The Elizabeth River Project’s $8.1 million headquarters on a flood plain destined to be submerged in the coming decades as tides rise and storms intensify has been designed to showcase strategies to stay longer in harm’s way.
Eventually it will surrender to the inevitable: The environmental group has agreed to demolish the building and abandon the site.
“It’s intended to show you how to work and play and live with this rising sea level,” said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, who co-founded the Elizabeth River Project 25 years ago to restore the waterway. “And once it’s no longer functioning, we take down the building and give it back to nature, give it back to the river.”
Polls show more than half of Americans think they are being harmed by climate change. That number jumps in places already feeling its effects like Norfolk, where a poll shows three-quarters of the population is worried about the risk. Yet worrying about the problem is one thing, facing the reality is another.
The novel experiment to build a sort of resilience theme park for homeowners and developers, destined for destruction, aims to ease people into confronting that reality.
“This whole corridor is at risk, but culturally vital,” said Sam Bowling, the architect for Work Program Architects who spearheaded the design. “All these people live and work and have their favorite bars along Colley Avenue. They don’t want to leave. They’re aware of the risks.”
Construction on a small creek will be complete next year, Mayfield Jackson said. A 6,500-square-foot laboratory will be raised 11 feet on an avenue resurgent with restaurants, a brewery and small businesses. Strategies to reduce the building’s environmental impact are off-the-shelf solutions so they can be replicated by homeowners and developers. A solar array will generate electricity. A green roof and a rain garden will collect water for use in toilets. A southern-facing green wall will reduce the need for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter, bolstered by insulation that exceeds local energy-saving requirements.”
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