INHABITAT: To start off, can you tell us a bit about ORLI and the 3C competition?
DAN: Operation Resilient Long Island started a global design ideas competition called 3C (short for Comprehensive Costal Communities) and we asked submissions to focus on a new housing typology and integrate that into a new master block vision plan focused on new zoning codes.
We wanted them to adjust the existing character of these communities. For example in Breezy Point, all the homes are very close together so that was a major problem that started the fire and burned own over 100 homes. We asked people to look at that problem and then the problem of raising the home 8 to 12 feet or whatever the base flood elevation is in a specific town. In total, we got over 60 entries from 20 countries and initially we had 300 teams sign up to participate.
INHABITAT: Besides preparing buildings for flooding by raising them up, what else can you do to protect a coastal building? Against high winds, sea spray and things like that.
DAN: That’s really a controversy because people don’t really want – or town officials and the government does not want people building on the water. They want to do some sort of buyout program where you start buying properties and people start moving back from the waters edge. That’s been happening around town.
But if homes are just being raised, you first create a new foundation and do a lot of new water sealing around the foundation where water would come in during a flood. Since [the home is] being raised, you don’t have to worry about flood proofing anything inside because it’s above the floodplain. In case it floods again, you can still occupy the first floor. But the new codes say you can’t have a habitable space under the flood base elevation. Under that it can only be parking or storage or a garage or something; you can’t have a bedroom or a living room in there.
INHABITAT: In terms of flood prevention there are multiple schools of thought. There’s either hard infrastructure like sea walls or soft infrastructure like barrier islands. So let’s talk about that.
DAN: I’m a proponent for combining both. You can’t just do one without the other. Hard infrastructure is good for urban places like [Manhattan] but there have been projects, and I worked on a project for my own thesis, where you can take hard infrastructure and combine it with soft green scape. The green scape can cover a much bigger zone and creates a buffer. The grass acts like a sponge to absorb all the storm water and storm surge.
The hard infrastructure can control the flow of water with canal locks and storm surge barriers are pretty much the wall to hold floods back and that can work with the Gowanus Canal or New Town Creek. They’re industrial waterways, but if it’s more of a coastline, that wouldn’t really work. You need dunes and soft infrastructure like beach plants.
It’s really a combination of both systems.
INHABITAT: So what’s the most ideal arrangement of this combined hard and soft infrastructure?
DAN: Green first and then as the final barrier just in case everything else fails, you have a sea wall underneath where a boardwalk would be.
INHABITAT: For the competition, did you focus on buildings, infrastructure, or both?
DAN: We kept it open ended in terms of where you could put the project and what you could design. We got a lot of varied entries looking at infrastructure along the Gowanus Canal and really small in terms of how to raise a home. So that was really great.