Florida Architects Brace For Sea Level Rise

Jul 13, 2016

Florida architects are planning for three feet of sea level rise. Here's a look at the new policy.

An aerial view of Miami.
Credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/aerialcamera/

Architects in the Sunshine State are bracing for changing coastlines. The state’s industry group wants their members and clients to accommodate three feet of sea level rise in their design plans. Andrew Hayes is the past president of the American Institute of Architects’ Florida Chapter. He hopes builders will start rethinking urban planning now, especially those in the public sector.

“The water is coming. Let’s set aside this circular discussion about at what rate, and have the conversation on the front end of some of these large capital investments,” Hayes said.

Architects, along with civil engineers and landscapers, are already drafting plans to accommodate water, not just block it. Ideas include using native plants as a natural buffer and elevating roads and sidewalks.

“I think the challenge for us as architects is to figure out how we design buildings to accommodate this, without separating people from the land. Putting everything else on stilts is not a realistic answer or option either and sets off a whole other set of issues,” he said.

Data from Google Earth shows South Florida is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Portions of Miami, Key West and Saint Petersburg all lie below the three foot water mark. But all low-lying areas, even miles from the coast, may be at risk.