Posts tagged with "Sea Level Rise":

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This landscape architecture firm is bringing Dutch water expertise to the U.S.

Senior editor Matt Shaw sat down with Rotterdam- and New York–based ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) partners Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman to see what the United States can learn from the Netherlands, a country that is almost half below sea level and leads the way in water management in landscape infrastructure design.

The Architect’s Newspaper: You have a host of urban and landscape projects that are currently in the works, some of which are very large in scale. Are any of these explicitly dealing with water?

ZUS: There are five water-related projects we are working on right now. The Almere Dune is an artificial dune landscape on the original polder (a piece of low-lying land reclaimed from the sea and protected by dikes), with 3,000 houses and a mixed-use core.

We are working on the world’s largest sea lock, at IJmuiden, which means we are doing the landscape design and architecture of three control centers. A similar project we are designing is the Hoogwatergeul Veessen, a three-mile river bypass that serves as a river flood basin, with a dynamic flood-protection bridge berm. There is also the self-initiated Delta 3000 project, which is a utopia that imagines the Netherlands as a dune metropolis. We are proposing massive dunes to counter soil inclination and rising waters.

Here in the U.S., we are working together with AECOM and ORG on the execution of our winning competition entry for Rebuild by Design: New Meadowlands. It is a very exciting combination of coastal protection, green infrastructure, and public amenities.

What are some of the issues that designers and researchers are dealing with in the Netherlands today? Is climate change an important topic for designers in the Netherlands?

Yes, of course many issues are climate related, like sea-level rise, rising temperatures, and new migration patterns. We also face a more diffuse clientele, as governments are retreating and new markets and players emerge. Therefore, designers have to be more proactive to get interesting commissions.

One of the main issues is water. As half of the country is below sea level, every project has to respond to the challenges of water coming in more intensely from all sides: Sea-level rise, river floods, rain events, and groundwater.

How do you see working in the U.S. as different from working in the Netherlands? What are the differences in attitude about water and dealing with climate change?

We face many of the same issues: Climate adaptation, bureaucracy, big companies versus small offices, less and less risk-taking. In the Netherlands, there’s a long tradition of spatial planning and the culture of design, where, for decades, they were by definition incorporated into policy making. In the last few years, a corporatism is emerging, where [experimentation] is hardly possible. The good news is that, in the U.S., we feel an emerging interest in design in all fields. However, there is still a big gap between the academic world and the real world there, including governments and bureaucracy.

What do you think other countries can learn from designers in the Netherlands, in terms of designing for water and with water?

We would say to them: Take sea-level rise really seriously, and do it together. Only if all parties—governments, designers, scientists, contractors, engineers—collaborate can the challenges be faced and countered. Build with nature, meaning that we will never win against the water unless we embrace its presence and dynamics. Introduce different levels of safety, and spread risks along hard infrastructure, adaptive landscapes, and evacuation programs.

Are attitudes to waterfront development changing in the Netherlands? How do is that possible? On-site infrastructure? Off-site?

After having the top-down Delta Works (1953) for many decades, protecting the Netherlands from 10,000-year storms, our country established a rich apparatus of water boards, such as the National WaterAuthority and local governmental agencies, to think of the next big threats. The first Delta Works turned the Netherlands into one big bathtub.

In addition to sea-level rise, extreme river floods and rain events are also severe risks to the country. Therefore, Room for the River was introduced, and the new Delta Works, which directs new policies for more local adaptations. For example, Almere Dune introduces a public–private partnership for making more resilient urban districts. This means that the dunes, privately funded, are contributing to national safety. And they are also a new way to live above sea level. The IJmuiden sea lock is made for the 200-year forecast of sea-level rise, so large-scale infrastructure is made with great responsibility toward the future.

Off-site, we witness more adaptation measures, like water squares and retention basins to deal with extreme rain events. Nowadays, many of these projects come with multiple agendas with climate adaptation also taking a social responsibility.

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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One remote Alaska city is seeking $200 million to flee the rising sea

Echoing a great chronicler of the human condition, the tiny city of Shishmaref, Alaska, is asking whether it’s better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles to combat a looming climate change–driven disaster.

Shishmaref is located on an island five miles from the mainland, just north of the Bering Strait. For years, a reduced ice pack has hastened erosion that chips away at the island’s shores and has already drawn buildings into the sea.

Over the past decade, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, a Native nonprofit, and local officials have applied short-term physical interventions to the island to curtail erosion, without success. Doubling down on damage control, the state of Alaska tapped global engineering firm AECOM to produce the “Shishmaref Relocation Site Selection Feasibility Study,” a 300-page investigation that analyzes various scenarios for the City of Shishmaref to stay put or pack up.

Funded by a grant from the Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program, the study presents four options: Stay, or relocate to one of three different sites on the mainland. Shishmaref, a 607-person city, is majority Native and skews young—the median age is 22.5.

AECOM recommended that Shishmaref stay, citing the cost of moving and inhabitants’ cultural connection to the sea. The city already has massive infrastructure, said R. Scott Simmons, emergency manager for AECOM in Alaska. He cited a $2.2-million, 200-foot riprap seawall at the west end of Shishmaref and a revetment funded by a state grant protect the city from erosion, plus a number of projects in the pipeline: Shishmaref intends to redo its airplane runway, expand the school, and rebuild its roads, with a plan to pave those that are heavily traveled.

Touting these assets, the study, released February of this year, notes that the mainland has more stable soil and less threat of coastal erosion but that a location far from shore would undermine an economy centered on subsistence hunting and fishing.

“Alaska Natives live off the land,” said Simmons. “During annual freeze and thaw conditions, they can’t travel, and that’s the same time some of the sea mammals are migrating. If they live on the mainland, they won’t be able to get across the ice that’s forming—or not formed yet.” He explained it’s too dangerous at these times to travel to the island, which is the community’s traditional access point to the open sea.

The community nevertheless voted 89 to 78 to leave. This is not the first time: In 1973 and 2002,the city’s decisions to relocate unraveled because of logistic to relocate unraveled because of logistic constraints. Now, however, it will cost $200 million to relocate homes and infrastructure to the new site, where, among other improvements, new roads, utilities, and a barge landing will need to be built. The state has granted the city $8 million toward the move; it remains to be seen how the rest of the cost will be covered.

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Students at RISD imagine how a climate change museum in New York City could reclaim a vulnerable site

James Hansen, one of the world’s preeminent climate scientists, has issued an alarming new paper about the impacts of climate change—and the findings are way worse than what anyone expected. According to Hansen and the team of 16 scientists he worked with, sea levels could rise up to 10 feet over the next 50 years. “Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating,” conclude the scientists. “It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.” If Hansen’s predictions are right then many American coastal cities would be uninhabitable—but not everyone in the scientific community is convinced that they are. (The paper is not peer-reviewed and predicts a significantly more dire climate reality than the consensus agreed upon by the UN's International Panel on Climate Change.) With the clock ticking, perhaps faster than previously imagined, Miranda Massie, the founder of the Climate Change Museum Launch Project, is attempting to raise awareness about the changing climate with a museum solely dedicated to the issue. The institution, the largest of its kind, would be located in New York City. Massie said she wants to have it up and running by the end of the decade—a good idea considering that sea levels continue to rise, drop by drop. The New York Times reported that “the New York museum would aim to attract at least a million visitors a year and seek to influence the world, including political leaders in the United States. At the end of the tour, visitors would be encouraged to volunteer their time to help groups that are trying to address climate change: doing anything from making calls on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council to volunteering to help elect a candidate who is determined to reduce carbon emissions.” There are no immediate plans to start work on the project, but Next City reported that the New York State Board of Regents has granted the Climate Change Museum a five-year provisional charter. As for the building’s eventual design, students at RISD have some ideas. Anne Tate, a professor of architecture at the school who is married to Massie’s cousin, tasked her students with coming up with visions for the institution. The students were given a vacant site in Lower Manhattan that is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. "One student proposed to build a cavernous stormwater catchment system beneath the building," Next City explained. “Another proposed a smaller footprint and returned the rest of the site to wetlands. Many of the designs include solar panels, some incorporated urban farms, and all were sensitive to energy loads and orientation.” All of the students proposals can be found here.