The multidisciplinary team from Arup, Stony Brook University, Rutgers University, KOL/MAC Architecture + Design, Philip Parker Architects and Stockholm Resilience Center will create design concepts for sustainable development of city coastlines.

Convergence Accelerator, a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) program, has awarded a $750,000 grant to Arup, Stony Brook University, Rutgers University, KOL/MAC Architecture + Design, Philip Parker Architects and Stockholm Resilience Center for the research project, titled Reconfiguring Urban Shorelines for Resilience: Convergence Research Meshing Ecology, Engineering and Architecture. The team of engineers, ecologists, architects, and social scientists will address failing and ageing shorelines in urban areas by developing infrastructure design concepts to support shoreline ecology and biodiversity, while providing social and economic benefits for communities. The project will innovate a new generation of replacements or augmentation of existing shorelines that not only provide solutions to both the historic degradation of ecology along urban shorelines and the threat of rising seas, but will also be scalable and transportable to other urbanized shores within the US and elsewhere.

“As a cross-disciplinary team with an integrated approach, we have the incredible opportunity with this award to create holistic solutions to drive significant resiliency, environmental and social impact,” said Vincent Lee, Associate Principal and Global Water Skills Leader at Arup. “Our process is designed to bring together different sectors, technologies, experts and communities to rethink how we design urban shorelines for not just engineering performance, but for ecological preservation and human engagement.”

Over the next decade, ocean industries and resources—collectively called the blue economy—are expected to play a central role in addressing the world’s needs for energy, food, jobs, and sustainability. Urbanized coastal zones drive much of the blue economy, providing habitat and nursery areas for marine biodiversity, and supporting important fisheries and aquaculture. But they are increasingly vulnerable to damage from waves, flooding, storms, and sea level rise associated with continued climate change. Existing hardened shorelines, such as bulkheads and sea walls, are failing physically and functionally. These structures neither support diverse ecological communities nor provide a place for humans to experience the shoreline or understand the valuable nature of the urban coastal ecosystem.

The project includes applying new materials, architectural design and engineering modeling, and advanced hydrological computer analyses to propose new approaches to constructed coastal reinforcements that provide protection for cities and harbors from storm surges and climate change while enhancing development of shoreline communities and the services to people.

“Reconfiguring Urban Shorelines for Resilience” will engage industry, agencies, and regulatory bodies to bring them directly into the processes of public space and infrastructure design. The project will also include outreach to underserved communities to raise awareness about shoreline issues, science and design evaluation tools, and include their feedback.

The NSF has awarded $21 million across 28 teams for phase one of the 2021 Convergence Accelerator program. Over the next nine months, each team will develop an initial prototype and participate in the program’s innovation curriculum, and identify new partners. At the end of phase one, teams will participate in a formal pitch and a proposal evaluation. Selected teams will proceed to phase two, with potential funding up to $5 million for a 24-month research and development project that transitions research into practice through engagement with multi-sector partnerships and collaboration with end-users.

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