Flood Mitigation in Museum Design: Making the Proper Precautions
04 January 2018

Cooper Robertson’s design for flood mitigation at the Whitney Museum of American Art has been featured by Building Enclosure magazine:

“In the case of flooding, the main goal is to preserve the ground floor integrity as completely as possible, which will ensure that the entire building is safeguarded. To do this, the team examined all possible water infiltration points within and above the 16.5-foot protected elevation. Reinforced concrete walls form the cellar and protect the building on four sides, but the loading dock and staff entry doors on the west side of the building are at street level, or 6-foot elevation. To protect this potential water entry-point, the team enlisted Walz and Krenzer, manufacturers of watertight doors for naval vessels, to build floodgates that would prevent water from entering through these locations. The floodgates consist of 10-inch thick aluminum plate with a hinge that seals water out by locking with steel plates embedded into reinforced building liner walls. Only two Whitney facilities staff members are needed to close the gates in case of a flood emergency.

To incorporate the floodgates into the design of the building, the Cooper Robertson team redesigned the surrounding structure to accommodate them. The reconstruction on the west side of the building required the removal of pre-cast concrete from the previously built stair tower. During this removal process, the pre-cast concrete on the levels above had to be temporarily secured in place while the new section incorporating the floodgate could be installed.

A crucial element in the Whitney’s flood mitigation strategy is continuity; the floodgates only work if the rest of the building is uninterruptedly sealed. Waterproof membranes behind the secondary reinforced concrete walls shield the structure from flooding. Foundation waterproofing was used to seal concrete penetrations made for electrical conduits, gas service, electrical service, and piping, maintaining the structure’s integrity.”

Read more at Building Enclosure.