IN THE not-so-distant future, communities in Hampton Roads will look vastly different.
Some of that will be by choice, as new buildings and developments reflect the evolving aesthetic aspirations of the age, but plenty will be by necessity thanks to the effects of a warming planet, rising seas and subsidence — the settling of the land — throughout the area.
As the seas rise and steadily encroach on where residents live, work and play, communities will need to make decisions about what resources are best protected from recurrent flooding through resilience efforts and which are better served through adaptation, accommodating the new, wetter reality of having more water more frequently in more places.
Countless efforts are being made to imagine how those neighborhoods will look, how they will operate, how construction will take place, what materials to use and so on. And it is very much a race against time, as all indications are that the rate of sea-level rise is quickening, and implementation of these new ideas can hardly wait.
That was much of the thinking behind a $120.5 million grant awarded to the commonwealth in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocated $5.25 million to develop the next generation of resilience solutions for this region.
It helped establish the RISE non-profit in Norfolk, an organization whose mission is to bring government, business and academic energy to bear on the enormous challenge facing Hampton Roads and coastal communities throughout the world.
And the creation of RISE, in turn, gave birth to the Coastal Communities Resilience Challenge, a competition in which entrants compete for about $1.5 million in funding for “financially sustainable solutions that enhance the resilience of coastal communities.”
The competition was focused on five areas of primary concern: water management, data analytics, building viability, critical utility installation and disconnected communities. RISE made available public data sets and subject matter experts as teams considered their proposals.
In April, officials announced the six winners of the inaugural competition, and they are something to behold.
They include a group that seeks to improve the resilience of older communities by developing methods to protect historic properties. The team, Building Resilient Solutions LLC, plans to use “traditional materials, dry flood proofing and barrier systems” to protect those vulnerable structures.
GROW Oyster Reefs LLC, which also won the 2018 MIT Solve Coastal Communities Challenge, developed a new method of oyster development, using organic materials that are less expensive, easier to maintain and more effective as facilitating oyster growth. They also help clean the water and serve as a sea wall to protect coastal communities from flooding.
And then there’s this from the winning bid of Constructis Energy, which intends to “pilot patent-pending technology that harnesses kinetic energy from traffic to provide power to emergency services, traffic signals and pumps that clear flooded roadways.” Can you imagine?
These and the other winning bids will receive between $160,000 and $310,000 to develop their products, services and programs, all aimed at helping make coastal communities such as those in Hampton Roads better prepared for the looming crisis.
However, arguably the most important aspect of these winning proposals is that they represent promising business opportunities, which will help develop the type of economic ecosystem around flooding and resilience needed to foster innovation, facilitate employment and help change the attitude regarding sea-level rise from one of grim inevitability to one of opportunity.
Those interested in the competition, reading more about the winning bids, or reading about how RISE is helping ready Virginia for the future, can find that information at the RISE webpage (https://riseresilience.org/).
There, folks can also read about the requirements and parameters about how the competition works and sign up to be notified when the bid process for the 2019 competition formally opens.
Hampton Roads will need to look vastly different indeed if it is to remain a viable place to live and work as seas continue to encroach on our neighborhoods. It’s exciting to see a program such as this helping to shape that future in a promising manner.
Have a story in mind or press release of your own that our regional entrepreneurs and innovators should know about? Let us know!
Stay updated on news and events in the Hampton Roads startup ecosystem…sign up for the StartWheel newsletter!
StartWheel’s mission is to centralize and mobilize efforts that foster the growth of entrepreneurism in our regional innovation economy. We aim to support and cultivate an entrepreneurial network in HRVA where talent, resources, information and leadership come together.