Climate stressors and impacts
Between 1895 and 2011, temperatures in the northeastern United States rose by almost 2ºF, and annual precipitation increased by more than 10 percent (approximately five inches). Coastal flooding in the area likewise increased due to a rise in sea level of approximately one foot since 1900.1 Extreme precipitation has increased in the Northeast more than in than any other region of the United States, making that region even more vulnerable to flood events. As the 2014 National Climate Assessment noted, sea levels are projected to continue rising, increasing risk to buildings and people in the New York and New Jersey coastal flood zones (nearly 1.6 million people).
A hospital designed for resilience
Seagate Rehabilitation & Nursing Center was built in 1994. Due to its proximity to the ocean, the center was designed to comply with building code requirements for flood-resistant construction. The entire facility is elevated nearly 30 feet above ground, with parking spaces located below. All of the building’s systems and equipment are elevated, protecting them from floodwaters. The emergency power supply has sufficient capacity to run medical equipment, elevators, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems without outside power, ensuring that the facility can continue to operate during power outages. Moreover, the elevated first floor contains only the lobby and other support services. Community and administrative space is located on the second floor, and residents’ and patients’ rooms start on the third.
Trial by water
During Hurricane Sandy, as the storm surge incapacitated buildings all along the New York and New Jersey coasts, Seagate functioned precisely as planned. At the peak of the storm, floodwaters filled the parking area and reached the lobby door, but did not enter the building. Emergency power generators remained safe and supplied backup power for four days despite an area-wide power outage. The nursing home’s emergency plans for food and medical supplies enabled staff and patients to shelter in place despite limited transportation for incoming supplies. Seagate not only provided continuous care to its residents during and after Sandy, it also assisted local community members seeking food and shelter.2
- 1. Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2
- 2. The City of New York Strategic Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency [SIRR], 2013: A stronger, more resilient New York, p. 149.