subsidizing irresponsible construction in floodplains when there are better ways to build?" asked Greg Henderson, the founder and CEO of Los Gatos, California–based Arx Pax. The company has developed a new technology to boost resiliency in coastal areas and flood zones by building not on land, but over water. The SAFE Building System is a self-adjusting, three-part floating foundation made of precast concrete pontoons that can support not only homes, but towers and city blocks. Far from an engineer's fantasy, the system has precedent in the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which carries Seattle drivers across Lake Washington to the suburbs, and the Mega-Float, the world's largest airport over water in Tokyo, Japan. Though the ambitious system is buoyed by Silicon Valley optimism, the design inspiration for the project is humble. Houseboats, like the ones in Mission Bay that Henderson studied in architecture school at UC Berkeley, are impervious to earthquakes and floods—a solid model of how buildings could float above disaster.
Like houseboats, which vary by region and the owner's budget, the SAFE system is replicable but responds to local conditions. At every site, a few feet of water is introduced to float the structures before any floods, like a swimming pool for buildings. The pontoons can be made of myriad materials in response to local conditions; Henderson is adding fly ash and other admixtures to ordinary Portland cement to create pontoons that have a lifespan of hundreds of years. In an explainer video, Arx Pax uses Miami Beach, Florida, as a model to demonstrate how the SAFE system could be implemented.An idea, though, is only as feasible as its permitting. Arx Pax is researching local regulations around the installation and maintenance of in-ground pools for guidance on how to pitch the SAFE system to municipalities. California's Marin County, for example, has rules that govern houseboats, "so there is regulation out there," said Henderson. "We're pushing some envelopes, but we're not doing anything new. We're pulling together existing technologies so it should be easy for people to get behind [the system]." Henderson wants communities—and the federal government—to rethink the reactive approach to disaster planning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s rebuild and retreat model, he said, doesn't work when, by some estimates, sea levels could rise more than six feet by 2100. Building on stilts or doing nothing are less cost-effective than the SAFE system long-term, Arx Pax argues, because more frequent extreme weather events will continue to destroy coastlines and cities on floodplains. Even levees have problems (beyond breaches): Their slopes take up precious real estate, a proposition that may be feasible in some areas but less desirable in places with high land costs. For cities in climate-change denial, there is still time to reconsider approach to hazard mitigation. Right now, Arx Pax is in talks with FEMA to adopt the technology, and the company is working with a few flood-prone U.S. communities that Henderson declined to name. Internationally, Arx Pax is doing a pilot project with Republic of Kiribati (a small, low-lying island nation in the Pacific Ocean) to increase its resiliency.
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Miami battles rising floodwaters even as development booms

In terms of cities and climate change, Miami Beach is the biggest canary in the coal mine. At approximately four feet above sea level, this 19-square-mile strip of artificial and natural islands faces frequent flooding during storms and high tides. (Last September’s king tide—a colloquial term for high tide—reached 2.2 feet.)

The city is aggressively fighting the watery onslaught: Over the next five years, Miami Beach will spend $400 to $500 million in anti-flooding defenses that include pumps, raised roads, and seawalls.

This is money well spent. The Miami area sits on limestone that absorbs floodwaters and can force the deluge back to the surface, making flood control a special challenge. Still, environmental concerns aren’t stopping new developments across Miami. The economic timeframe for developers (and the residents buying and renting) remains relatively short compared to the long-term threat.

In addition to flooding, another, more insidious threat looms: Miami maintains its Biscayne Aquifer by channeling freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to push back against saltwater intrusion, which means the region may have to choose between flooding or drinking salt water. By 2060, some estimates place sea-level rise at three feet. Further down the line, questions of how federal and private insurers will provide flood coverage —and how eager banks will be to issue mortgages—may also arise.

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FEMA updates New York City flood maps for rising sea levels

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that New York City’s flood maps will be revised to add more buildings to high flood risk areas. “We are building a stronger, more resilient city to confront climate change. Our city needs precise flood maps that reflect real risks, both today and years from now—and we have to do that fairly. We will work closely with FEMA to ensure New Yorkers in the floodplain are prepared, and that the tools to make them more resilient, like flood insurance, remain available and affordable. We are grateful to FEMA to agreeing to this partnership,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a statement. The agency's decision comes after the de Blasio administration appealed to FEMA last year to update flood risk calculations for the city and region, a move that added 35,000 buildings to the highest flood risk areas. According to FEMA regional administrator Jerome Hatfield, the region's coastal flood risk maps have not been updated since 1983, a comparatively halcyon time when climate change–intensified superstorms did not threaten to annihilate New York City. FEMA's revised maps, created in association with the New York City Panel on Climate Change, will give more accurate current and future flood data that accounts for global warming. The goal is to give eligible homeowners a better idea of their risk, crucial information in the selection of appropriate flood insurance. FEMA requires mortgage-holding homeowners in the highest risk areas to buy flood insurance; as a result of today's announcement, New Yorkers in the highest-risk flood zones will save millions of dollars in flood insurance premiums. (Those in lower-risk zones are encouraged, but not required, to purchase insurance, too.) To educate its citizens on the dangers of the rising seas, the city has created a comprehensive site for flood risk information, and the city plans to do additional outreach once the new maps go into effect.
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Jean Nouvel's vegetated Miami tower touted for its man-made lagoon

West Avenue in Miami Beach is set for a Jean Nouvel high rise surrounded by an elaborate man-made lagoon.  The tower will be covered with suspended vegetation that, at least in renderings, casts the structure in a distinctly green hue. This is Nouvel's second attempt at building in the city after his Grove Heights project lost a competition in 2013. "Monad Terrace" as the 14-story tower is known, is set to top out at 149 feet, just a hair below the city's height limit of 150 feet. Developers JDS also recruited Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design to work on the scheme which boasts a glass facade encircled by water and a green wall, covered in foliage on one side. Inside, the structure will hold approximately 80 residential units that will offer two–five bedroom layouts, each with views out three or four sides of the building. Topping the structure are two penthouses, each with its own private pool. To maintain privacy, reflective screens—that allow views out but obscure view in—sit in front windows, creating a staggered facade. The lagoon, however, is the complex's showpiece. Occupants can stroll up to seating in the middle and edges of the lagoon or take a dip in the swimming pool along the bay where a waterfall is planned. According to managing partner at JDS Development Group, Michael Stern, the pool will be visible from the bay. It's not all good news though. Elaborate water features may be easy on the eye, but rising sea levels are a very real threat to those along the coast on Miami's South Beach. The issue surfaced late last year when The New Yorker published findings that said the idyllic retreats of the area could be underwater in under 50 years. Nouvel's design however, looks to be high and dry. "Our design is very conscious of what is going on to changes to the streets and concerns about sea level rise," said Stern speaking to Curbed Miami. Monad Terrace will be the first building in the West Avenue vicinity to encompass the higher street level requirements. Nouvel has been inclusive of the potential disastrous surroundings in his design. Landscaping dotted around the building can absorb water, meanwhile below street-level garages can act as water-tight "bathtubs." Speaking on the matter, Stern commented that "the landscape is designed that if any salt water intruded it is tough enough to live through that event."
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Flood prevention scheme in the Netherlands creates unique byproduct: an urban river park island

After a close shave with nature 20 years ago, the Netherlands has sought to reinvent defensive flood prevention. "Room for the Waal" is an anti-flood program in Nijmegen, a city which spans the River Waal, Europe’s busiest waterway, where a sharp turn forms a bottleneck as it nears the city. In 1995, heavy rains in upstream France and Germany caused an upsurge in water levels in Nijmegen that threatened to breach the dikes, warranting the evacuation of the city’s 170,000 residents, as well as cattle. Despite a crisis averted, the city is undertaking a flood resilience initiative focused on widening the floodplain rather than hedging its bets with fortified embankments. Through this floodplain, excavators will carve a new channel for the River Waal, leaving an island at its center. For starters, the dikes will recede 1,148 feet inland, and the resulting widened floodplains will be excavated to create room for a new channel. The island that is left behind presents an opportunity to construct a whole new section of city along with a unique urban river park, thus creating a two-fold tool for urban regeneration and flood deterrence. At certain points, the island is at a sufficient elevation for this purpose. The city is building four new bridges to connect the new island to both sides of the river, while a new neighborhood is rising across the river from the city center, balancing urban development on both sides of the waterway. Existing floodplains along the River Waal consist mostly of agricultural land, but 50 families in the village of Lent will need to relocate nevertheless in order to accommodate the receded embankments. Room for the Waal is part of national flood prevention program "Room for the River," into which the Dutch government is investing 2.3 billion euros (nearly $2.6 billion) on more than 30 crucial river locations to protect four million people who live on flood-prone territory. The approach consists of broadening and deepening floodplains and removing groins that obstruct water flow.  Room for the Waal is expected to complete at the end of this year with a final cost of $381.6 million.