By Chris Patrick, staff writer
“Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City in an unprecedented manner,” recounted Tara Eisenberg, New York City-native and speaker at Virginia’s 12th Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaption Forum on May 6.
Eisenberg, who is research manager at Rebuild by Design, discussed how her organization launched a resiliency design competition in New York after Hurricane Sandy. Competing teams got input from communities to propose projects that would prevent flood damage during storms, like one team’s deployable walls proposal. When flipped up, the walls would display colorful patterns; when flipped down they would prevent flooding.
At the end of the competition, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development funded six of the team’s projects. But Eisenberg explained that the overarching goal of Rebuild by Design was building consensus within and among the interdisciplinary teams, as well as between team members and community members.
Her presentation helped kicked off conversations among the Forum’s 80 participants about what should be done and who should be involved in resiliency planning in Hampton Roads. The Forum’s participants were a mixture of local government officials, scientists, military personnel, consultants, and corporate professionals gathered at Clark Nexsen, an architecture and engineering firm in Virginia Beach.
“The discussions definitely went where we wanted them to go,” says Michelle Covi, Virginia Sea Grant extension staff at Old Dominion University and organizer of the Forum. “There was a lot of talk about how we can learn from each other and use local talent to design projects for communities.”
Like Eisenberg, the Forum’s participants underscored the role of collaboration in resiliency planning during their small-group discussions. Participants shared that they thought affected communities and neighborhoods—as well as private businesses, like Clark Nexsen—should be engaged in resiliency projects. Other participants said that they thought resiliency planning should become a standard practice in Hampton Roads.
Through this discussion, the Forum itself facilitated collaboration. After learning from Eisenberg and other speakers, participants were able to network with a diverse cross-section of professionals to make connections for future resiliency-planning partnerships.
The Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaptation Forum started in 2012 with support from Virginia Sea Grant as a way to connect up-to-date research on flooding and sea level rise with those making public policy decisions in southeastern Virginia. The event is hosted in partnership with Virginia Sea Grant, Old Dominion University, and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.