Embracing sea level rise with resilient design

With sea levels rising fastest on the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and in California, finding ways to stem the tide is increasingly difficult because shrinking glaciers continue to add water to the world’s oceans and increased global temperatures are expanding seawater. That’s why some of the brightest and most creative architects, designers and engineers from around the world are now innovating solutions that embrace water by integrating infrastructure that works with the ocean’s projected rise rather than just trying to stop it.

In fact, some notable examples of this emerging philosophy known as resilient design are currently on display at the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) gallery. The winning submissions from the Boston Living with Water competition are being shown through June.

A Google Earth image of the Fort Point Channel and Boston Seaport shows what the landscape looks like today. The artist's rendering above shows the same landscape after the 100-acre neighborhood is raised about 12 feet to combat sea level rise. Both images courtesy of Architerra.

A Google Earth image of the Fort Point Channel and Boston Seaport shows what the landscape looks like today. The artist’s rendering above shows the same landscape after the 100-acre neighborhood is raised about 12 feet to combat sea level rise. Both images courtesy of Architerra.

Similar to the Jacques Rougerie Foundation’s International Architecture Competition and San Francisco’s Rising Tides competition, Boston’s version challenged members of the international AEC industry to design ways to shield the city from sea level rise. These competitions are evidence that the seeds of innovation are being planted right now, to account for sea level rise and that cities such as Boston and San Francisco are giving this crisis the attention it deserves. After all, a report released last year said that Boston could see its harbor rise by as much as seven feet by the year 2100. Just last week, city officials announced that they might allow developments in coastal floodplains to build taller than is currently permitted so that electrical, mechanical and HVAC systems can be designed into the midsection of buildings rather than in the basements. This would not only protect mechanical systems against flooding, but it would mean owners don’t have to sacrifice valuable square footage.

Continue Reading ›