Building Resilient Communities
Florida’s resilience continues to be a growing practical and financial priority. Some 80 percent of Florida’s 22 million residents live within 10 miles (16.1 km) of the coast. The stakes from climate related catastrophes are high. Topping the list of costliest storms to hit Florida, in 2022 dollars, is Ian, at $84 billion, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As existing buildings age and population growth across the state invites continued losses, new sustainable solutions are needed.
Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida is a new town expected to have over 50,000 people at buildout. It’s known globally as being “the nation’s first solar-powered town” and showcases around 800 impressive acres of solar panels. The master-planned community is best known however for withstanding hours of sustained winds over 100 miles per hour (161 kph) when Hurricane Ian made landfall in September 2022. With homes and other buildings left mostly unscathed, residents were able to remain home after the storm, and the community welcomed storm refugees to its shelters.
Today many eyes are fixed on this sustainable new town including myself and Amanda Staerker, one of the project’s early contributors in the land design. Together, we toured Babcock Ranch and have shared with you some of the site visit insights.
The main contributors to this success of Babcock include new construction to Florida Green Build Certification standards, underground utilities, native landscaping, and a land plan that minimizes intrusion into the natural systems.
In a recent ULI article, Building for Resilience: How Newer Construction Homes Fared in Florida’s Hurricane Season, the CEO of Babcock Ranch, Syd Kitson, stated,
“Storm safety was absolutely at the top of our list…How could we convince people they could shelter in place? We knew if we did it right from the beginning, we could prove they could.”
Babcock has taught us that we can design for sustainable living by promoting walkability, alternative modes of transportation, and by embracing technologies that allow us to reduce energy. It has taught us that we need to work with nature and to re-introduce back into our built environments the ecology that provides a natural protection.