Monday, December 13, 2010

Standing up to the surge

Beth Daley in the Boston Globe: In the sunshine, Johnson & Wales University’s new Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence looks sleek and sharp; it’s a light-filled space on the Narragansett Bay campus. In a hurricane, a piece of the building may wash away — by design. Glass panels and a brick facade placed on the ground floor by the Cambridge architects Tsoi/Kobus & Associates would give way if floodwaters slam into the building.

The breakaway walls would allow water to flow freely past columns holding up the rest of the 82,000-square-foot building, ensuring it isn’t damaged by the ocean’s force. Nearby buildings would also be protected, because destructive floodwaters would not be redirected by any fixed walls.

Such designs have long been common for homes at the beach, where storm surges are so frequent that ground floors typically consist of little more than storage space or a garage. Now, architects are beginning to adopt them for far larger commercial and industrial buildings along the coast as climate change causes sea levels to rise.

“We were able to take advantage of creative construction,’’ said Chris Placco, vice president of facilities for Johnson & Wales. “And we basically built the building up on stilts.’’

...Boston is investing heavily in ways to adapt to and prepare for rising seas, including requiring large projects to consider climate change in their construction planning, said James Hunt, the city’s chief of environmental and energy services….

A storm surge during Hurricane Eloise, via NOAA

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