RISING WATERS: Ideas & Solutions

Design, planning and engineering innovations  from three continents

Soft infrastructure New York City

Soft infrastructure New York City

Rotterdam, Thames and Venice Storm Surge Gates: Rotterdam’s Measlantkering in the Netherlands is the largest storm surge barrier in the world, designed to self-operate with a sophisticated computer system in the event of a storm surge that would threaten Europe’s largest port.  The gates sit in a sort of dry dock, and when sea level raises 3 meters above normal range, the gates close. Maquette demonstration video   Rotterdam is tucked behind a network of several hundred kilometers of dykes as further protection. (The Dutch experienced a horrifying North Sea Flood in 1953 that destroyed homes, farmland, animals and some 2000 residents.)  The Rotterdam Gates are expected to close every 10 years due to storm surge; the system got its first true-life test when it closed Nov. 8 2007 from a storm surge.

Illustrated article on Rotterdam, Thames Barrier and Venice flood gates

San Francisco is looking at all of these urban projects as possible models to determine how it will cope with sea level rise. SF Planning & Urban Research article 

Hamburg, Germany’s HafenCity,  a new urban district on Hamburg’s Elbe waterfront comprises 157 hectares of land and a 30-year build out plan (through 2030) with cutting-edge corporate, residential and leisure spaces. Mindful of the North Sea Flood of 1962, in which multiple breaches and a surge destroyed 60,000 homes and killed several hundred, especially in the city’s Wilhelmsburg area, Hamburg’s planners required the new waterfront development to have multiple flood strategies that provide promenades, open spaces and safety for waterside buildings. Buildings are set on flood-secure plinths 8 meters high as safeguards from flooding –without destroying architectural quality and waterfront values.

Unilever regional headquarters in HafenCity, designed by noted architect Stefan Behnisch, of Behnisch Architekten (Stuttgart/Munich et al) features standout design, ecofriendly features and flood protection through a carefully planned promenade and set of steps facing the harbor.

The Maldives & Dutch Docklands: Dutch Docklands is a water-friendly company that designs projects for places with rising sea level, flooding and other water challenges. The Maldives are under severe threat from rising seas that could destroy the islands. Docklands now has a joint venture agreement with the government of the Maldives Islands for an 800-acre development that would include private islands, floating hotel, golf course and marina with yacht basin.

 FLOATEC: European R&D Project with Dura Vermeer (Netherlands): Several years ago Green News Update reported on the development of an amphibious village of floating houses being developed by the Dutch company DuraVermeer. Since then, the company has developed the Rotterdam floating exhibition pavilion, a greenhouse built on water, and finished the amphibious village in Maasbommel, all located in Netherlands. Dura Vermeer has grown into a company with 3,000 employees working in a field that didn’t exist a dozen years ago. Check it out!

 Cleveleys England – Steps against flooding:  Five miles north of Blackpool, Cleveleys lies on the northwest coast of England. It is a seaside town, popular as a leisure and shopping destination. The challenge: how to protect the waterfront from flood waters without installing a barrier wall that cuts off the public and the main shopping area from the beach. Check out the promenade and wave of concrete steps that descend to the beach, providing both a public realm and a seawall defense.

Wetropolis-Bangkok Thailand: Bangkok-based S+PBA Architects has devised a post-diluvian future for the Thai capital to address rising sea levels and the rapid sinking of the capital. It’s a prototype community that is inspired by Thai “aquaculture” that allows people to live with flooding. The concept was on view Sept 9-21, 2011,  in Berlin at the exhibition Water – Curse or Blessing at the Aedes International Forum.

Seasteading: Science-fiction fantasy or future community? You decide whether Paypal founder Peter Thiel and Milton Friedman’s grandson Patri are on to something. Their goal is to create a libertarian floating community of millions off the coast of San Francisco by 2040. Thiel has already invested over $1.25 million in the concept. 

 Dual Dutch-Bangladesh research project: These two countries are worlds apart but have much to share since both are in coastal deltas that are highly flood-prone. Bangladesh and the Netherlands are planning to exchange research findings and share experience on flood management in a 5-year research program (US $1 million) hosted by the Wageningen University and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. “Communities and institutions for flood resilience: enhancing knowledge and capacity to manage flood risk in the Bangladeshi and Dutch Deltas” is being funded by WOTRO, a Dutch funding organization for research on global

Amphibious House Prototypes in Bangladesh: Two amphibious house designs are being tested in Bangladesh, where proximity to the Ganges delta means that flooding is a frequent problem. Prithula Prosun, a Bangladeshi-born lead architect of the Low Income Flood-proof Technology (LIFT) house project is a graduate architecture student at the University of Waterloo, Canada. The houses are on stilts; the foundations are light and buoyant, made of water bottles thrown away by local hotel! The homes are primarily made from widely available bamboo; the toilets are composting toilets (hooray!). The houses were constructed at the Housing and Building Research Institute in Dhaka, with assistance from the housing and public works ministry of Bangladesh and the research team of the Centre for Urban Studies in Dhaka.

NOLA’s NOAH:  Now in concept stage (2011)  the New Orleans Arcology Habitat (NOAH) is intended for the New Orleans waterfront – 1200 feet high with 30 million square feet of space that would provide housing for up to 40,000. Designed by a Boston-based team, led by Kevin Schopfer, this floating supercity would be in a fixed position within a water-filled basin, 1200 feet across and 250 feet deep. See the NOAH video and particulars

Design for Other 90%: Noah’s Ark -Floating Houses in Bangladesh. The Cooper-Hewitt’s 2011-12 exhibition featured a Bangladeshi project of floating libraries and schools designed by architect Mohammed Rezwan, who personally witnessed deadly flooding while growing up in the Natore region. He took $500 from a scholarship to create Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha in 1998 and designed the first floating school in 2002. Shidhulai now operates 54 floating schools, libraries, health clinics and a training center that serve 90,000 people. Rezwan has modified traditional flat-bottom riverboats that now sit low in the water. Each lifeboat has a roof that is outfitted with solar panels to provide electricity. Cluster housing is outfitted with cooking facilities, and there’s a three-tier farming structure built on floating platforms.   Exhibition review