Our Design staff are helping a coastal community tackle sea level rise.

Communities in low-lying coastal settlements are increasingly prone to flooding due to climate change and sea level rise. In Blueskin Bay, Otago, some properties are now uninsurable because of the frequency of flood events, and this has adversely affected property values. Additional compliance measures have been imposed by the local authority for new buildings on sites less than two metres above tidal peaks. 

To respond to these challenges the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust has partnered with the Design School at Otago Polytechnic on the Climate Safe House project. Lecturers Chris Fersterer, Col Fay and Tobias Danielmeier are working on the project with Kat Achterberg and Scott Willis from the Trust. The goal is to design a new form of community housing that meets evolving needs. 

The project also gives Design students the opportunity for experiential learning in architectural sustainability, using research methodologies and working in a multidisciplinary community of practice. The students have been engaged with site surveys, resident interviews, sourcing data, physical modelling, and designing user-centred solutions. Read more here about an exhibition of student designs. A second cohort has responded to feedback from the public and incorporated Living Building Challenge sustainability principles to produce a blueprint for design application in future.

Participatory approaches such as exhibitions and forums are being used to help members of the community understand the issues and contribute to solutions. Industry support and funding are sought for the construction of a transportable and fully self-contained housing model using currently available technologies. The hope is that this will become an educational tool for the wider public, to initiate conversations about responding to climate change.

December 2017