Rising oceans and severe storms are a real threat to coastal cities around the world. Superstorm Sandy is great example of how tidal surge can devastate low-lying metropolitan areas.
One artist recently created a video animation that shows how the rising sea level could impact the West Coast. Imagine Venice Beach under 25 feet of water. While this scenario is not likely to happen in our lifetime, it does call into question how the world will protect its coastal cities. For construction, it raises questions about how to build for the future.
The New NYC Coast Guard
To protect New York City from future storms like Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has offered a plan to fortify the city against the unpredictable forces of nature. The $20 billion plan calls for upgrades to beach-front dune systems, surge/tidal barriers, levees, bulkheads, and floodwalls. Restoring wetland areas and building an elevated neighborhood are also under consideration. From an engineering standpoint, the construction would thwart any flooding that might occur, turning lower Manhattan and the surrounding area into a giant buffer zone.
The Dutch Answer
Ironically, the Dutch, who colonized Manhattan in the 1600s, have a different answer for living below sea level. Having studied centuries of rising tides, Dutch engineers opted for “controlled flooding” instead of traditional sea barriers. In contrast to the Big Apple’s plan, the Dutch maintain architectural and ecological flexibility through design and construction that remains above rising water levels. The Dutch choose to go with the flow, while New Yorkers look to fight the tide.
The term “resilient construction” has evolved to describe the ability of a community’s infrastructure to withstand severe weather. Both New York and the Netherlands are heavily invested in resilient construction and are serving as models from which the international community can learn.
How do you think coastal builders should deal with the threat of rising oceans and tidal surge? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.