Photo by Mario Cruz
Ana C. Benatuil and Carlos Tamayo are pictured with the Knight Foundation Miami program director Matt Haggman after winning the Global Impact Competition.
With the clock ticking, Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, a teaching organization and accelerator, launched a Global Impact Competition in Miami calling on innovators to find solutions for South Florida’s sea-level rise by using technology. According to research by the University of Miami’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, sea-level rise has been accelerating. If the rate of sea rise over the last five years holds steady for the next 50 years -- and indications are it could rise faster -- high tide levels in Miami would go up over five feet, leading to high risks of flooding and saltwater intrusion. "The Miami metropolitan region has the greatest amount of exposed financial assets and 4th-largest population vulnerable to sea-level rise in the world," the research said.
Last week, eight finalists were invited to pitch their concepts to judges, and two of them received full tuition to Singularity University’s 10-week Graduate Studies Program in Mountain View, Calif., this summer where they will work in teams with participants from around the world to develop their concepts. The contest was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Ana C. Benatuil, a graduate of FIU and now an architectural designer at Zyscovich Architects, believes sea level rise in South Florida needs to be addressed in an urban master plan. Her “Cut Fill City” proposes strategies at three different scales –regional, city and building scale – allowing for different municipalities and entities to implement these ideas according to their needs and capabilities. Benatuil, who began this project as part of her FIU studies and has continued it on her own the past two years, believes that technology plays an important role in creating strategies to deal with Sea Level Rise, from raising awareness to developing building systems that use water as a valued resource for energy generation, conservation and consumption.
“The implementation of Cut Fill City in South Florida could become a prototype to many other coastal cities around the world at risk of sea level rise, improving the lives of millions, if not billions of people,” she said.
Carlos Tamayo, an engineer working on this PhD at FIU, envisions comprehensive assessment and modeling of dike-subsurface barrier systems for adaptation in coastal areas. Providing effective protection against inland and coastal flooding and eliminating or minimizing the effects of groundwater flow and piping are the main goals, he said. In addition to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion protection, his system is intended to provide effective protection against surge overflow and inland/coastal flooding by eliminating or minimizing the effects of groundwater flow through Miami’s limestone aquifer.
One of the beauties of events like this, beyond the obvious benefits to the winners, is bringing together like-minded people. It was interesting to see the finalists talking with one another at the breaks, discussing how they could partner up on various projects or recommending connections or research they have read. Tina Cornely of Bridging Humanity, one of the eight finalists, had some advice for Benatuil: Get your presentation in front of the sea-level rise boards of the county and cities, she said. "They need to see this and if you need some help getting in the door I will help you."