Virginia Sustainability Lab to fight tides

The latest work from the Elizabeth River Project in Norfolk, Virginia, doesn’t fight the tide. He will roll with it.

An environmental group is building a 6,500-foot-tall sustainability lab along Collie Avenue and Knitted Creek. The estimated life of the building is between 30 and 50 years; when the sea level reaches a certain height, the structure can be dismantled and moved to create a living coastline in its place, which is part of the project.

The outdoor pavilion will float when the area floods and is intended as a shelter for people canoeing through the river-like streets after the flood or for those stuck outside.

The Proulx and Louis Ryan Sustainability Lab and Learning Park is due to open next fall. The $8 million project is funded by Proulx and Louis Ryan of Norfolk and donations from the ERP Next Wave campaign. The group chose this location because it is a notorious flood zone and the creek is an important tributary.

Marjorie Mayfield, chief executive of ERP, said the lab aims to be an example of how to live with the tides, not against them, and reduce environmental impact.

The lab was designed by Norfolk-based firm Work Program Architects and will be built to be protected from a 3-foot sea level rise. It is also being built using “standard materials that any business owner or resident has access to,” said Sam Bowling, lead architect and project leader.

The laboratory will be equipped with solar panels, rainwater collection barrels and wastewater collection systems. Natural cooling methods such as the ivy green wall will also be used.

The proposed living shoreline will be behind the site and planted to restore wetlands and oyster habitat. Once in place, it will help trap contaminants and filter the water.

There will be two warehouses, one of which will be floating, an exploratory dock, and a public boardwalk for people to look out over the stream. The kayaking will be next to the promenade.

The Hampton Roads Sanitary District has already built a dock on the site, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has installed a water monitoring station there. Other institutions are planning to conduct research in the laboratory when construction is completed.

ERP also plans to run workshops in collaboration with Old Dominion University that will teach about coastal adaptation.

Mayfield hopes the project will be the start of something more – an “eco-district” of businesses and homes that can adjust to the tide with sustainable infrastructure and reduce stormwater pollution.

“The cornerstone will be our Ryan Resilience Lab, and I think it will be a really cool place to come to enjoy environmentally conscious people and businesses,” Mayfield said.

The group plans to work with businesses in the area to increase sustainability through methods such as rainwater harvesting and the expansion of permeable sidewalks along the north Collie corridor. ERP also plans to plant more trees, install rain gardens and walkways around the lab that will allow rainwater to seep into the ground and prevent runoff.

Concrete sidewalks allow water to run off and send pollutants into nearby bodies of water.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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