Eric Smith

Eric Smith

New York, NY



The purpose of the competition is to increase public awareness of challenges facing coastal regions in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and rising sea levels. As many neighborhoods in the Northeast struggle to rebuild, some do not address how to weather-proof their homes and communities against future, and likely larger, storms. Thus, a new housing typology is needed that can both respond to the existing context of the community and be able to withstand the forces of nature that caused so much destruction in 2012. Also, a community plan is proposed that can further aid in weatherproofing infrastructure and benefit existing homes in the neighborhood.

My entry, (re)Adapt, was nominated as a finalist in the competition. I specifically focused on the challenges facing my hometown on the south shore of Long Island, most of which is built on former marshland, dredged and filled to form a network of canals and maximize waterfront opportunities.  As a result of this process, most houses are built on an unstable type of soil called bog.  This makes it highly susceptible to flooding and water can seep through and around a building’s foundation.  A combination of factors, including the expansion of many bungalow homes to modern year-round residences, increased groundwater in recent decades, and Superstorm Sandy’s extensive flooding has resulted in any home foundations cracking or sinking into the soil at a noticeable rate.  Now residents must address the challenge of reinforcing their homes with new pile foundations or face climbing insurance rates and falling property values. 

The best course of action to move forward, therefore, is not to fight nature, but to readapt to the natural environment.  Marshland is always prone to flooding and no number of barriers can stop this form occurring.  The community must be able to endure this event without sacrificing the region’s attractive lifestyle.  Ground footprint of homes should be reduced to the minimum possible and impermeable surfaces removed.  Reduced-width streets allow more space for walking, and plantings are native and saltwater resistant.  This plan can coexist with existing residents that already invested in raising their homes, but a new building typology will provide the most protection.
The proposed typology is a modification of some of the typical home massings found in the region.  The two-story main house volume is draped with a steeply-raked roof, raised above the floodplain, and anchored by a concrete garage and helical pile foundation.  The connection to the ground is not lost, however.  A folding stair provides direct access to the rear yard and boat canals. Utilities are collected in a single waterproof conduit, continuous from street to the main level of the house.  The home can respond to different solar orientations and be expanded for larger lots.  These methods represent one building block in the ongoing effort to rebuild and readapt to create a more sustainable community.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Babylon, NY, US
My Role: Solo Entry
Additional Credits: Comprehensive Coastal Communities - Competition Entry, 1 of 32 Finalists selected.