Bernard M. Baruch Houses, completed in 1959, is the largest New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development in Manhattan. Nelligan White was asked by NYCHA to evaluate the long-term resilience of the development and implement design solutions focused on flood prevention and energy resilience.
Concerns about the development’s resilience to sea level changes and extreme weather surfaced after Hurricane Sandy. With extreme weather events more likely to happen in future decades because of climate change, Nelligan White assessed the magnitude and risk of flood damage and proposed an integrated scheme of preventative measures to keep impacts at bay.
The main objective of the project is to replace the existing below-ground Central Heating Plant, which would become unusable in a future flood. We designed a new, elevated Steam Pressure Reduction Valve Station (PRV) to provide steam to the 18 residential buildings on the 28-acre site. We used insights from our resiliency study to ensure that the PRV would be safe from projected floodwater levels, meeting NYCHA’s resiliency goals for buildings in flood-prone locations.
Alongside this, we designed a flood wall around the western portion of the site, to protect the higher side of the site from flooding. On the lower half of the site, where a floodwall was not feasible, we relocated the utilities of the 8 unprotected buildings to new elevated additions adjacent to the existing buildings. Like the PRV, these new additions are built to stand above future floodwaters. The new additions also house natural gas-powered generators, enabling the whole site to go off-grid in case of an outage or other emergency.
As a testament to the firm’s comprehensive planning and design strategy, the Baruch resilience plan has been adopted as a model for reconceiving how NYCHA organizes and maintains their building portfolio in flood prone areas.