Water Water Everywhere

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

Environmentalists have focused on global warming caused by mankind. This has been somewhat controversial when scientists turn to graphs that show increasing temperatures of our atmosphere, especially as to whether it is caused by mankind or whether it is just a heating cycle as what took place before mankind showed up on the Earth. That’s a topic for another day.

Another aspect of warming the planet that doesn’t get as much of the press is the rising of the sea levels. This result from warming has been investigated lately with regard to how resilient planning and construction strategies must change when it comes to how our buildings in the future will be designed and in where they will be located.

Civilization around the world loves to live near bodies of water for numerous reasons. If scientists are correct, we will have to give up our love affair for living near water globally.

A recent article in ENR magazine addressed this situation with focus on the importance of having a resiliency strategy to minimize the impact of sea level rise. According to some scientists, the sea level rise is accelerating 4 inches per decade by 2100. This is based on satellite data collection that began a quarter of a century ago. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reinforcing the outlook that global sea level is likely to go up at least two feet by the end of this century compared to 2005 levels.

This type of sea level change and its acceleration also has potential to impact melting at the polar caps. Rising sea levels increase the risk of storm surge flooding in coastal cities around the world and US.

The news from cities that have already taken action to avoid catastrophes from flooding is concerning. The rate of sea level rise is accelerating so fast that some coastal communities could confront an additional 4 inches per decade by the end of the century.

A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) used NOAA data that predicts within 15 years about 147,000 existing homes and 7,000 commercial buildings could flood once every other week and within 30 years that number will double. The report also projects that by the end of the century as many as 2.4 million homes and 107,000 commercial properties will chronically flood. The UCS report also predicts that a quarter of Boston would be under water by 2100 under a high sea-level rise scenario.  

With such dire predictions many local governments are creating legislation that requires any environmental impact statements on building projects must take into account the impact of rising sea levels. States such as Hawaii and Virginia, and cities such as San Francisco and Boston, are taking serious measures to prepare for rising sea levels.

Whether you consider the predictions from the scientists as scare tactics or solid predictions , planners must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In the meantime we may all want to dig out our hip waders just to be prepared.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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