Session #2 | Beyond Engineering

30 Oct 2017
10:30 am-12:00 pm
Annapolis Waterfront Hotel, Chesapeake Ballroom

Session #2 | Beyond Engineering

Case Study: Philadelphia, PA: Disaster Planning for Historic Properties in a World Heritage City

Case Study: Farnsworth House Flood Mitigation

Case Study: Flood Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: The Benefits of Amphibious Retrofits to Historic Structures

Case Study: Philadelphia, PA: Disaster Planning for Historic Properties in a World Heritage City
In November 2015, the City of Philadelphia became the first major US city to initiate a multi-year plan to protect its historic resources before, during. and in the aftermath of, future flooding events. The project’s first phase -now complete -was the result of an unprecedented partnership between the city’s Office of Emergency Management. the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). and cultural resources consultant AECOM­Burlington. This case study will provide an overview of the initial one-year phase of the Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative for Philadelphia and highlight how a historic building flood vulnerability assessment was completed for nearly 600 resources in a dense and layered urban environment. The presentation will address both high-tech strategies and best practices for conducting flood vulnerability fieldwork and analysis will be shared, lending methodologies that could be replicated as municipalities nationwide begin to integrate cultural resources into their hazard mitigation plans.

  • Emily Paulus Everett | Senior Architectural Historian, AECOM
  • Benjamin Buckley | Architectural Historian, AECOM

Case Study: Farnsworth House Flood Mitigation
The Farnsworth House, designed in 1950 by Mies van der Rohe for his client Dr. Edith Farnsworth, lies only 90 feet from the edge of the Fox River in Plano, Illinois. The Fox River has always been subject to flooding, which led Mies to design the building elevated above grade. However, as development rapidly spread along the 2,000 square mile watershed of the river, the height and frequency of flooding has increased dramatically since the building’s construction. The Farnsworth House has already experienced the 500 year return period flood, which caused water to enter the house to a height of more than four feet above the floor level. Farnsworth House is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a house museum, and they have been working with Silman to implement a permanent solution to mitigate this current and on-going threat.

This session will review and compare the options considered and will discuss the chosen program. Significantly, we found that there are currently no studies that objectively compare flood mitigation approaches or prescribe the best solution for different circumstances, so with the support of an NCPTI grant, we reviewed studies of barrier and buoyancy systems (which have benefited from previous and ongoing studies), continued the study of the hydraulic lift and hybrid systems (technology which is little understood as a tool for flood mitigation), and compared all approaches.

The National Trust’s study, guided by architects and structural, geotechnical, and hydraulic engineers, lists criteria and analyzes the pros and cons of each system. Using Farnsworth House as a case-study, the National Trust and Silman will help others review and compare flood control systems to determine the right approach for their property.

  • Ashley R. Wilson, AIA, ASID | Graham Gund Architect for the Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Jenna Cellini Bresler | Senior Engineer, Robert Silman Associates

Case Study: Flood Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: The Benefits of Amphibious Retrofits to Historic Structures
Protecting historic architecture, urban fabric and landscapes from the increasing risk of flooding wrought by climate change is a challenging prospect. Successful adaptation strategies require a level of cultural sensitivity that is often lacking in conventional flood mitigation measures such as the permanent static elevation of buildings at risk of flooding. Forward-looking strategies also need to incorporate adaptability to future flooding levels that are difficult to quantify in advance, especially in our current state of climate uncertainty.

Amphibious architecture offers an architecturally sensitive, adaptable and resilient approach to flood mitigation, including increased flooding due to climate change. A buoyant foundation refers to a specific type of amphibious architecture-a retrofit to an existing building that enables it to sit on dry land like ordinary buildings until the event of a flood, when it rises and floats on the surface of the water until the floodwater recedes.

This presentation will provide an overview of amphibious retrofit construction and the ways in which it can be applied to the historic preservation of individual buildings or even neighborhoods, and its benefits in comparison to alternative strategies. It will provide several case study examples, such as retrofit solutions for historic buildings in the small town of Princeville, North Carolina, the first town chartered by freed slaves at the time of the Civil War; for a low-income neighborhood of modest historic houses in Galveston, Texas; and a scheme for amphibiating the iconic Farnsworth House. It will connect to larger themes of developing methods that are both innovative and practical for providing flood protection to historic structures, using an approach that emphasizes sensitivity and adaptability to the cultural values of existing communities. It will also include results of recent research on the economic advantages of BFR compared to alternative approaches.

  • Elizabeth C. English | Associate Professor, University of Waterloo School of Architecture