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The Emerald Tutu: A New Method to Protect Urban Coastlines from Flooding

6:30 PM - 8:00 PM Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Main Library
449 Broadway
Lecture Hall

Event image for The Emerald Tutu: A New Method to Protect Urban Coastlines from Flooding

Coastal engineering and hydrodynamics scientist Dr. Julia Hopkins and architect Gabriel Cira will present their project for a new type of nature-based coastal infrastructure for flood protection. The Emerald Tutu, an interconnected biomass-based network of floating mini-islands, uses living plant ecosystems engineering to create a nature-based alternative to hard concrete and steel flood walls and berms, known as "gray infrastructure," that buffers shorelines from incoming waves and influxes of storm surge.

Headquartered right here in a Cambridge garage, a team of designers, engineers, and ocean and aquatic plant specialists is fine-tuning prototypes, testing plant and material properties, and simulating storm conditions. The Emerald Tutu team is testing a full-scale model at a laboratory wave tank, and is building several single-unit prototypes to deploy in different ocean locations. Their project has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and has won awards from MIT and the American Society of Civil Engineers for sustainable engineering and visionary problem solving for a changed climate.

Gabriel Cira is a licensed architect based in Massachusetts. He has brought the Emerald Tutu project from the initial idea through multiple awards and grants to its present National Science Foundation-funded R&D activities and strong community links. Gabriel is active in local politics and advocacy in the Boston area, including the discourse on city-wide adaptation to climate change. He teaches the longstanding Architecture of Boston course at MassArt, which connects cooperative infrastructure history with the future of climate resilience. Growing up on Cape Cod, Gabriel has been a sailor since he was 5 years old. Other current ARCH CIRA projects include building a geothermal greenhouse for an urban farm, restoring a historic 1886 Black church, and working with The Architecture Lobby’s Coop Network group.

Dr. Julia Hopkins, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, lead scientist for Emerald Necklace NSF grant. She received her PhD in Applied Ocean Science and Engineering from MIT. Her research interests include coastal morphodynamics, including effects of extreme weather events on sediment transport in the surf zone; wave-current interactions in the nearshore; developing and implementing field-verified numerical models to study coastal processes, informing coastal management with process-based research.


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