Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise – Green and Gray Strategies

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Washington, DC (November 20, 2018)—The memory of devastating flooding from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Florence, and other disasters are fresh in our nation’s consciousness. Today in Miami, even on sunny days, king tides bring fish swimming through the streets in low-lying areas. With the threat of sea level rise increasingly more evident, flood-management infrastructure has become a billion-dollar industry as coastal cities scramble to prepare for incoming flood waters.

Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise: Green and Gray Strategies (Publication Date: November 20, 2018) is a clear, easy-to-read guide that brings together design responses to sea level rise, drawing from examples around the globe. Going against standard engineering solutions for short-term flood protection, Al argues for approaches that are integrated with the public realm, nature-based, and sensitive to local conditions and the community.

Combining beautiful graphics with global case studies, the first half of Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise examines the challenges facing cities threatened by sea level rise and flooding. Diverse examples span New Orleans to Ho Chi Minh to Rotterdam and feature strategies including an underground water storage facility that doubles as a bike parking garage and “smart dikes” with sensors that provide real-time flood information to a central crisis center.

Part two is a graphic catalogue of the best-practices and resilience strategies. Strategies are organized into four categories: soft protect, such as living shorelines and dunes; hard protect, such as seawalls and dikes; store, such as upland water storage; and retreat, such as moving away and raising grounds. The book outlines the benefits and challenges of each strategy and includes case studies to show how each strategy has been applied in places from Hamburg to Miami.

Jesse M. Keenan, Faculty of Architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design called the book “an accessible reference that highlights the adaptive and maladaptive tendencies of design.” He continued, “Rich with case studies, the book provides critical insights into the nuances shaping the lifecycle of design intervention.”

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, PhD, is an architect, urban designer, and infrastructure expert at global design firm Kohn Pedersen Fox in New York. Over the years, he served as a TED resident, advisor to the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Beyond Mobility and The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream, a Wall Street Journal “best book to read.” He is a native of the Netherlands, a low-lying country that would not exist without flood protection.

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