In Miami, the impacts of climate change and rising sea water are a daily reminder for the need for a more resilient infrastructure. On April 18, 2019, IACMI – The Composites Institute teamed with Mont Vista Capital, a Miami-based investment firm, to host a community forum aimed to spark dialogue within working groups and to connect composite solutions for a more sustainable infrastructure. The event, Composites Innovation for Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure, was held in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.

Well known architects, lawyers, and city planners contributed to the discussions during the event. Julie Dick, a Miami-based attorney and advocate for sea level rise preparedness and conservation of coastal resources, presented the direct impacts of salt water intrusion on South Florida’s potable water supply and the state’s intentions for resiliency planning. Leading Miami architect, Reinaldo Borges, joined her to discuss typical challenges in the highly-urbanized Miami beach area, with nearly $25 billion in taxable property value. Borges depicted a growing Miami skyline that could soon become a reality and what architects and developers must do to combat the imminent destructive environmental forces. “The future is not what it used to be, architects now need to consider this future and at times, design beyond current code standards,” said Borges.

City leadership is critical to driving adaptation. As director of capital improvements for the City of Miami, Steve Williamson directs and implements the capital improvements program, combining multiple sources of capital, bond and grant funding. Williamson discussed plans for the Miami Forever bond, established in 2017 to finance a series of projects to defend the city against flooding and storm surges. The program will invest $400 million and bring together a task force of city planners, developers, private sector innovators, and citizens to build a stronger and more resilient Miami.

Samantha Danchuk, assistant director of the environmental and Community Resilience Division of Broward Country, led a discussion-based session with Robert Steffen, engineer and professor at Wester Carolina University, on specific challenges facing the region, including overtopping and corrosion, seepage and soil stability, groundwater rise and drainage, rainfall and cascading impact, and new codes and standards needed to protect and upgrade infrastructure.

Composites industry experts were invited to engage in discussions and offer solutions that have already been implemented in other regions. Hamid Saadatmanesh, general manager at DowAska and professor of structural engineering at the University of Arizona, described stronger, lighter, corrosion-resistant composite products already available to restore failing roads, bridges, concrete buildings and other infrastructure systems. A panel including Joe Fox of Ashland, David Hartman of Owens Corning, and John Leatham of Chomarat, discussed composites products and solutions including timber pile rehabilitation, fiberglass paving fabrics, and composite solutions for high performance concrete. Composites offer more durable infrastructure with lightweight, resilient benefits for utility poles, seawalls, bridge decking and columns, composite rebar for concrete, and durable pipes and storage vessels.

The future of the city depends on making it more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and Miami is not alone. Millions of people in hundreds of coastal cities are at risk from storm surges and rising seas, and affective adaptation requires a holistic, long-term approach.

Read more in the June issue of Composites World Magazine.