Type of Solution

New York, New York: Living Breakwaters

City: New York
Country / US State / US Territory: New York
Type of Solution: Seawalls and Living Shorelines
Climate Impact: Seal Level Rise; Hurricanes and Storm Surge; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Educational and Career Development Opportunities; Active Living and Recreation; Community Engagement; Social Cohesion; Arts and Culture
Cost: $60 million
Funding Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Rebuild by Design competition

Living Breakwaters is a project aimed at helping to reduce wave energy, lowering flooding risks during extreme storm events. The project was developed by SCAPE landscape Architecture for the Rebuild Design Competition, a competition held by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to improve coastal resilience in response to Hurricane Sandy.

The Living Breakwaters approach uses structures to restore and enhance marine habitats, as well as improve biodiversity. Structures include reef ridges, reef streets, crenulated crests, and bio-enhancing concrete. This habitat mimics historic oyster reefs, which helps to restore the oyster population.

Additionally, the project co-creates social value. The project will help to prevent beach erosion and protect property values. The project also will improves access to the shoreline an recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing.

Also, an on-land Water Hub will be constructed on shore for visitoring groups, recreation, and educational programs. The Harbor School and Billion Oyster Project will create educational opportunities for local schools to learn about ecological stewardship and how they can help to protect Staten Island’s coastline. Implementation of the project also provides educational opportunities for research and skill development through project monitoring.

Fig: Graphic showing the project design and connection between risk reduction, ecology, and culture (Image retrieved from http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/our-work/all-proposals/winning-projects/ny-living-breakwaters)

Fig: Graphic showing more specifics about the project’s landscape architecture design (Image retrieved from http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/our-work/all-proposals/winning-projects/ny-living-breakwaters)

Fig: Rendering of the Living Breakwaters project featuring contributions to social resilience (Image retrieved from http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/our-work/all-proposals/winning-projects/ny-living-breakwaters)


Atlas. (n.d.). Creating protective infrastructure to reduce coastal risk, enhance aquatic habitat, and foster social resilience. Retrieved from https://www.the-atlas.com/project?id=374#.

New York State. (n.d.). Learn more about the Living Breakwaters project. Retrieved from https://stormrecovery.ny.gov/learn-more-about-living-breakwaters-project.

Rebuild by Design. (n.d.). Living Breakwaters. Retrieved from http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/our-work/all-proposals/winning-projects/ny-living-breakwaters.

New York, New York: Gowanus Canal Sponge Park

City: New York
Country / US State / US Territory: New York
Type of Solution: Canal
Climate Impact: Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Water Security and Quality; Public Health and Safety; Public Space; Active Living and Recreation
Cost: $1.5 million
Funding Source: Public health; access to public space; water quality; recreation; redevelopment and brownfields

In 2010, the canal was named an EPA Superfund site, and the Sponge Park project emerged as a solution that would not only remediate the site and prevent future pollution but also improve access to a number of public spaces. Currently, the NYC area does not meet federal water quality standards for swimming, fishing, and wildlife habitats due to its inability to prevent pollution, particularly sewer overflows during heavy rain events. The water quality poses a health hazard to community members.

Gowanus Canal Sponge Park was built to manage stormwater, helping to slow, absorb, and filter polluted surface water runoff. Street runoff is captured and stored in underground tanks, which are then filtered by artificial wetlands and then released into the canal. The park is estimated to capture and treat 1 million gallons of storm water annually. This project will help to improve water quality in the surrounding waterways for recreational use and protect wildlife habitat.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Design and Construction also built 70 curbside rain gardens in South Brooklyn. These additional rain gardens can manage 133,000 gallons of stormwater runoff and will capture an estimated 6 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually. Long-term, the project aims to create 11.4 acres of revitalized canal space, 7.9 acres of public spaces and 3.5 acres of remediated wetland basins.

Fig: Gowanus Canal Sponge Park (Photo retrieved from https://www.the-atlas.com/project?id=249#)


Atlas. (n.d.). Gowanus Canal Sponge Park. Retrieved from https://www.the-atlas.com/project?id=249#.

New York, New York: CloudBurst Study, South Jamaica Houses

City: New York
Country / US State / US Territory: New York
Type of Solution: City Government Program
Climate Impact: Hurricanes and Storm Surge; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Food security and nutrition; community cohesion, bikeability; livability; urban beautification

The Cloudburst Study was conducted by NYC through a collaborative project with Copenhagen to prevent flooding during heavy precipitation events, aka. Cloudbursts. NYC and Copenhagen are both facing rising sea levels and Cloudbursts, so the cities have partnered to develop new innovative projects to enhance stormwater management. Their solutions are aimed at creating inspiring urban areas and other co-benefits for citizens, local businesses, and the city.

South Jamaica Houses redevelopment is one pilot project that has emerged from the NYC Cloudburst Study. The project will increase liveability of the area, and will result in additional shared green space for recreation, bike paths, and urban gardening. Improved public spaces will help to improve community cohesion. Additionally, the college will be better integrated into the surrounding community, also contributing to social cohesion.

Fig: Rendering of South Jamaica Houses project on a dry day (Image retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dep/downloads/pdf/climate-resiliency/nyc-cloudburst-study.pdf)

Fig: Rendering of South Jamaica Houses project on a wet day (Image retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dep/downloads/pdf/climate-resiliency/nyc-cloudburst-study.pdf)

Fig: Map showing the environmental benefits (blue) and social benefits (orange) that will result from the project


C40 Cities. (September 14, 2017). Cities100: New York City and Copenhagen – cities collaborating on climate resilience. Retrieved from https://www.c40.org/case_studies/cities100-new-york-city-and-copenhagen-cities-collaborating-on-climate-resilience.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection. (January, 2017). Cloudburst resiliency planning study: executive summary. Retrieved from https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dep/downloads/pdf/climate-resiliency/nyc-cloudburst-study.pdf.

New York, New York: Build it Back Program

City: New York
Country / US State / US Territory: New York
Type of Solution: City Government Program
Climate Impact: Seal Level Rise; Hurricanes and Storm Surge; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Affordable and Safe Housing; Social Justice and Equity for Vulnerable Communities; Public Health and Safety

The Built It Back Program was started after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. The Program provided homeowners, landlords, and tenants in low- and middle-income neighborhoods affected by the storm with funds sustainably rebuild homes. The goal of the program is to help vulnerable communities rebuild their homes and be better prepared for future hurricanes.

Homes must be rebuilt above Base Flood Elevation level and must be certified by Enterprise Green Communities, a certification for sustainable and energy efficient buildings, to improve communities’ resilience to flooding and Sea Level Rise. In addition to assistance in reconstructing homes, the Program funded legal counseling and temporary housing for residents affected.

The Program received 20,000 applications, and 16,000 completed the initial eligibility review. As of June 2018, the program has helped 12,500 households through reimbursement checks, construction starts, and acquisitions

Fig: A house that has been rebuilt as part of the Build It Back Program, showcasing the elevated design (Photo retrieved from https://twitter.com/NYCBuilditBack)

Fig: A house on Staten Island that has been rebuilt as part of the Build It Back Program (Photo retrieved from https://twitter.com/NYCBuilditBack)


The City of New York. (2018). NYC Build It Back Stronger and Safer: Welcome to NYC Housing Recovery. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/recovery/html/home/home.shtml.

The Adaptation Clearinghouse. (2016). New York City Build It Back Program. Retrieved from http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/new-york-city-build-it-back-program.html.

Miami, Florida: Citizen Science Sampling Campaign for King Tides

City: Miami
Country / US State / US Territory: Florida
Type of Solution: Awareness Campaign
Climate Impact: Sea Level Rise
Social Value Created: Public Education; Community Engagement; Social Justice and Equity for Vulnerable Communities; Public Health and Safety

During King Tides, groundwater rises and seeps up into low-lying communities. While currently these events only occur a few times a year, they could occur as frequently as 30 to 40 times a year by 2030. Florida International University (FIU) is leading a volunteer program to help map and collect data on these King Tides, helping to inform adaptation solutions.

Local community members volunteer for a few hours during these King Tides to take and record measurements in a phone application, recording the depth, length, and location of the King Tide. This method improve community awareness and helps to engage community members in solution development.

One of these sampling events, Sea Level Solutions Day, occurred on November 4, 2017. Over 75 citizen scientists volunteered, assisting in sampling in six different Miami neighborhoods. Samples were taken for traces of fecal coliform and other indicators of contamination.

Fig: Citizen scientist, Lesly Abreu, collecting flood water samples at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens for Sea Level Solutions (Photo retrieved from https://slsc.fiu.edu/solutions/outreach-and-engagement/citizen-science/sea-level-solutions-day/index.html)

Fig: Citizen scientist, Bryan Palacio, testing flood water samples for bacterial content (Photo retrieved from https://slsc.fiu.edu/solutions/outreach-and-engagement/citizen-science/sea-level-solutions-day/index.html)


Florida International University Sea Level Solutions Center. (n.d.). Citizen Science. Retrieved from https://slsc.fiu.edu/solutions/outreach-and-engagement/citizen-science/index.html.

Florida International University Sea Level Solutions Center. (n.d.). Sea Level Solutions Day. Retrieved from https://slsc.fiu.edu/solutions/outreach-and-engagement/citizen-science/sea-level-solutions-day/index.html.

New Delhi Times Bureau. (December 9, 2017). Miami citizens become scientists to study rising seas. Retrieved from https://www.newdelhitimes.com/miami-citizens-become-scientists-to-study-rising-seas/.

*Note: This case was documented from an interview with a city practitioner.

Washington, D.C.: Smart Roof Program

City: Washington
Country / US State / US Territory: D.C.
Type of Solution: Roof
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect
Social Value Created: Educational and Career Development Opportunities; Employment Opportunities; Public Health and Safety

Washington, D.C. has a Smart Roof Program that was implemented to counteract the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. The program integrated roof asset and energy management projects to retrofit roofs of 435 buildings, totalling 321 acres of roof area, including schools, police stations, fire stations, park and recreation centers, and office buildings.

Program objectives include energy conservation, stormwater management, heat reflection, solar energy production, carbon management, and leading through use of best practices and community involvement. The Washington, D.C. Department of General Services is projected to save $33 million over 20 years and will result in a reduction of 20,000 metric tons of CO2e annually. Additionally, the project addressed safety issues of the aging roofs.

The program focused on two types of roofs: vegetative (green) roofs and cool roofs. Vegetative roofs are used to teach students about botany, and solar PV installations on cool roofs are used as vocational education for students on renewable energy technologies through the DC Greenworks apprenticeship program. Projects were also used to support job creation and training in the local community.

Bluefin. (n.d.). Success stories: SmartRoof Program makes Washington DC one of the greenest cities in America. Retrieved from http://www.bluefinllc.com/success-stories/smartroof-program-makes-washington-dc-one-of-the-greenest-city-in-america/.

Rast, Richard. (October, 2013). Washington D.C. Smart Roof Program. Bluefin.

The Adaptation Clearinghouse. (n.d.). Washington D.C. smart roof – roof asset and energy management program. Retrieved from http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/washington-d-c-smart-roof-roof-asset-and-energy-management-program.html.

Tampa, Florida: Strawberry Advisory System

City: Tampa
Country / US State / US Territory: Florida
Type of Solution: Agriculture
Climate Impact: Invasive Species and Pests
Social Value Created: Food Security and Nutrition; Living Wages
Cost: N/A
Financing: N/A

Fungus is common in Florida’s humid climate that will rot strawberries, and may become a larger problem in the future. To avoid rot, farmers overspray strawberries, costing them time and money. Additionally, the fungus may develop a resistance to the fungicide if the chemicals are sprayed too frequently. A system was developed to monitor temperature, leaf wetness, humidity and local weather to alert farmers when they should be spraying fungicide.

Improving crop yields and reducing fungicide use reduces operational costs, helping to ensure living wages for farmers. Improving crop yields also supports food security and nutrition, and reducing fungicide use reduces the environmental impact of agricultural practices. Additionally, customers have started to demand more natural strawberries, and reducing chemical use helps to meet customer expectations.

Freeman, J. (October 10, 2014). Strawberry growers reap profits with less spray, more science. NOAA Climate.gov. Retrieved from https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-case-studies/strawberry-growers-reap-profits-less-spray-more-science.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. (January 17, 2017). Alert system helps strawberry growers reduce costs. Retrieved from https://toolkit.climate.gov/case-studies/alert-system-helps-strawberry-growers-reduce-costs.

Tampa, Florida: Mixed Use Space Green Infrastructure

City: Tampa
Country / US State / US Territory: Florida
Type of Solution: Buildings and Housing
Climate Impact: N/A
Social Value Created: Public safety; public health; benefits vulnerable communities (including low-income and elderly populations); education; arts and culture; redevelopment
Cost: $2 billion
Financing: $28 million stimulus grant

A unique mixed-use redevelopment in Tampa Florida. The development includes a combination of multifamily housing, senior housing, retail, and office space that meets the criteria for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. All of the housing is also classified as “affordable” housing. Previously, the space was a public housing development that was isolated from the broader community. The new development will increase community connectivity.

Green infrastructure is a major feature of the new development, helping to manage stormwater. A 33,000 cubic foot water-retention vault is being installed 12 feet underground. The vault is a very unique stormwater management system, collecting and treating water using nutrient separating baffle boxes and sediment chambers to remove pollutants from the water. Then, the water is stored and used for irrigation on-site. Any water exceeding the vault’s capacity is treated and released to Tampa Bay.

The site also includes permeable pavers and native plants, increasing groundwater infiltration of stormwater and reducing water demands landscaping. Additionally, there is a 16,000 square foot Technology Park above the stormwater vault that includes educational kiosks, solar public art, and the district chiller.

Burgess, K. et al. (2017). Harvesting the value of water: stormwater, green infrastructure, and real estate. Washington, D.C.: Urban Land Institute, 2017. Retrieved from https://developingresilience.uli.org/case/the-avenue/.

Langlie, K. (August 19, 2016). Health, green affordable housing in downtown Tampa celebrates Earth Day. Retrieved from http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/encoretampa04916.aspx.

Seattle, Washington: Redevelopment Project

City: Seattle
Country / US State / US Territory: Washington
Type of Solution: Vacant Properties and Lots
Climate Impact: Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: recreation; public gathering space; social cohesion; connectivity; employment; benefits vulnerable communities

The City of Seattle recently redeveloped undertook a nine-acre redevelopment project to repurpose an underutilized parking lot and the surrounding area. The Thornton Creek restoration is one component of the restoration project. Thornton Creek was previously been forced below the surface as the urban area developed.

The restoration project aimed to restore the creek to manage stormwater runoff from 680 acres. Impervious surfaces were also reduced by 78%, improving ground water infiltration and thereby reducing runoff. Native species were used for 85% of the project’s landscaping, reducing water consumption for landscaping and reducing maintenance needs. The project design also improves stormwater filtration to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff, removing 40-80% of total suspended solids from 91% of runoff in the 680 acre drainage basin.

Thornton Place is a combined residential and commercial space created in the redevelopment. The project added 530 units of mixed-income housing and 50,000 square feet of retail space, including 143 units of assisted-living housing for seniors. Thornton Place also includes a 14-screen cinema and a plaza area for public gatherings. Additionally, pedestrian links were created to link adjacent commercial and residential neighborhoods, improving walkability. Transit access was also improve by the design, increasing mobility and diversity of transportation.

Benfield, K. (June 6, 2011). How to turn a parking lot into an ideal green community. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/how-to-turn-a-parking-lot-into-an-ideal-green-community/239973/.

Benfield, K. (June 7, 2011). A seattle redevelopment that is greener than green. Grist Magazine. Retrieved from https://grist.org/urbanism/2011-06-06-seattle-urbanism-transit-state-of-the-art-green-mixed-planning/.

Seattle, Washington: Elevated Floating Bridge

City: Seattle
Country / US State / US Territory: Washington
Type of Solution: Bridge
Climate Impact: Hurricanes and Extreme Storms
Social Value Created: Diverse Transportation; Public Health and Safety; Active Living and Recreation

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is completed reconstruction of the Evergreen Point (SR 250) floating bridge spanning Lake Washington in April 2016. The bridge is the longest floating bridge in the world. Floating bridges are support by large, water-right concrete pontoons. The bridge was reconstructed to withstand that anticipated increase in wind loads from more frequent extreme storms and hurricanes. Stronger winds may result in bridge failure by breaking the drawspan, anchor cables, or pontoons.

The new bridge design has also addressed anticipated increases in traffic congestion by increasing the width of the lands and adding a transit/High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. Additionally, there will be a new 14-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian path that connects to recreational trails, improving recreation and increasing diversity of transportation options for commuters. The new design include flexibility for the City to add on a light rail in the future, also supporting diverse transportation options.

Washington State Department of Transportation. (n.d.). SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program – floating bridge facts. Retrieved from https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520Bridge/About/BridgeFacts.htm.