Design Workshop Generates New Ideas for Community Safe Room
What’s the best place to build a Community Safe Room to serve a coastal community? What is the process in which all the necessary stakeholders can become engaged to ensure it succeeds as a productive, community-centered facility? At last week’s Resilient Building Design Workshop hosted by the Center for Architecture, more than 40 engineers, planners, architects and activists took the opportunity to try and address these questions.
The site was selected by course instructors Carter Craft and Deborah Gans. Over the course of two afternoons, design teams created five potential site plans and five different building configurations and layouts. The parameters are set by FEMA and the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, which administers the course known as “HURRIPLAN.” The practical exercise in the course is to design a Community Safe Room that can accommodate 500 occupants, has necessary restrooms, food preparation and storage space, as well as back-up power for up to seven days. To endure the weather event, the structure must be able to withstand 200-225 mph winds (measured over a 3- second gust) as well as a horizontal projectile or missile up to 9 pounds travelling at 128 miles per hour. A population spanning every level of physical ability and age group is to be expected.
The site discussed during the exercise was the area around and including Red Hook’s Miccio Center, located on 9th Street in Red Hook in the shadow of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The area is at the northeast corner of the NYC Housing Authority. The teams developed site plans that ranged from infill construction (see image) to an iconic building design. The exercise asked teams to include a primary building function in addition to the Safe Room use. Teams responded with ideas including indoor farms, school gymnasium, and dance studio. Every team reinforced the reality that whatever dual purpose any such building should aim to achieve, local residents need to have a voice in the process.
Looking ahead, Red Hook seems to be a very suitable location for such an advanced, multi-use facility. Much of the community was submerged under Sandy’s flood waters. Nearby organizations such as the New York Harbor School on Governors Island are seeking to help jump-start middle schools in each borough. A relatively high proportion of young people reside in the area. Thus a new heart for Red Hook could be designed to provide important day-to-day educational services for young people and built to withstand large scale weather events that continue to pose great risk to coastal communities.