Waterfront Visions 2050: Rising Tides

Waterfront Visions 2030, a symposium last October in Portland, Maine, sponsored by the Portland Society of Architects (PSA) and Space Gallery, addressed the implications of sea level rise on Portland’s waterfront.

Impact of Sea level Rise on Portland, Maine. (NRCM, Greg DeShoto, 2006)

Impact of Sea level Rise on Portland, Maine. (NRCM, Greg DeShoto, 2006)

Impact of Sea level Rise on Portland, Maine. (NRCM, Greg DeShoto, 2006)

Impact of Sea level Rise on Portland, Maine.
(NRCM, Greg DeShoto, 2006)

Alan Kuniholm, a principal of PDT Architects and president of the PSA Board of Directors, answered a few questions below (courtesy of Space Gallery):

Space Gallery: How important is it for Portland to begin planning now for sea level rise?

Alan Kuniholm: In September 2013, The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released new updates to their sea level rise data. We are benchmarking our work based on this model – 24 inches of sea level rise by 2050 and 48 inches of sea level rise by 2100. These are mid-range numbers, not the top, not the bottom. In addition we need to account for the added frequency of storm events. The City of Portland has been very helpful in working with us in determining what to benchmark. It is important for us as residents and property owners to understand how we might be at risk to climate change.

How can we be proactive in our planning efforts?
How do we address growth?
How can we adapt, retreat or fortify the Portland waterfront?
How can we maintain the vitality and historic fabric?
What should we benchmark?
Are our utilities at risk?
Have we located emergency generators in the right locations?
Will we be able to get into our building at the current ground floor level?

These are all important questions to be asked as we move forward with our planning.

Space Gallery: What lessons can we learn from the Waterfront Visions 2050 Exhibit?

Alan Kuniholm: The exhibit included drawings of Commercial Street with referenced sea level rise benchmarks and photographs of various responses to sea level rise from around the world. My hopes for lessons learned include a greater awareness of how we might be at risk, strategies from other communities and cultures that have been dealing with this issue, and possibilities and opportunities for us to work with this change.

To read more about this symposium:
PSA Waterfront Visions Symposium resources

To learn more about resilient design:
Resilient Design Institute
USGBC Advocacy on Resiliency

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