Resilient Coastal Futures: The CoHN-Lab

Housing in Helsinki

The CoHN-Lab at UVA is exploring how the Coupling of Human and Natural Systems (CoHN) https://eri.virginia.edu/project/coh-n-coastal-futures/ can help build more effective, convincing scenarios that allow help coastal communities to better understand the risks of rising sea levels, and to take appropriate actions to adapt to these risks for future thriving.  A cross-disciplinary venture between engineers, environmental scientists, landscape architects, psychologists, and urban planners, CoHN leverages the collective expertise of UVA faculty to facilitate better modeling, implementation, and management of surface water systems for community resilience.

Historically, severe natural events such as superstorms, hurricanes, flooding, and landslides have been addressed through “hard” engineered solutions like concrete, walls, barriers, or dikes. However, coastal cities can also use "soft" green infrastructure such as wetlands, coastal parks, and rain gardens. The significance in this distinction lies in the extra benefits imparted by using green infrastructure—green spaces are positively correlated to health and wellbeing in communities. In addition to these benefits, new technologies have made green infrastructure solutions more affordable.

Our proposed synthesis of environmental-engineering solutions with community-social needs promises to breathe fresh life into discussions on coastal community resiliency. The project aims to shift the current coastal model away from protect-repair-rebuild to adapt-absorb-transform. Natural and human capital should serve as two integrated and vital components within a wider socio-ecological nexus, especially in the face of sea level rise, climate change, and increased superstorm occurrence.

This project is sponsored by UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

For more information, contact Jennifer Roe (jjr4b@virginia.edu) or Matthew Reidenbach (reidenbach@virginia.edu).

Partners: UVA’s Biophilic Cities, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Planning District Commissions (PDCs), local county governments in Eastern Shore, VA, and the City of Norfolk Office of Resilience