Resilient Design: The Eddy

Incorporating resiliency strategies in order to rebound after a storm surge event

The Eddy incorporates several resilient design features to ensure that in the event of a storm surge, everything would go back to normal three days later.

Q: How do we ensure that everything goes back to normal three days later?

The Eddy, a Gerding Edlen Green Cities Fund II property, is a 258-unit multi-family building located along the waterfront in East Boston. In the development of The Eddy, Gerding Edlen extended Boston’s Harborwalk, creating nearly one acre of publicly accessible waterfront space that both residents and the community can enjoy.

While there are many benefits to the location, The Eddy’s close proximity to the water makes it vulnerable to the risks associated with climate change, such as a storm surge event, sea-level rise and flooding. We took special consideration of this in the design and development of the building and incorporated several viable and cost-effective measures that make the building more resilient.

The building was constructed nine inches higher than the previous structure on the site, putting it out of the projected floodplain. In addition, the electrical room was placed on the first floor and the emergency generator was placed on the roof, well above the floodplain. Typically, these would be located in the basement.

Gerding Edlen had planned to use the preexisting structure on the site for the construction of The Eddy but found structural deficiencies that prevented this. By demolishing the old structure and constructing a new building, we were able to make the new building 9 inches higher. In addition, we were able to reuse site soil from digging the foundation to raise the grade, which saved on construction costs.

  • The emergency generator is equipped with enough fuel to support fire, life and safety operations for up to four days.
  • The main entrance is located on the façade opposite the waterfront to prevent greatest loss in case of a flood. There are only two entrances on the harbor-facing side, and both are reinforced with special waterproofing measures to keep the interior dry.
  • The at-grade and harbor-facing retail space is protected against surges and flooding with an 18-inch curb wall and sandbags.
  • The landscaping features hardy, native plantings that are accustomed to coastal sites and are able to withstand immersion in salt water.

In addition to the resiliency benefits, these measures also resulted in costs savings and financial returns for the property.

  • Not having to build a basement for the electrical room and emergency generator saved money, as a basement would have been costly to waterproof given the high level of the water table.
  • Due to the flood mitigation factors, the insurance premiums are greatly reduced. Our insurance underwriter estimated that a comparable building without these measures would pay annual premiums that were 10x higher for flood insurance, thus creating real savings for The Eddy’s ongoing operating budget. 
  • A specialized exterior cladding study of the façade analyzed the building’s potential to withstand winds of up to 100 miles an hour. This reduced insurance premiums even further.
  • We worked closely with the City of Boston to demonstrate that the project would be “built to last” as opposed to “built to code.” This cooperation helped expedite the entitlement process, which benefitted the development proforma and commenced leasing sooner than planned. 

By incorporating these strategies early on in the planning stages, it demonstrated that planning for resiliency results in an unexpected synergy between design and construction that leads to costs savings and other financial returns.