Architecture competition develops eco-friendly designs

In November, the School of Architecture and the American Institute of Architects will be holding a unique competition focusing on adapting Miami buildings to the rising sea level caused by climate change.

The competition was created by four architecture students who are a part of UM’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Recent storms, along with increased scientific data, have brought climate change to the forefront of media and social conscious,” said Isaac Stein, the council’s co-president. “As architects, we must strive to provide appropriate responses to climate change so we can create a healthy relationship between contemporary life and the ever changing natural world.”

Pollution and natural gases are causing the polar ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise, which could endanger coastal construction. In Miami-Dade County, 71 percent of buildings are within three-feet high-tide mark, according to the architectural students. If water levels continue to rise, those buildings could be rendered useless. Therefore, architects need to adapt building designs and make them better prepared for natural disasters and the continuous climate change.

“The role of architects, now and in the future, is to understand science in order to make people’s lives better,” said architecture professor Joanna Lombard, faculty adviser to the council.

The Miami Resiliency Project is a design competition that is open to students and professionals. It encourages participants to examine realistic designs in response to the rising sea level in a case study format. Projects are submitted to a panel of judges, which selects the winning entries. The objective is to create resilient communities by devising a plan that is economically practical for homeowners.

According to several studies, significant portions of Florida could be submerged by rising sea levels over the next century. That means buildings and homes will have to be modified and made sustainable.

One idea suggested by council co-president Lora Shea is to put structures on stilts.

“Maybe it’s not the buildings that need to change, but rather our lifestyle,” she said. “Cities were built to protect us from our environment, but we need to learn how to co-exist with nature and the climate changes that are to come.”

A symposium titled “Miami as a Climate Change Resilient City,” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at AIA’s new downtown Miami building, 100 NW First Ave..  The symposium is free and open to the public.