Posts tagged with "Infrastructure":

Detroit’s bridge to Canada ready for construction but faces political challenges

The Gordie Howe International Bridge, a six-lane span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is set to begin construction this fall after the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) selected a team to design and build the structure. Bridging North America, an architecture, engineering, and construction 'whos-who' team including ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd., AECOM, RBC Dominion Securities Inc., Carlos Fernandez Casado S.L/FHECOR Ingenieros Consultores, S.A., Moriyama and Teshima Architects, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, LLP, will oversee construction of the $3.7 billion bridge. The WDBA touted the bridge’s benefits in a project update on July 5. The Detroit-Windsor crossing is currently serviced by four separate crossings and accounts for 25 percent of the trade between the U.S. and Canada. Gordie Howe is supposed to streamline entry and exit across both countries for the 2.6 million trucks that make the crossing annually. The 1.5-mile-long span would be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America and would be supported by two enormous, A-shaped structural towers. In addition to the six lanes for vehicles, three in each direction, bike lanes have been planned for the side of the bridge facing Detroit. The bridge project includes new ports of entry on both borders and a new connection to I-75. Not everyone is on board with speeding up the flow of goods from Canada. Reflecting the sometimes tumultuous relationship that the Trump administration has had with America's neighbor to the north, owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, are reportedly trying to kill the project. The Ambassador Bridge currently handles 60 to 70 percent of truck traffic across the Detroit River, and the Canadian Government, owners of the WDBA, have stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge will need to be torn down once the Gordie Howe is complete. In response, the Morouns have been buying commercial airtime on Washington, D.C.-area Fox News stations in an attempt to influence Trump to scrap the Gordie Howe. The family has also been trying to get the Trump administration to inject the Gordie Howe into NAFTA negotiations and to pressure the Canadian government to drop its requirement that the Ambassador Bridge be dismantled. The Morouns are also fighting to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to acquire the land it needs to build a 167-acre port-of-entry in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood. The WDBA is still negotiating contract details with Bridging North America, and if everything proceeds as planned, work on the Gordie Howe should begin by the end of September.

Chicago offers up historic Chicago Avenue bridge for free

Looking for a gift that truly shows you care? Give the gift of infrastructure! The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced it is offering up one of its historic bascule bridges for free to any state, local or responsible entity willing to haul it away. Built in 1914 by the Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge spans the north branch of the river and is one of many pony truss style bascule bridges. The bridges’ leaves are suspended on axles underneath the street, with the counterweight hidden within a riverbank pit tucked behind a limestone enclosure. This type of bridge was developed in Chicago in 1900, with the first one constructed in 1902 still in operation at Cortland Street and the Chicago River. Bascule bridges opened easily and did not obstruct the river with a central pier, a must to accommodate a busy early 20th century waterway serving Chicago’s commercial route to the Mississippi River system. The bridge replacement is a component to proposed traffic improvements along Chicago Avenue in advance of the construction of One Chicago Square, a massive 869 residential structure proposed at State Street and Chicago Avenue. Designed by Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, One Chicago Square calls for two glassy towers atop a podium, the tallest of which tops out at 1,011 feet, making it what could be Chicago’s sixth tallest building. The future owner of the bridge assumes all costs for moving the bridge and maintaining historically significant features. The City of Chicago intends to replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure this fall. Those interested must submit a proposal by July 13.  Thus far, the CDOT has received no offers for the bridge. The bridge comes with a determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which requires the City of Chicago to make a reasonable effort to offer the bridge up for restoration to interested parties. The gift includes the embedded counterweights and the two bridge houses.

Smart Cities New York

Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.

Virgin Hyperloop One debuts prototype travel pods in Dubai

What if you could cut the travel time between two cities from a an hour's drive to less than 15 minutes? That's Virgin Hyperloop One's plan for a high-tech, high-speed autonomous transportation system that could one day link Abu Dhabi and Dubai. And now, with the unveiling of a prototype design for the pods that will carry commuters at nearly the speed of sound through low-pressure tubes using magnetic levitation, the plan is inching closer to reality. The first hyperloop pod prototype, created by Virgin Hyperloop One in conjunction with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), debuted last week as part of UAE Innovation Month, and it gives travelers the first sense of what a trip on the future 'loop might really look like. And, no surprise given that Richard Branson is a major investor, the vibe is very Virgin: sleek, modern, and bathed in moody colored light. The dream of hyperloop transportation has been one of tech's most hyped ideas since Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk proposed the idea with a white paper back in 2013. While the billionaire entrepreneur is not involved with this particular project, Virgin Hyperloop One has big plans of its own for the developing technology, including other on-demand travel networks linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Mumbai to Pune. Along with its high speed, the hyperloop is contained underground and completely autonomous, which may be a major factor in reaching the RTA's goal of making as many as 25 percent of travel in Dubai driverless by 2030. The Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop is expected to one day transport up to 10,000 people per hour between the two Emirati hubs, which are located about 75 miles apart, when it opens to the public, which could be as early as 2020. The Emirati hyperloop will be anchored by a B.I.G.–designed transport hub, making it clear that even when you take time out of the travel equation, things can still still look mighty futuristic.

Montreal to begin construction on massive automated light rail

After years of deliberation, Montreal’s regional light rail has been given the go-ahead to begin engineering and construction. Reseau Express Metropolitain (REM) is a fully automated, $5.3 billion light rail project consisting of 26 stations spread out over an approximately 40-mile electrified network. Upon completion, the REM will be the fourth largest automated light rail line in the world after Singapore, Dubai, and Vancouver. NouvLR General Partnership, which includes multinational engineering firms SNC-Lavalin and AECOM, is leading the construction and future operations of the network. The architecture and design of the future stations result from a collaboration between award-winning firms, Perkins+Will, Lemay, and Bisson Fortin. As reported by the Global Construction Review, the new light rail network will establish a comprehensive rapid transport link between downtown Montreal, the international Aeroport-Montreal Trudeau, and the suburban areas of South Shore, West Island, and North Shore. The four branches of the REM will consist of surface-level, underground and overhead routes, serviced by an initial fleet of 240 cars. The 26 stations will have 260-foot platforms, universal access facilities, and a number of intermodal connections to the city’s bus and commuter rail networks. Although REM will be a network independent of the Montreal Metro, the city’s existing public transit system, the two bodies will share four stations within the city’s center. With Greater Montreal boasting a population of over four million, the seamless integration of regional rail with local rapid transit has the capacity to dramatically boost economic growth within the city. The CDPQ estimates that REM could attract $4 billion in private real-estate investment and reduce congestion-related costs by $1.5 billion. Construction is slated to begin in April 2018, with an expected completion date of 2021. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome before construction begins, such as making the necessary land purchases. According to Business Insider, CDPQ will consult local communities and host urban planning competitions to insure that initiatives surrounding the new stations integrate into their neighborhoods and support local residents. Funding for the project derives from a mix of government entities and state corporations. CDPQ Infra will provide $2.35 billion as well as cover any cost overruns, the Governments of Quebec and Canada will provide $1 billion each, the public utility corporation Hydro Quebec will contribute $230 million, and the Montreal Transit Corporation will chip in $405 million. The REM is not the only ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in Canada recently. On December 17, Toronto opened the largest expansion of its subway system in decades. Although Toronto’s 5.3-mile extension of its subway network falls under the purview of the municipal Toronto Transit Commission, it similarly ties the urban core to the suburban periphery.

Trump administration releases full $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan

After the draft version of President Trump’s signature infrastructure plan leaked to Axios last month, the administration has now released the full version of the document following the release of this morning's budget outline. The complete plan skews closely to the outline, laying out $200 billion in federal dollars with the expectation that the private market would generate an additional $1.2 trillion in funding. The depreciation model from the draft has been kept, meaning that older or existing projects will face a severe disadvantage when asking for federal money from the $100 billion “incentives program.” The same restrictions on grant funding have also been carried over, meaning that no project could receive more than 20 percent of its funding from the government, a restriction certain to stymie the New York-New Jersey Gateway Project. Funding for mass transit is disproportionately disadvantaged in the final plan. As with the draft, a shift to funding projects via state and private dollars means that projects with a low return on investment, such as public transportation, are likely to be passed over. While roads and highways are worth investing in because of the potential for tolls, trains rarely provide the same money-making potential. As such, the proposal would also roll back federal toll restrictions and allow tolling across any interstate highway. While the bones of the final plan are the same as the earlier version, there are some new surprises. In an attempt to streamline the construction process, all permitting would take only 21 months, with a final decision three months afterward. This two-year process would be stewarded by a single federal agency, which would see the project along from the application to approval phase. Any project receiving federal funding would have two-year milestones set up, and a failure to meet those goals would lead to a voiding of its grant. Environmental groups have already raised the alarm over truncating the permitting phase to less than two years, claiming it would gut environmental requirements and study periods. Judicial reforms proposed later in the document would seem to back this claim up, as the plan, if passed, would curtail the amount, and lengths, of any lawsuits filed against a project. $20 billion has also been set aside for a so-called “Transformative Projects Program,” which would fund “ambitious, exploratory, and ground-breaking project ideas that have significantly more risk than standard infrastructure projects, but offer a much larger reward profile.” Also of note is the proposed expansion of the EPA’s ability to regulate water infrastructure, including a newfound authority over flood risk management, and likely any climate change mitigation measures. It’s worth mentioning that Trump’s plan would drop cross-state licensure requirements for anyone wishing to work on a project that has received federal funding, something that has been a hot button issue for AN’s readers in the past. While the infrastructure bill and accompanying budget released by the Trump administration would reorganize the American economy and privatize much of the country’s infrastructure, it’s extremely unlikely that Congress would pass it. Federal spending for the next two years has already been set after a recent budget deal was hashed out on February 9th, and this bill probably wouldn’t be able to achieve the necessary broad bipartisan support. Read the full text of the proposed infrastructure plan here.

CTA announces route of proposed Red Line expansion

On January 26, the Chicago Transit Authority announced its ideal path for the proposed expansion of the city’s Red Line south branch. The expansion, the system's first since 1993, is a major aspect of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Red Ahead” initiative to modernize and lengthen Chicago’s busiest train line. Over 240,000 Chicagoans ride the city’s Red Line on an average weekday, representing over 40 percent of "L" ridership. The “Red Ahead” initiative has already delivered tangible improvements to the second largest transport system in the country. Currently, a transit terminal designed by Chicago-based Exp. is rising on 95th Street, the current southern terminus of the Red Line. The $280 million project entails the renovation of the existing North Terminal and the construction of an entirely new South Terminal, with the intended goal of increasing passenger capacity for existing and future commuter demand. The renovated and expanded station will also include two new public artworks by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, and is expected to open in 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports that the proposed route runs from 95th Street, along the preexisting Union Pacific freight tracks, to 130th Street. This route will expand the Red Line by 5.3 miles, add four new stations, and is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. State and local funding for the project is not yet fully realized, and considering the budget priorities laid out by the Trump administration’s recently-leaked infrastructure plan, crucial federal funding remains precarious at best. The earliest the project will break ground is 2020, with an approximate four-year construction timeline. The new stations, located on 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, will feature bus and parking facilities as a measure to decrease vehicular congestion within the greater Chicago area. As noted by NBC Chicago, the 5.3-mile extension primarily serves Chicago’s Far South Side, an area currently designated as a “transit desert” due to its lack of public transport. Expanding transportation opportunities in Chicago’s South Side could dramatically impact the area’s residents. According to CBS Chicago, the extension of the Red Line could shave 20 minutes off the commute from the Far South Side to Downtown Chicago, boosting the accessibility of affordable housing in the area. Although transportation projects tend to draw the ire of community groups, interviews conducted by the Chicago Tribune with residents and businesses across the proposed Red Line expansion reveal widespread support for the transit initiative. According to Progressive Railroading, a final environmental impact study for the project will be released following a February 13 open house with the surrounding community. Following the study, the CTA can apply for over $1 billion in federal funding. If funding is secured for the extension of the Red Line, the CTA will still have to contend with the approximately 150 private parcels along the proposed route. The financial and logistical hurdles are great, but the large-scale expansion of Chicago’s “L” could prove a boon to residents and city alike.

First look at a leaked draft of Trump administration’s infrastructure plan

Axios has obtained a leaked draft copy of the Trump administration’s much-vaunted infrastructure plan. An initial look at the preliminary plan hints that it would drastically change how public projects are funded. While no concrete figures have been provided, Trump has consistently cited a “$1 trillion” spending figure, with $200 billion coming over 10 years from the plan’s implementation and the remaining $800 billion coming from states and private industry. To meet those goals, the draft plan leans heavily on raising money through user fees, such as tolls, and drastically capping the federal government’s investment in infrastructure projects. While 50 percent of the available funds have been set aside to incentivizing states and cities to invest in infrastructure, the plan favors new projects and diminishes how much funding a project is eligible for based on its age. A requirement that the federal government cap its grant contribution to a project to 20 percent of a project's total cost, no matter how large it is, might spell disaster for the New York-New Jersey Gateway Project if the bridge-and-tunnel plan falls under the bill’s jurisdiction. In general, mass transit projects would find it much harder to win funding from the federal government, as Trump’s plan would give priority to developments that can demonstrate a material return on investment. Other changes proposed in the draft plan include allowing tolls on interstate highways, a practice which is currently heavily restricted, consolidating project approval power across the country to a single federal agency yet to be named, ease environmental restrictions on highway construction, and permitting a greater involvement from private investors. Several changes to the Environmental Protection Agency have also been included in the plan, many of which involve both streamlining the agency as well as potentially expanding its authority to supersede state-level decisions. It’s important to note that this only a draft of the infrastructure plan and the final version may differ significantly. The full draft outline can be read here.

Dancing geometry wraps new Brooks + Scarpa transit hub in Seattle

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The Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza is a seven-acre, 400,000-square-foot mixed-use complex for Sound Transit, a public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area. The project was awarded to Los Angeles–based architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa after an international design-build competition was held. It was completed earlier this year. With over 4,000 people living within a one-half-mile radius of the station, the project offers community-focused exterior and interior spaces such as specially designed drop-off areas, retail spaces, bike storage facilities, and electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Facade Manufacturer APEL Extrusions and Intermountain Industrial Fab
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa
  • Facade Installer Harbor Pacific/Graham
  • Facade Engineering Brooks + Scarpa, Lars Holte, P.E., Walter P. Moore
  • Location Seatac, WA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure
  • Products custom-formed anodized aluminum panels
The transit hub is a seven-story, cast-in-place and post-tensioned concrete structure with an exterior facade that uses over 7,500 custom-formed blue anodized aluminum facade panels. Using ruled surface geometry, the undulating facade is formed by connecting two curves with a series of straight lines to form the surface of the facade. Each of the custom aluminum facade elements was designed and segmented into standardized sizes for the most efficient structural shape and material form, while maximizing production, fabrication and installation cost efficiency. This technique allowed the design team to work with complex curved forms and rationalize them into simple, cost-effective standardized components, making them easy to fabricate and efficient to install. The entire facade was installed in less than three weeks without the use of cranes or special equipment. The architects say the facade concept was inspired by William Forsythe’s improvisational piece, ‘Dance Geometry,’ where dancers connect their bodies by matching lines in space that could be bent, tossed or otherwise distorted. Translating this into construction, the architects explored how simple straight lines can be composed to produce implied curvature. “This idea lessens the need to think about the end result and focus more on discovering new ways of movement and transformations.” Ultimately, Brooks + Scarpa provided analysis, constructability, and digital documents for direct and automated fabrication. Working from the assumption that automated fabrication techniques would not be utilized in the project, one of the challenges of the project was to develop a workflow that would result in constructable, rationalized geometry. To achieve this, the project team worked closely with fabricators to translate digital ruled surfaces into segmented standardized sizes responsive to material requirements and fabrication efficiency. The bottom and top chords of the facade surface were segmented, which reduced their profile to measurable arcs for a pipe roller, or straight-line segments for standardized shapes. Beyond the facade, Brooks Scarpa’s plaza design caters both to transit users and the community at large by accommodating community events, such as festivals, farmers’ markets, art exhibits, and other outdoor public gatherings. Ornately designed seat walls, pathways, paving, native planting, and storm-water catchment features help to engage transit users as they move through the space, creating quiet places for social interaction while waiting for a transit connection. Beyond this plaza, the parking structure is designed to best practice standards for future adaptive reuse. These design features, along with specific energy-efficient materials and systems, allowed Angle Lake Transit Station and Plaza to be an Envision-certified sustainable mixed-use facility. Envision is a rating system similar to LEED, administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for infrastructure projects.

Puerto Rico’s energy crisis calls for sustainable solutions, not more of the same

On September 20th, Hurricane Maria pummeled into the Puerto Rican coast with wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, deluging the entire island with rain and quickly pulverizing its energy grid. The entire island was left without power. Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure is notoriously fragile. As Ruth Santiago, a climate advocate and attorney with Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Inc., a Puerto Rican environmental law group, told AN, three fallen trees in 2004 once took out energy for the entire eastern seaboard. Santiago explained that this was largely a geographic problem. Energy is by and large produced by two power plants – the Aguirre Power Complex in Salinas and the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla. An additional coal-burning plant owned by US-owned AES Corporation is another player. Yet these sites are huge distances from some of the most populated cities. Nearly 230,000 kilowatts of energy are produced by the Aguirre plant, extending through power lines over the central mountain range of the island to the metropolitan area of San Juan, which along with its neighboring cities has a population of about 2 million people – over half of the island's total population of nearly 3.5 million. Transmitting energy at that distance makes the whole grid extremely prone to collapse. In September 2016, a similarly massive outage occurred, but this time due to faulty maintenance, Santiago explained. A general lack of resources and oversight means it is difficult to maintain the grid in the long term, especially as it faces the duress of hurricane-power winds and as these storms become more intense with climate change. Luis G. Martinez, Senior Attorney and Director of Southeast Energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told AN that Puerto Rico's energy problem has been caught in a vicious cycle for quite some time. Earlier this summer, the Puerto Rican power utility PREPA filed for bankruptcy with a $9 million debt. Petroleum isn't cheap, and Puerto Rico is one of the only islands in the Atlantic to operate off of a petroleum-based energy grid (it is the source of about half of the island's electricity). When prices spike, utilities spend all their funds securing fuel, sinking further into debt and unable to break the cycle until they are no longer able to borrow money. Until about two years ago, Martinez said, the Puerto Rico Energy Power Authority (PREPA) was operated with very little oversight. In 2014, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) was created to regulate PREPA. Two days after the storm hit, another infrastructural system showed signs of imminent collapse: the Guajataca Dam located on the northwestern end of the island, a 90-year-old, 120-foot-tall structure holding back about 11 billion gallons of water. Three nearby towns, Isabela, San Sebastián and Quebradillas, were immediately evacuated, displacing thousands. Supplying relief from the mainland United States faces its own challenges. Yesterday, President Trump waived the Jones Act for a period of ten days. The Jones Act is a century-old law requiring goods delivered to Puerto Rico to be carried there exclusively on American-owned vessels. This Act has been hindering the delivery of relief supplies to people in need. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) was responded: "For an entire week, the President was touting his concern for the shipping industry, while refusing to suspend the Jones Act. A ten-day waiver, as the Administration has announced, is far from sufficient given the scope of this tragedy ... To that end, I repeat my call for a one-year waiver of the Jones Act." The President shows no signs of budging. On the ground, recovery efforts are unfolding in myriad ways. Santiago has been working with local advocates on a short-term response to the island's energy crisis, noting that long-term solutions like sustainable energy sources – localized, solar micro-grids being the ideal – are important, but should be implemented carefully in the months to come. For now, she said, municipalities need smaller-scale solutions: cell phone chargers and generators chief among them. She described recently visiting a facility where individuals with diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer were going without their medications because they could no longer be refrigerated. Fortunately, some groups have arisen to work on long-term solutions to the frail energy grid, alongside the efforts of Puerto Rico-based organizations. A Brooklyn-based initiative called Resilient Power Puerto Rico, a project of the Coastal Marine Resource Center (CMRC), is focused on solar energy solutions. In their first phase, they are seeking to provide mobile solar-energy hubs, which are being prototyped in Santurce (a district of San Juan), which will be scaled up to be based in Caguas, a city in the central mountain range of the island when they have more resources. These hubs, if effective, will be able to provide limited power to the residents of small towns around the island. CMRC's mission is quite extensive both in time and scale: by the end of 2017, they hope to deliver more than 100 mobile solar kits to be assembled in public spaces in municipalities, training communities to install the projects along the way. The timeline for the initiative extends through 2021, when they hope to advocate for solar energy for the entire island as a permanent replacement to today's over-stretched grid. The organization has experience implementing these kinds of projects, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when CMRC produced scalable solar panels and generators for the hard-hit Rockaway peninsula in New York City. As Santiago explained, with the economic and fiscal crisis the island was already undergoing when Maria hit, any investments should be made in renewable energy and micro-grids, and set the stage for future investments in the same field. As the Hurricane Sandy anniversary approaches on October 29, let us not forget that the same effects in Puerto Rico are currently being suffered tenfold, while receiving much less coverage in the news. When asked what he thought was missing from coverage, Martinez had an immediate response: "The degree of desperation is not being expressed properly. People don't know when food, medical care, or power will come back. People need aid immediately." In Puerto Rico, there are a number of groups doing on-the-ground recovery work, including:

Unidos por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico), led by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, is one of the largest initiatives garnering funds for recovery.

ConPRmetidos (Committed) is a non-profit completing impact and needs assessments and seeking to provide power and structural repairs to the communities most in need.

Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico (Community Foundation of Puerto Rico), based in San Juan, is a philanthropic foundation awarding grants for, among other things, housing and economic development in local communities.

Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Inc. (Environmental Dialogue Committee, Inc.) is the Salinas-based group that Santiago works for, housed under an umbrella organization bringing together community groups, fishers associations, and others, called IDEBAJO–Iniciativa de Ecodesarrollo de Bahia de Jobos, Inc. (Jobos Bay Ecodevelopment Initiative).

In the stateside diaspora, here are a few groups participating in recovery work:

El Puente | Enlace Latino de Acción Climática (Latino Climate Action Network), based out of Brooklyn, has been holding fundraisers to raise awareness and support for Maria recovery efforts.

Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY) have been pooling community voices, news, and fundraising opportunities since the storm.

Note: We know this list is not comprehensive, and encourage you to leave additional resources in the comments section.

Four initiatives for architects post-Harvey: A call to action

Austin was spared the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, but the destruction weighs on all of us here in Texas. What can we do as architects to respond to a natural catastrophe of such size? The first priority is humanitarian: saving lives and providing comfort and aid in every form. As I write this, people are still being rescued, hospitals face evacuations, flood waters remain, and two chemical plants have exploded. The tragedy is real and very human. The Texas Society of Architects is holding trainings sessions in safety assessment. AIA Dallas has mobilized a disaster action committee. But the scope of the disaster challenges architects throughout the country as the long-term tasks of rebuilding begin. Tens of thousands of homes, businesses, civic buildings, schools, water systems, power plants, and factories will need remediation or reconstruction. Architecture, as we usually practice it, quickly comes up short in giving direction to follow. But that only means we need to define new paths. In figuring out how to proceed we make our profession useful and visible to the public at large. Modernists dreamed for decades about reconstructing the city in rational terms, but the realities of economics and politics always thwarted them. Collaboration was the siren call of modernist design education. The current crisis provides an opportunity to realize some of those dreams and to create new modes of collaboration. In principle, the federal government takes a primary role in recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has moved into action in disaster recovery. It provides several assistance programs and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. The Small Business Administration provide its own stream of funding. Early estimates for residential property losses range from $25 billion to $37 billion. The governor of Texas has mentioned a figure of $150 billion. A half-million homes have been affected in an area the size of New Jersey. The National Flood Insurance Program is already more than $24 billion in debt from previous disasters. How effective such agencies will be in dealing with a catastrophe at this scale remains to be seen. Architects can and do have a direct advocacy impact at the levels of state, county, and city governments. We need to raise the questions that should be on the dockets when public entities confront rebuilding: where do people live and where should they not live, now and in the future? Do we reconstruct with the same techniques and materials normally used, or is there a better way to build in areas that are threatened by flooding? Houston was built on swamps naturally prone to flooding, but the city is not moving. Its medical center—almost a city in itself—secured its campus by having flood gates in place. What other techniques can mitigate against flooding and hurricane damage? How do we build with the resilience that climate change is demanding? We not only need to raise these questions, but we must lead in finding the answers. A second initiative involves new methods of rebuilding infrastructure. Architects ought to be engaged with these efforts, even if buildings themselves are not the tangible result. Conceptualizing new means of large-scale remediation for immediate threats to health and safety is essential—that’s a first step. Coordinating the infrastructure of buildings, transport and highway systems, power and human lives follows. These are ultimately design issues that are rarely integrated. We can lead in these integrative ventures and dissolve the differences between architecture and infrastructure. A third initiative suggests new approaches to the mass rebuilding of houses. The residential housing industry has highly effective techniques to produce massive numbers of dwellings at several scales. Yet the gap between the architectural profession and the housing industry is immense. We architects dismiss the entity that produces 95 percent of the housing in America. Why not join with the housing industry to help replace the vast number of residences that will need reconstruction? By collaborating, we can bring fresh insight not only to the design of the domestic residence but also to site planning. The look of a house is far less important to homeowners than to architects, but the siting of a home affects their quality of life daily. The planning and plotting of residential tracts has changed little for decades, and common practice ignores orientation and climate. If suburbs remain the staple for much of the domestic life that needs rebuilding, then let’s contribute to designing them. Finally, while Houston will be a major focus of reconstruction, small towns with limited resources will face their own challenges. The swath of destruction extends from Port Aransas in southern Texas into Louisiana. These communities could greatly benefit from the expertise of the architectural profession. After a summer of toxic politics and depressing social conflict, the challenge of Hurricane Harvey may provide a glimmer of the altruism we desperately need. Anthony Alofsin, FAIA, is the Roland Gommel Roessner Centennial Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin My thanks to William Richards for his helpful comments.

Harvey’s danger lives on in the threat of petrochemical pollution

When Hurricane Harvey strenghtened and redirected toward Houston, refineries and other petrochemical companies began a frantic scramble to shut down facilities before impact. This process in itself produces notoriously high emissions (a lesson learned time and again from other hurricanes that have hit the Gulf Coast hard like Katrina and Ike), but the Texas metropolis faces another unique problem—Harris County and environs are home to some of the most densely-polluted superfund sites in the country, a legion of petrochemical waste pits and ponds monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 13 of the total 41 sites were flooded in Harvey's fallout, with the EPA unable to access many of the city's sites, as reported by the Associated Press last Thursday. By Saturday, the EPA had examined two sites in Corpus Christi, found no flooding or leakage, and blasted the AP's report in a public statement – notably without providing evidence to the contrary. In their exclusive, the Associated Press described the "acrid smell of creosote" filling the air in a neighborhood situated between two superfund sites, the Sikes Disposal Pits and French LTD. They also took video from a boat peering into the 3.3-acre Highlands Acid Pit nearby—entirely covered by the roiling San Jacinto River, dredging up open toxic sludge. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, levels of a carcinogen called benzene reached 324 parts per million, above the level at which safety workers are federally required to wear breathing equipment. Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist at Brown University's Superfund Research Program, is concerned that the coverage of Houston's post-Harvey recovery has been overwhelmingly focused on Superfund sites, important though they are. He has examined the response of federal regulatory agencies like the EPA to similar problems after Hurricane Katrina, the largest in the agency's history at that time. A potentially greater danger, he argues, are the small, scattered industrial facilities owned by corporations and private entities. In a study, Frickel and others found that 90% of historically existing industrial facilities don't appear on regulatory hazardous site lists. Although there's no certainty all these sites are contaminated, many probably are, and account for a large margin of undocumented emissions. Frickel explained: "In part these sites are 'missing' from regulatory oversight either because they are small enough to skirt the current reporting requirements or larger facilities that closed down prior to 1980's when CERCLA regulations began and were redeveloped into some other land use. Also, it may be worth noting emissions reporting now is voluntary." Their omission explains – in part, at least – why the EPA ignored historically industrial areas of New Orleans during the long recovery from Katrina, allowing the city to repurpose those same areas for housing reconstruction without risk studies carried out beforehand. This feeling was echoed by Billy Fleming from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design, albeit with a concern about larger facilities. Fleming remarked that with facilities in almost every neighborhood of the city, he'd be hard-pressed to think of a place where residents shouldn't be concerned about pollutants. Superfund sites aside, the EPA is not required to monitor emissions from those larger petrochemical facilities. But based on past precedent, we can expect any data provided by those 500-plus facilities with potential spillage to be sparse and unreliable. Fleming also broke down the legacy of urban sprawl and superfund sites on Houston in a recent Guardian article and on Twitter: Another point raised by Frickel was that, with the proliferation of private wells in Houston (also largely unregulated), any hazardous floodwaters that infiltrate them may pose additional threats, unless there was a commitment to chemical monitoring. The long-term health consequences of a flood as devastating as Harvey's are vast, ranging from breathing difficulty to liver cancer, and therefore difficult to measure at an epidemiological scale. Flood-induced mold is identifiable as an immediate nuisance for respiratory reasons; New Orleans residents reported a "Katrina cough" years after the storm. The secondary disaster, other than immediate emissions from the shutdown of petrochemical facilities, are the chemical releases produced during the cleanup itself. These are wide-ranging and poorly understood: one example is the unexamined health outcomes of itinerant immigrant workers brought in to move debris and demolish damaged homes who are exposed to substances like asbestos from old buildings and vinyl chloride from newer ones. Because they move on to the next job in the next city, any health data disappears with them. As we look at preventing human-made disasters like Harvey's ruinous flooding from a planning standpoint, watchdogs, advocacy groups, and experts should be closely watching the EPA and the Trump administration's attentiveness to environmental regulations as the chemicals continue their slow, inexorable spread through the water supply and air of affected areas.