In the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which flooded New York’s streets and dangerously eroded parts of its coastline, the city authorities are coming up with all sorts of plans to protect themselves from flooding.
Which is how it is that a group of architects have found themselves in possession of $60m worth of federal funding to construct a wall of oysters around the southern part of Staten Island.
The oysters will be introduced to pre-built concrete breakwater walls, and will form their own reef-style structure on top. These “living breakwaters”, put forward by architecture firm Scape/Landscape, would help break waves before they reach the coastline and thereby lower the risk of flooding (an uneven surface breaks up waves better than a smooth, concrete one). Pippa Brashear, an engineer assigned to the project, told Global Construction Review that the scheme could lower the flood plain by two feet: “That could make the difference of a floor of your house being in or out of the insurance zone.”
Another advantage is that oysters act as a natural filtration system: they take in seawater and produce up to 50 gallons (around 230 litres) of clean water a day. This could help improve the island’s polluted beaches.