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Students Design Projects for the ‘Living Laboratory’ of Miami Beach

With the city of Miami Beach as their client, students in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering are developing sustainable designs for three properties: Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, the current site of Fire Station No. 1 and the Byron Carlyle Theater.

For their senior design projects, the students’ designs must, at a minimum, meet LEED Gold standards, with an emphasis on resiliency and sustainability. They also must address sea-level rise adaptation and climate-change mitigation, meet the local community’s needs and, of course, adhere to Miami Beach’s city code. The course supports the recent city/university partnership in the MetroLab Network for the Smart Cities initiative, which promotes innovative research for sea-level rise adaptation.

The students began working on their designs early this semester after site visits with the city. “We met with the city of Miami Beach to obtain guidance, but we also have interviewed local residents and businesses to determine their needs for the area,” said Michael Notarfrancesco, a senior in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. “It is very rewarding and relevant working on real-world problems and especially with a local municipality to provide implementable solutions.”

The design projects will conclude when the students present their proposals to Miami Beach officials, industry advisory boards, and consultants in early 2017.

“The city of Miami Beach continues to serve as a living laboratory,” said Elizabeth Wheaton, director of Miami Beach’s Department of Environment and Sustainability. “This collaboration with the College of Engineering on this project gives us a new perspective on how to design our community, using the latest techniques and theories. We expect the students to deliver designs that will enhance and showcase the city’s sustainability and resiliency efforts.”

For students, the collaboration is an opportunity to work with a real client on projects with multiple stakeholders and complex requirements. “Students from all different engineering majors are participating in this project,” said Michelle Stanley, an undergraduate student in the department’s five-year Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree program. “We are incorporating innovative designs and technology not used in today’s buildings to save costs and resolve such pressing issues as resiliency and rising sea levels.”

“The city of Miami Beach is one of the nation’s most forward-thinking on the topic of sustainability,” said College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet. “This represents an incredible opportunity to work with a client on the forefront of this engineering frontier. I expect that our students and faculty will learn from the city while also sharing new ideas and cutting-edge perspectives with the city.”

About the three projects:

Maurice Gibb Memorial Park is located on the waterfront in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. The city has charged the students with upgrading the park’s existing marine patrol and indoor/outdoor community multipurpose space, designing a water-taxi stop and new stormwater management pump station, and integrating a new living shoreline with existing seawalls. The students’ designs will include an environmental lab for tracking air and water quality as well as real-time weather and transportation data. The park’s operation must be sustained by renewable energy.

For the Fire Station No. 1 project, the students will design a use for the land that currently holds the fire station, which the city has proposed relocating. The students may choose to preserve the current site or propose a new structure and/or land use for this site, which is in a low-lying historic district. The city is interested in a number of potential uses, including affordable housing, a parking garage that may be converted into affordable housing in the future, an office/retail/residential mixed-use project, a resiliency demonstration lab or a wastewater treatment/reclamation facility. The design must also integrate a wastewater pump station located adjacent to the firehouse.

The Byron Carlyle Theater, on Miami Beach’s 71st Street commercial corridor, is currently used as storage space by the city. The adjacent O-Cinema is in use as a theater. The city is interested in some type of mixed-use project that includes a theater or cultural arts center. It may be a retail/restaurant/office project, one that combines a cultural arts center and residential tower, or it might combine a theater, exhibition hall and community education center. The city is particularly interested in uses that include affordable housing for the local workforce. It is also encouraging on-site vegetable gardens and a sustainability and resiliency demonstration lab.

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