World Architecture Day 2014
Integration of digital simulation & Building Information Modeling in disaster rebuilding (continued)
Ida D.K. Tam with Runsheng Lin and Julia Pascutto

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Manifestation in New Orleans

In testing the appropriation of this hypothesis, the fluid dynamics principle derived urban aggregation model is being applied to the rebuilding of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood in the Southern part of the United States, in response to the rapid social, economic, and ecological possibilities in urban transformation.

Often attacked by hurricanes and the overflowing of the Mississippi River, Lower Ninth Ward is situated 4ft below sea level. Since Hurricane Katrina, vast sections of the neighborhood have been abandoned. It was the are most devastated by the storm and remains the least inhabited. Its population has decreased by 85% since 2000.

New Orleans’ barrier-based flood defense mechanism had relied solely on floodwalls and levees. These mechanisms however did not perform as a system when needed in crisis. Complications from economic downturn, different land usage and ownership had the system’s performance compromised by the incompleteness, inconsistency and redundancy.

Pre-flooding strategies operate on two scales. On an urban scale, the strategy is to apply the notion of inverted logic of river tributary organization. An urban aggregation that increases density from coastal to inland is created, resulting in more surface storage, maximizing time for infiltration into soil and pumping. To minimize damage of floodwater, urban blocks are designed


to follow fluid dynamics principles.

After a series of forms are being tested under digital simulation of different flooding scenarios, a rationalized faceted teardrop shape urban block form is utilized, balancing the factors of ease of construction, economies of scale and flood resistant performance. The grid is then rotated to act against the direction of flood water, and overlay with a transportation network for further resolution. Utilities such as electricity cables and water pipes are elevated in structures above ground to minimize damage from flood water and allow for quick repair. This elevated infrastructure is designed to be iconic, and incorporate other public functions to create a sense community.

On the architecture scale, instead of attempting to build the strongest structure, a hybrid structure is being produced- the building skin is made up of prefabricated panels that have a short life span and built to be destroyed and replaced at low cost; the structural frame and core are built with steel and concrete respectively, to withstand 100 year flood. The hybrid structure allows highly customizable designs and diversity of architectural style and materials.

The cultural and demographic characters of the neighborhood arrange programming of the residential units. Various data shows that fatalities in flooding mainly occur when residents, especially the elderly refuse to leave even after a final flooding warning, due to the will to protect their properties - it is everything that they own and live for. In response to that, essential programs including kitchen and bathroom are situated on the second floor, a concrete core is built as part of the permanent structure to provide short term water, food and shelter support in wait of rescue.

Building information modelling

In order to accelerate reconstruction and control rebuilding costs effectively, there must be efficient coordination in the transition among the phases of schematic design, design development and construction phase. Project data and information must be well managed, potential conflicts must be identify in early stages of the design, and building information modeling is the essential tool to achieve this goal is a must.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) integrates all


architectural information into one single three-dimensional model, it also incorporate three-dimensional information from landscape architects, structural, civil and mechanical engineers. It provides a collaborative platform to managing the project at all stages and could save project costs up to 35 % -75 %.

Building Information Modeling allows the prefab and pre-detailed facades panel of hybrid structure to directly streamlined in the manufacturing process, transported from the factories to site, potential eliminating the cost of hiring engineers and high -skilled labor, rebuilding the units with maximum efficiency.


In tackling the impact of climate change, the future of architecture must reinvigorate infrastructure and repurpose spaces towards environmental adaptation through scientifically derived design, investing in performace-based solutions and building information modeling to support long-term growth of urban ecosystems to build resilient cities.

Ida D.K. Tam

New York based architectural designer, photographer and film maker. Ida holds degrees in Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Nottingham (UK) and a Master of Architecture from Cornell University. She has published and practiced architecture internationally, working on projects in London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York. She specializes in computational design, building information modeling and digital simulation. She is also very passionate about adaptive reuse of historic public and cultural buildings, and has been actively exploring the connection between historic preservation and computational design tools. Her research has been recently published on the Architecture and Civil Engineering Journal in the US and Journal of Urban Construction and Theory Research in China. 



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