BASF Selects Top Urban Resiliency Concepts After Creator Space Summit

(3BL Media - Justmeans) - One year after the 2015 Creator Space Summit and just at the beginning of this year’s hurricane season, BASF, the conveners of the event, have issued a white paper, putting forward a selection of solutions developed during the design collaborative event aimed at responding to challenges faced by coastal urban neighborhoods in an era of rising temperatures and sea levels. The 2015 event took place in New York City with similar events in Mumbai, Shanghai, São Paulo, Barcelona and Ludwigshafen. The global initiative marked BASF’s 150th anniversary.

Given the importance of the company’s role in the construction industry, they chose to celebrate with a constructive event in which subject matter experts, such as Terreform ONE and the Stevens Institute of Technology, among others, worked alongside Red Hook residents to crowdsource and co-create innovative solutions to transform not only the Brooklyn neighborhood, but to serve as a model for other at-risk coastal cities around the globe. I attended the event last year and wrote about it here.

The focus of the exercise was the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, a diverse, working class oceanfront neighborhood, sometimes called Brooklyn’s forgotten waterfront.  Red Hook suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy. They were looking for ideas to help Red Hook resiliently and sustainably rebuild in the aftermath of the storm. The name of the paper was, “Co-Creating Solutions for Urban Neighborhoods in Coastal Cities: A Look at Red Hook, Brooklyn.”

I spoke with Michael Fletcher, Commercial Segment Manager, BASF Center for Building Excellence. Fletcher played a key role in the event. He said that, all told, about 100 solution ideas were collected. The five solutions ultimately selected were, in some cases, amalgamations of several ideas that were similar.

Asked about the criteria, he said they “were looking for ideas that could stand alone, but could also be replicated, that were implementable and could also be woven into the fabric of the area.” Fletcher added, “Given that 600 million people call coastal cities home, and with recent studies reporting sea levels rose faster in the 20th century than the previous 2,700 years, preparing Red Hook and cities like Miami, Florida; Guangzhou, China; and Mumbai, India, is paramount.”

Here are the five solutions that emerged from the process. As you will see, most of these were creations that served multiple functions.

  1. Establish a Network of Green Corridors. As the name suggests, a green corridor as a pathway, lined with natural vegetation intended to promote pedestrian and bicycle traffic and enhance circulation.Potentially they can transform and reinvigorate a neighborhood. In this case they would be designed to promote stormwater runoff, at the same time improving social cohesion and reduce isolation. They could connect the subway to the waterfront with wider sidewalks, bike lanes, trees and other plantings, while connecting existing green spaces.
  2. Create a Coastal Park: This too will serve multiple purposes. First as a line of defense from storm surges and rising sea levels, a coastal park would also provide recreational space for Red Hook’s residents when not protecting them. It would combine a sea wall wtih temporary gate-like structures. The design includes a second line of protection farther from the shoreline, consisting of breakwaters, dikes and ponds to help absorb storm surges.
  3. Establish a Center for “Green Collar” Job Training and Human Services: By nature of its isolated geography, Red Hook residents lack access to resources and education to improve their prospects. This center would also function as a community hub where residents could receive training for “green collar” jobs in sustainable construction. This is a fast-growing industry that in 2015 in the U.S. alone was tied to 2.3 million jobs and generated more than $134 billion for working Americans.Training coudl also inlcude renewable energy and urban farming. People want to be proud of their community.
  4. Rethink Red Hook’s Public Housing: Those very skills might be applied to improving  the public housing where 8,000 Red Hook residents live. This is where Red Hook’s resilience, habitat and citizenship might begin. BASF and its partners have reimagined public housing to serve as an active training ground that educates residents on sustainable building practices, such as harvesting solar energy and rain water—all to ultimately give them employable skills and a greater sense of stewardship in the home they help improve and update.
  5. Inspire with a Model Block: Finally, incorporating the latest building technology from BASF into Red Hook’s existing building stock,combined with the latest in sustainable design, the model block would serve as a best practices blueprint for coastal cities around the globe, demonstrating how smart design can affordably preserve the character of a neighborhood and contribute to its resiliency and sustainability. Plans for the model block would then be shared with area landowners and developers, who could adapt the best practices to meet their own needs. This also presents an ideal opportunity to hire graduates from the green collar job training program, as earlier proposed. In principle, this model block could be located along a green corriodor, with access to the Coastal Park, tying together most of the ideas embodied here. A block could be self-sufficient and there are more opportunities for synergy that could lead to a net-zero impact, more so than an individual building, particularly an aging one, would present.

With these ideas in hand, BASF hopes to move forward into further conversation that will hopefully lead to constructive engagement. They will play the role of connector and convener, presenting these results at several conferences. Says Fletcher, “We as a company are connected to a lot of people who could be interested in this. Given that we are fundamentally a chemical company; we’ll be acting as a catalyst on this."

The day I spoke with Fletcher, he was getting ready to present at the Urban Land Institute’s Sustainable Development Product Council.