Garrison Architects has created a plan to introduce net-zero energy, flood-resistant, modular structures along the beaches of Coney Island, Staten Island, and Rockaway Beach.

Better lifeguard stations are nice, but their design could also help lay new groundwork for the way that cities respond to climate change-related disasters in the future.

The new buildings are elevated above the new FEMA storm surge numbers, and they rely on photovoltaics, solar hot water heating, and skylight ventilators as part of a net-zero energy system. The wood siding was salvaged from boardwalks wiped out by Sandy.

The new structures will be constructed in a factory offsite, and later installed into site-specific support structures and access ramps on the beaches. Relying on quick-to-install modular structures in the future might serve as the foundation for the reconstruction of whole neighborhoods (as opposed to throwaway, temporary trailers).

2013-03-11

Co.Exist

These New Flood-Proof Buildings Are Built To Survive New York's Next Hurricane

After Sandy, the lifeguard stations on New York’s beaches were destroyed. But these new versions are built to withstand a storm—and might be a model for how to think about building better for the future.

Jim Garrison is a busy man. Just before Christmas, his architecture firm got a call from New York City officials asking if he could design and build nearly 50 lifeguard stations and other beach structures to replace the ones wiped out by Sandy. The one catch: The new units needed to open to the public in five months, on Memorial Day weekend, the symbolic start to summer.

Since then, "it’s been a wild ride," Garrison told me over the phone on Tuesday. After 40 days worth of 16-hour planning sessions, Garrison Architects emerged with a plan to introduce net-zero energy, flood-resistant, modular structures along the beaches of Coney Island, Staten Island, and Rockaway Beach. He says his designs are not only economical and aesthetically interesting— but could help lay new groundwork for the way that cities respond to climate change-related disasters in the future, by relying on quick-to-install modular structures that serve as the foundation for the reconstruction of whole neighborhoods (as opposed to throwaway, temporary trailers).

He says the initiative is the first time he can think of that any American city is "confronting the reality of starting to build infrastructure that can deal with these enormous storms and can live beyond them."

Garrison’s designs for new lifeguard stations, comfort stations, and beach offices include a number of features that make them both flood-resistant and sustainable: they’re elevated above the new FEMA storm surge numbers, and they rely on photovoltaics, solar hot water heating, and skylight ventilators as part of a net-zero energy system. The wood siding was salvaged from boardwalks wiped out by Sandy.

The project also involves relandscaping the beaches, reintroducing dunes in certain places to help protect the shore, and eliminating boardwalks. "The waves basically just roll under [boardwalks] and sometimes take them away with them," Garrison says.

The new structures will be constructed in a factory offsite, and later installed into site-specific support structures and access ramps on the beaches. According to a briefing by Garrison’s firm, "New York has only a handful of modular buildings, such as low-income trailer housing or modular classrooms, most of which essentially qualify as manufactured boxes on chassis, not unique designs. Our modules are a premier example of cutting edge modular building practices and sustainable design solutions for the future."

What’s perhaps more impressive than the speed of the design is the way the city’s bureaucracy got out of the way to let the project unfold under tight deadlines. "I’ve never seen anything like it on [the city’s] part," Garrison says (and he’s been designing buildings in New York for more than three decades).

Garrison hopes that the project serves as a model for disaster rebuilding efforts in the future, when it’s possible that Sandy-strength storms will be the norm. "Next time it hits, can we mobilize [modular design] as disaster housing? And I mean good stuff—not FEMA trailers that make people sick, stuff people can really live in for the long term?" Garrison wonders. "This is a way to build in an era of congestion, ecological challenges, and the need for permanence."

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7 Comments

  • Local

    Captain Zero: First, I hope you are not the author of the article, for the sake your profession. FYI, NIMBY means to espouse something and then not want it applied to yourself. I, and the vast majority of people who live in my building and the surrounding area were never even told about these upstanding toilet eyesores nor was there a public forum to discuss them. They are a disgusting experiment perpetrated on the lower but educated middle class who choose to object to the know-it-all-elite-look-at-me-how-creative-I-am-with-other-people's-money-and-neighborhoods, plus who can argue given my wealthy pedigree. Ptui. So your premise is shabby from the start. On top of that, you have the brazen nerve to take umbrage at a genuine expression of my concern for the environment in which I live? Maybe you are Garrison or are a paid lackey thereof. BTW, I can tell you, living a few feet from the boardwalk, people are not even waiting to go to the trailer to do their thing. They still pee and poop under the boardwalk and next to the ramps and stairs leading up to the boardwalk. Go take your faulty logic somewhere else. The Mayor is a little tyrant. Do as I say, not as I do? Meh. And NIMBY, get it?

  • Local

    Outrageous major fail, execrable. Blame Bloomberg and his elitist egotistical nimbyism. Bet he wouldn't want one of these in Bermuda. And lucky Garrison obviously lives in his own and created a special one for us outer borough quasimodos. How much Sandy money got dumped into this mistake? Are you kidding, ready by Memorial Day? The construction workers laugh when you ask them for the ETA. (BTW, can we find the firm that designed those lovely existing pavilions and comfort stations that withstood the hurricane and are harmonious with the environment?) If you know anything about Brighton Beach and Coney Island, the one thing it is not is a trailer park. It's open spaces at the shore. Not even a nod to beach aesthetics with these bombs. And who wants to watch people walking up and down ramps in the air to do number two? Horrible. Corregated aluminum? Are we trying to achieve favela status here? Appreciate repurposing the wood but there's no nostalgia in how ugly it looks now, not remotely echoing the boardwalk herringbone. And can we talk about the grand potential this creates for more criminal/homeless/drunk/drugs/sleeping havens these tank treads are gonna be off-season and all night during the summer? Sitting on a boardwalk bench you get a grand view of concrete pilings with a sardine can on top. And who are we kidding, no one can guarantee that anything can withstand a hurricane. Co-Exist, this project should not exist.

  • Captain Zero

     You really have the gall to blame this on someone else's NIMBYism, when your attitude is the absolute zenith of NIMBYISM?

  • ObserverV

    The buildings are good and comfortable as soon as they are far from any residential area. But the same constructions are absolutely ugly, smelly in a front of your windows, in a 20 feet from your kitchen and dining room.
    20 - 50 feet from the residential community smelly public toilets ... even the latest design ever are horrible, ugly, unhealthy and silly.
    Very sad that this project never been adjusted to the area it's built. It's a huge mistake of unprofessional leadership of NY department of Parks & Recreation.

  • david lynch

    This is a product of a sick mind. This will forever be a testament of Mike "The Crapper" Bloomberg's complete lack of taste. Even with his billions he couldn't acquire any.