Coastal Cities Aiming to Fortify Real Estate against the effects of Climate Change

There is a breathtaking view of the mid-Manhattan skyline, pierced by the Empire State Building, from the 48th floor of the taller of two new copper-clad apartment towers along the East River, just south of the United Nations.

No plutocrat will enjoy it, however. This impressive penthouse aerie is hogged by five emergency generators. The window is already blocked by a bank of electrical switchgear. For the developers, giving up premium space to machinery is insurance against an ominous future: They want tenants in the towers’ 760 apartments to be able to live in their apartments for at least a week, no matter how high floodwaters may reach nor how long the power is out.

“We said: ‘Water is going to come in here. What are we going to do about it?’” explained Simon Koster, a principal in the JDS Development Group, which is building the towers, known as the American Copper Buildings.

JDS is in good company.

Along coastlines and lake shores and riverfronts across the country, tenants and homeowners, regulators and planners, private developers and public institutions are embracing the accumulating evidence of climate change and fortifying buildings and infrastructure against rising sea levels and ever more intense storms.

To an extent that would have been unimaginable before Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, resilient design has entered the vocabulary of architects and engineers in parts of the country at risk of inundation.

Beginning with this article, The New York Times is presenting case studies in resilient design, focused on the New York City area. The series, accompanied by a glossary, will look at steps being taken to resist floods, surges, high winds and heavy rains — steps that offer lessons to builders everywhere. It will include an old tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a new school and office building in West Chelsea, an AIDS residence in Greenwich Village, the headquarters of the West Elm chain of furniture stores in a landmark warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront and a single-family home on Jamaica Bay.

“Rising sea levels and a changing climate present a challenge for our country’s largest city, and also an opportunity to create a more resilient, sustainable and equitable New York City,” said Daniel A. Zarrilli, the city’s chief resilience officer and the senior director for climate policy and programs in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Whether President Trump embraces or resists the emerging notion of resilient design remains to be seen. Moments after his inauguration last week, almost every reference to climate change was removed from the White House website. But Mr. Trump did acknowledge last summer that raising the height of roadways around Miami — which is particularly vulnerable to rising seas — to keep them from flooding was “not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” As long as local governments did it.

At first blush, it is hard to imagine 48- and 41-story apartment buildings as being vulnerable to flooding.

But between 2012, when the site of the American Copper Buildings was put on the market, and 2013, when the development parcel was acquired by JDS, the property had been inundated by Hurricane Sandy. An excavated pit about eight feet deep had become a small lake.

Read the full article here.