Product, Service & Design Innovation
Coastal Resiliency Project Crowned Winner of 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) has announced that a comprehensive climate change adaptation and community development project, Living Breakwaters has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Fuller Challenge, what has been dubbed by the Institute as "socially responsible design’s highest award." The project was submitted by SCAPE / Landscape Architecture PLLC based in New York. Living Breakwaters exemplifies the approach famously evangelized by Fuller: “Don’t fight forces — use them.”

The Living Breakwaters project integrates components ranging from ecologically engineered "Oyster-tecture," to transformational education around coastal resiliency and the restoration of livelihoods traditional to the community of Tottenville in Staten Island, while also spurring systemic change in regulatory pathways at the State level.

"Living Breakwaters is about dissipating and working with natural energy rather than fighting it,” said Bill Browning of Terrapin Bright Green, a 2014 senior advisor and jury member. “It is on the one hand an engineering and infrastructure-related intervention, but it also has a unique biological function as well. The project team understand that you cannot keep back coastal flooding in the context of climate change, but what you can do is ameliorate the force and impact of 100- and 500-year storm surges to diminish the damage through ecological interventions, while simultaneously catalyzing dialog to nurture future stewards of the built environment."

"This year’s Challenge winners deeply know that doing a physical intervention off the coastline would not be enough to create systemic change. Living Breakwaters is a project based in connections — the leadership team brings their deep expertise in technology and ecological science into the social dimension onshore in partnership with the community itself," added Sarah Skenazy, Fuller Challenge Program Manager.

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Kate Orff of SCAPE said, "We are so honored to be the 2014 Fuller Challenge recipient — Fuller was optimistic about the future of humanity and deeply believed in cooperation as the way forward. As climate change impacts threaten shoreline populations, Living Breakwaters hopefully represents a paradigm shift in how we collectively address climate risks, by focusing on regenerating waterfront communities and social systems, and enhancing threatened ecosystems."

SCAPE Associate Gena Wirth added, "The project embraces people as a critical participant in a healthy urban ecosystem, and uses the regenerative power of ecology to reduce risk and grow a layered, resilient shoreline."

Orff will accept the Fuller Challenge prize and a $100,000 cash award on behalf of the SCAPE team at a celebration at The Wythe in Brooklyn, New York on November 20.

Speaking of game-changing innovations, the Sustainia100 is an annual guide to Swedish think tank Sustainia’s picks for 100 projects, initiatives and technologies at the forefront of sustainable innovation from around the world. This year, Sustainia’s research team and advisory board screened a pool of 900+ nominated solutions from which the final 100 solutions were selected. An ethical smartphone, air-cleaning carpets and carbon-negative plastic are three of the top 10 solutions selected this year – the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Copenhagen on October 30.

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