Ever since Hurricane Sandy rocked New York’s shores, designers have been trying to figure out new coastal protection systems to prevent the city’s low-lying waterfront neighborhoods from flooding again. Some plans call for floodwalls but WXY and West 8 have chosen to explore a different solution – man-made barrier islands. The two design teams are in the third stage of an initiative called “Rebuild by Design” where they hope to engage science experts in a plan to create flood-protecting barrier islands in the Hudson River Plume, the interconnected waterways of New York and New Jersey, the Long Island Sound, and the coastal waters of the  Mid-Atlantic.

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To better understand the causes of flooding, the design teams will talk with experts about the interconnected waterways between New York, New Jersey, the Long Island Sound, and other Mid-Atlantic coastal waters. Barrier islands could provide a natural and environmentally friendly way of protecting coastal cities without having to spend money on building up new infrastructure.

Through this investigation of barrier islands as the first layer of storm protection, the group has realized there’s an opportunity to reshape the Mid- Atlantic coastal shed from Cape Cod to Cape May. There are also additional benefits of creating natural barriers to consider. Similar barrier islands around the world have been used for large-scale wind energy installations and sites for sewage treatment. And the new green spaces would also help balance the surrounding ecology by creating new plots for plants and animals to roam on.

WXY and West 8 have already completed Stage II of Rebuild By Design. The U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development-funded study evaluated how new reef barriers would perform without the use of closures or surge gates. The designers crafted models for storm-surge flooding using historical storm data with help from the Stevens Institute of Technology and ARCADIS.


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