April 23, 2024

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A Call to Action To Design ‘Future-Ready’ Buildings

2 min read

An IMAX movie that recently opened, called Cities of the Future, is the second collaboration of famed IMAX director Greg MacGillivray and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Now playing in 18 U.S. cities, the movie imagines the future of building technology through a city called Mega City 2070. 

David Odeh, principal of Odeh Engineers/WSP, who was a member of the technical team that advised the director on the engineering reality underlying the film’s computer-generated imagery, says the movie brings to life ASCE’s Future World Vision program. He sees the film as a “call to action for how we can cope with what is in fact a very uncertain future” and believes construction professionals can have a “huge influence” by designing and building structures that are “future ready.” ASCE unveiled its first “future city,” a sea-based Floating City, in virtual reality format in 2019.

One way in which structures can be made future ready is for designers and contractors to build them so they can be easily relocated, Odeh says.

The engineer spoke about this concept at two recent industry events, on March 19 at ENR’s Emerging Leaders Forum in Chicago, and at ASCE’s Structural Engineering Institute Structures Congress in San Antonio the same week.

Odeh explained that a recent project at Orchard Beach State Park in northern Michigan sparked the design team to conceptualize structures as being inherently movable. The project involved rescuing a historic building threatened by a shoreline that was collapsing due to excessive rainfall by moving it about 100 meters inland. “This got us thinking,” he said. “What if it were inherent in the original design that a building could be adapted or relocated in the future?”

Giving this idea a real-life application, Odeh Engineers/WSP is designing a waterfront structure in coastal Massachusetts that will be built “right on a beach with notoriously unstable and shifting dunes and be subjected to all sorts of uncertain conditions from sea level rise to the changing erosion of the coastline,” Odeh says.

The building is being designed with flexible utilities that would allow the entire structure to be raised using piers that can be elevated on demand. Additionally, in the case of extreme events, the design enables it to be lifted off its foundations and relocated, with even the foundations able to be removed and reused at a new site. “We’re hoping that this new building will be a model for future coastal development,” Odeh says.

The engineer connects this to the Future World Vision program, explaining that it extrapolates concepts such as this 50 years into the future—asking what would potential outcomes of trends be over that time period and what would they mean for U.S. infrastructure.

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