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Devin Ratliff Shares KPF’s NYCHA Red Hook Houses Redevelopment Plan

KPF Director Devin Ratliff presented an overview of the firm’s work to redevelop the NYCHA Red Hook Houses after Hurricane Sandy as part of “Housing Our Cities’ Growing Populations” – a recent webinar hosted by Architectural Record and the Continuing Education Center.

Prompted by catastrophic flood damage at the Red Hook Houses in October 2012, the KPF master plan’s scope covers the revitalization of the public housing development’s electrical and mechanical systems and the creation of new flood-resistant outdoor areas of refuge as well as overall improvements to community spaces.

With sustained wind speeds of up to 74 mph, Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge quickly infiltrated the New York City Housing Authority complex, flooding basements where electrical and mechanical equipment were located and leaving thousands of residents without power for more than 12 days. As Ratliff explains in the webinar, KPF’s plan raises and protects this vital infrastructure to make the site more resilient to future events, while enhancing the site’s public spaces beyond its original condition.

In the new design, all critical mechanical equipment will be housed in protected areas that exceed NYC code – including 2 new freestanding buildings (East and West Plants) as well as 15 smaller “Utility Pods” that distribute heat, hot water, and power to individual buildings throughout the complex. By decentralizing infrastructure, the community will be protected against future storms and have a decreased likelihood of widespread utility failure.

In addition to infrastructure upgrades, KPF’s plan revitalizes outdoor common spaces, playgrounds, retail spaces, and building entries to improve the overall quality of life for residents. “Lily pads” within the buildings’ courtyards offer landscaped flood protection by raising common areas to a flood protected zone and creating a safe, accessible exterior gathering space for evacuation and rescue in case of flooding.

Ratliff discussed KPF’s approach to the project’s key challenges. Due to limited funding, rebuilding must take place while the 28 buildings are fully occupied and operational. The KPF team approached this challenge by designing from a place of empathy, incorporating as much feedback from the buildings’ occupants as possible through community meetings that gave residents an opportunity to share feedback and learn about the project’s scope directly from the team.

Alongside Ratliff’s presentation, other webinar panelists included Ben Kaiser of Portland, Oregon’s Kaiser Group, who discussed efforts to build sustainably with mass timber, and David Hamilton of Praxis3 Architects, who gave an overview of the firm’s redevelopment project to create high density housing in the Memorial Drive corridor of Atlanta.

To learn more and earn AIA credit, please view the webinar on demand via the Continuing Education Center.