Hydro-urbanism: The Hydroelectric Canal, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Paul Lukez Architecture

Problem:
Increasing sea-level rise from climate change puts low-lying coastal cities at greater flood risk. 
 
Proposal:
Our system of hydroelectric turbines, canals, water-retention reservoirs, and sustainable landscapes bolsters a harborside community’s resilience to climate change by managing rising tides and generating renewable energy from storm surges.
 
 
Transferability:
This original development/finance model for a Boston peninsula is highly transferable to sites and economies worldwide, particularly given its mix of public/private financing and ownership options.
 
Concept: An Original Transformation of a Historical Model
This proposal reinvents a 400-year-old concept. In 1640, Boston’s Mill Creek, a canal connecting a northern tidal basin (Mill Pond) to the southern harbor (Harbor Cove), harnessed tidal changes to power gristmills. Similarly, we propose connecting northern Dorchester Bay to southern Savin Hill Cove with a new canal through Columbia Point, a peninsula of housing, office buildings, retail outlets, and institutions including University of Massachusetts Boston and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
 
More About Hydro-energy
This evidence-based proposal captures the ebb and flow of tidal waters to generate energy for more than 1,000 housing units while managing storm surges and rising tides. Our engineering team, including Arup, used Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling to determine that the canal’s flow rate and velocity and the water volume in local tidal basins could sufficiently power a multi-turbine hydroelectric system. Our model for this is a VLH (Very Low Head) turbine developed by MJ2 Technologies in France.
 
Urban Model 
Using the Living Building Challenge (LBC) standard as the performance metric, we integrated three sets of urban typologies into this proposal:
LBC Building Quads, 4-to-6-story mixed-use buildings, clustered around naturally landscaped courtyards retaining storm-surge water, receiving over 105% of their required electrical energy from hydropower, solar, wind and geothermal systems.
Hybrid Built Landforms, building/dike hybrids protecting Columbia Point from rising sea levels and storm surges.
Floating Architecture, a flotilla of buoyant structures tethered to the university campus promenade along Savin Cove, providing lecture halls and support spaces while mitigating rising tides.
 
Public Space and Water Retention:
This proposal shapes the public realm for both water retention and recreational space. The peninsula’s outer edges reconstitute natural landscapes with larger rock formations common on New England seashores. They absorb storm-surge impacts and provide coastal marine-life habitats.
 
Development Model:
We propose a flexible public-private partnership model of development and risk-financing to shift project cost burdens from taxpayers to private sectors. Public-private partnerships would design, construct and manage the hydroelectric canal and adjoining spaces, which private sources would fund. The investor risk is attractive, since the sustainable community’s energy systems would generate income streams for decades. After 30-50 years, cash flows from excess energy would exceed project costs and support a business model that could repay investors and fund future resilient infrastructures and landscapes.
 
Summary:
This evidence-based proposal is transferable to low-lying metropolitan areas worldwide. Its originality lies in its innovative use of advanced technologies and multidisciplinary concepts as an integrated model for ecologically balanced urban development, financeable within constraints of diverse local economies.
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