Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise
8 x 9
full color, 150 photos and illustrations
8 x 9
full color, 150 photos and illustrations
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy floods devastated coastal areas in New York and New Jersey. In 2017, Harvey flooded Houston. Today in Miami, even on sunny days, king tides bring fish swimming through the streets in low-lying areas. These types of events are typically called natural disasters. But overwhelming scientific consensus says they are actually the result of human-induced climate change and irresponsible construction inside floodplains.
As cities build more flood-management infrastructure to adapt to the effects of a changing climate, they must go beyond short-term flood protection and consider the long-term effects on the community, its environment, economy, and relationship with the water.
Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise, by infrastructure expert Stefan Al, introduces design responses to sea-level rise, drawing from examples around the globe. Going against standard engineering solutions, Al argues for approaches that are integrated with the public realm, nature-based, and sensitive to local conditions and the community. He features design responses to building resilience that creates new civic assets for cities. For the first time, the possible infrastructure solutions are brought together in a clear and easy-to-read format.
The first part of the book looks at the challenges for cities that have historically faced sea-level rise and flooding issues, and their response in resiliency through urban design. He presents diverse case studies from New Orleans to Ho Chi Minh to Rotterdam, and draws best practices and urban design typologies for the second part of the book.
Part two is a graphic catalogue of best-practices or resilience strategies. These strategies are organized into four categories: hard protect, soft protect, store, and retreat. The benefits and challenges of each strategy are outlined and highlighted by a case study showing where that strategy has been applied.
Any professional or policymaker in coastal areas seeking to protect their communities from the effects of climate change should start with this book. With the right solutions, Al shows, sea-level rise can become an opportunity to improve our urban areas and landscapes, rather than a threat to our communities.
"Stefan Al provides an accessible overview of typical strategies for designing an urban shoreline to respond to flooding, with a strong emphasis on past and present Dutch approaches. Numerous illustrations make it useful for non-designers, as well as students of design. I recommend the book to planners and designers who are looking for an introduction to strategies for coastal design."
Kristina Hill, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
"Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise is a frank typological exploration that synthesizes civil engineering, landscape, and urban design considerations into an accessible reference that highlights the adaptive and maladaptive tendencies of design. Rich with case studies, the book provides critical insights into the nuances shaping the life cycle of design interventions."
Jesse M. Keenan, Faculty of Architecture, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design
"With his book, Stefan Al presents an inspiring and extensive toolbox of strategies that cities can embrace to adapt to sea level rise. Al looks across the world optimistically: yes we can do it! And we must, since there is no time to waste. Adaptation is different in every place, and this book shows us how to maximize opportunities if only we work together in a truly inclusive and comprehensive way."
Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Kingdom of The Netherlands, Sherpa to the UN and World Bank High Level Panel on Water, and Principal for Rebuild by Design
Forward by Edgar Westerhof
Chapter 1: Introduction
Part One: City Strategies
Chapter 2: Rotterdam, South Holland, The Netherlands
Chapter 3: New York City, New York, USA
Chapter 4: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Chapter 5: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Part Two: Local Strategies
Chapter 6: Hard-Protect Strategies
Chapter 7: Soft-Protect Strategies
Chapter 8: Store Strategies
Chapter 9: Retreat Strategies
Chapter 10: Conclusion
A Changing Climate Means A Changing Society. The Island Press Urban Resilience Project, Supported By The Kresge Foundation And The JPB Foundation, Is Committed To A Greener, Fairer Future. This Op-Ed Was Originally Published September 24, 2018 In The Progressive.
Over the course of four days in mid-September, Hurricane Florence dumped a record-breaking 34 inches of rain on Swansboro, North Carolina — a city that usually gets 57 inches in an entire year.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused the worst flood in Houston’s history. In 2012, flooding from Superstorm Sandy — considered a once-in-700-year event — devastated coastal New York and New Jersey.
These and other events are typically called natural disasters. But overwhelming scientific consensus says they are actually the result of human-induced climate change and irresponsible construction in flood-prone areas.
Most scientists agree that global warming is causing sea levels to rise, while increasing the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events. At the same time, the rapid urbanization of coastal areas is putting more people and property in harm’s way.
Given this new normal, it is time to rethink our approach to floods. We typically deal with only the symptoms of the problem, by evacuating residents before a disaster, housing them temporarily in emergency shelters, and paying insurance so that they can rebuild afterward.
But this is tremendously costly, both in human and financial terms.
Moody’s Analytics has tallied at least $17 billion in property damage from Florence so far. Harvey cost $125 billion and the tally for Maria in Puerto Rico is $139 billion. Katrina destroyed $161 billion in property.
Fortunately, the right infrastructure can prevent flooding, rather than treat it after the fact. Prevention is cost-effective: The National Institute of Buildings Services estimates that every dollar spent on the reduction of a community’s vulnerability to disasters saves approximately $6 in economic losses.
As an architect and urban designer working on large-scale projects, as well as a native of the Netherlands, a low-lying country that wouldn’t exist without flood-management infrastructure, I have been intrigued by recent, innovative solutions to flood prevention.
For example, the beach town of Cleveleys, in England, chose not to build a standard concrete seawall, which has all the charm of a military bunker and can block human access to the shore.
Instead, the city built a structure with amphitheater-like viewing spaces and steps. The steps accentuate the beautiful curvilinear shapes, while creating access to the beach and adding public space, which is important for a coastal town that relies on tourists.
Flood protection can even be integrated into buildings. The Dutch coastal town Katwijk aan Zee integrated a levee with a parking garage, and covered it with landscaping. In Rotterdam, levees include built-in shops and parks. This type of infrastructure has economic benefits beyond flood protection.
Finally, some of the best solutions rely on an ancient flood protection device: dune grass, a saltwater tolerant plant that stabilizes dunes and prevents erosion. In contrast to reinforced concrete defenses that take the full force of waves until they are worn away by the sea, dunes absorb the waves’ velocity, while beautifying the landscape and providing habitats.
By marrying flood management with creative urban and landscape design, infrastructure can become a strategic civic asset. In addition, it can pay for itself by unlocking the real estate and economic development potential of newly protected areas. The new normal of flooding and sea-level rise poses great challenges, but it also offers opportunities to improve our urban areas and landscapes.
Stefan Al is Associate Professor of Urban Design at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published several books, including Factory Towns of South China: An Illustrated Guidebook and The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream. As a practicing architect and urban designer, he has worked on renowned projects such as the Canton Tower in Guangzhou.