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editorial

Floating above future storm surges?

An artist’s rendering of the Floatyard concept shows mooring posts and a plaform under the structure.

An artist’s rendering of the Floatyard concept shows mooring posts and a plaform under the structure.

Floating docks are a common enough sight at Boston Harbor marinas. But these buoyant platforms may be good for more than just securing boats. An entire block of residences could be designed to slide up and down with the tides on vertical mooring posts.

Brian Healy, the director of design in the Boston office of the national architectural firm Perkins + Will, envisions a floating community at the Charlestown Navy Yard that offers ocean views, a communal courtyard, and more than 100 living spaces where residents can float above concerns about global warming and rising sea levels. The concept may seem fanciful, but it’s also down-to-earth considering that the alternatives for many people living in vulnerable coastal areas are heading for the hills or cowering behind dikes.

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Environmental regulations present major challenges to anyone wishing to build piers, breakwaters, or floats over the state’s tidelands. But the sight of shoreline homes washed away in recent storms suggests it is time to give serious consideration to innovative proposals like Healy’s plan for a “Floatyard.” For added economic benefit, the architect suggests that the components could be manufactured in the area’s underutilized shipyards.

Though seemingly only half-serious, the idea has promise. It seems destined to rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall in the coming decades.

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