• 26 Jun 2017 1:39 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Herald-Tribune real estate editor Harold Bubil has won a Gold Award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for work on what could be the biggest real estate story in Florida’s history: sea-level rise.

    Sea-level rise: Threat and opportunity,” which won Best Residential Real Estate Story, was judged against entries from all sizes of newspapers and websites across the country. The award was announced Friday night at the 88-year-old NAREE’s annual convention in Denver.

    Bubil’s story explored the range of opinions on sea-level rise, its potential impact on Southwest Florida and the state, how builders and architects and their trade organizations have responded, and who might actually benefit from the phenomenon.

    “Many great journalists have won high honors for the Herald-Tribune, and I am pleased to have met, to some degree, the standard they have set,” said Bubil, who served as NAREE’s president in 2012.

    It was the first Gold Award after 42 years in journalism for Bubil, the winner of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects. Bubil had previously won NAREE’s President’s Award for Volunteer Service.

    Last year, Herald-Tribune reporter Josh Salman won the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Platinum Award for his investigation of the federal government’s EB-5 visa program, which allows wealthy individuals from other countries to jump to the front of the immigration line in return for committing $500,000 to $1 million to projects in the United States.

  • 19 Jun 2017 12:02 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Going extra green, and a prestigious award for the SAF’s leader

    Green building has been a focus of this column, and section, since around 2000. Back then, it was news, and the goal in the fledgling industry was that someday, building houses using sustainable materials and methods would no longer be news — it would simply be the way things were done.

    We are at the point that what was green back then is just code-compliant now. All of the houses at Lakewood Ranch, for example, have been built to green standards for a decade now, and elsewhere, most builders are using at least the “low-hanging fruit” to achieve the energy-code minimums.

    But, news is still being made. In this case, it is by a builder who has been doing this since 2008 or so — Josh Wynne of Josh Wynne Construction. His houses have set a lot of local and state performance records, and he has won dozens of awards for green building.

    His latest effort is a new modernist house on Higel Avenue, Siesta Key, that was designed by Jerry Sparkman of Sweet Sparkman Architects. The house has a Home Energy Rating System index of -25, which means that, instead of it using energy from the grid, it is creating a surplus of energy.

    A few years ago, Wynne built a house, known as the PowerHaus, in the Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch that had a HERS index of -22. A large array of solar panels on the roof are testament to the owner’s commitment for having a zero-energy house.

    The new Higel Avenue house is “indeed one of the lowest HERS ratings in the area and state,” said Josh Kane of Two Trails Inc., which did the third-party rating on the project. “This remarkably low HERS index was obtained by building a very efficient and tight envelope, with 100-percent LED lights and EnergyStar appliances, high-performance windows, R-12 block-wall insulation, and a single-assembly, insulated roof deck with R-38” insulation rating.

    Kane said the initial HERS index was 58 before the addition of an 11.52-kilowatt photovoltaic array, also known as solar panels, which sent the HERS into negative territory.

    “The house is completely unique in design and construction technique,” said Wynne. “Our preliminary target HERS was +5. The house overperformed in real-world testing and blew us all away.”

    Another Bob Graham
    award for Sarasota

    Janet Minker, board chair of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, will be presented the Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award at the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean chapter in Naples in late July.

    Minker has led SAF for 5 years and was instrumental in organizing such projects as the annual Sarasota MOD Weekend and the construction of the Walker Guest House Replica.

    The Graham award is AIA-Florida’s highest honor presented to a non-architect, in recognition of efforts to promote the cause of good architecture and community awareness of the architectural profession.

    Past winners include Sarasota’s Cindy Peterson, leader of the Center for Architecture Sarasota, and former Orlando mayor Buddy Dwyer. The award was presented most recently in 2015 to the author of this column.

    “Sarasota grows Bob Graham Award recipients like Iowa grows corn,” said Joyce Owens, AIA-Florida’s 2017 president.

    AIA-Florida 2017 design awards will be presented to Guy Peterson Office for Architecture for the Elling Eide Center in south Sarasota (Honor Award for New Work), Seibert Architects for the restoration of the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca Grande, Carl Abbott for his Caribbean Hillside Residence (Merit Award for Sustainable Design), Abbott for the Women’s Resource Center in Sarasota (Merit Award for “Test of Time”), Sweet Sparkman Architects for the Fruitville Elementary School addition (Merit Award for Masonry in Design), and John Pichette, AIA, of Halflants + Pichette of Sarasota (Builder of the Year).

    Allan Schulman, FAIA, of Miami is the 2017 Gold Medal winner. Peterson won that award last year.

    I will have more coverage on Minker and the AIA design awards in July.

  • 14 Jun 2017 9:07 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    HALL ARCHITECTS of Sarasota was named to the University of Florida’s 2017 Gator100.


    Sponsored by the UF Alumni Association, in partnership with the UF Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, the Gator100 recognizes the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or led by UF alumni. 


    “The Gator100 is a campus-wide initiative that recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit entrenched in the university,” said Timothy Walsh, the Executive Director of the UF Alumni Association and Assistant Vice President of Alumni Affairs. “UF Alumni have created and guided some of the most innovative and profitable businesses in the nation and world. The Gator100 celebrates the very best of our Gator Entrepreneurs.”


    HALL ARCHITECTS is an award-winning multi-disciplinary firm specializing in architecture, design, historic preservation and planning. Its public and private sector projects have been recognized with awards at the local, state and national levels. The firm was founded in 2004 by UF alumnus Gregory Hall, AIA.  Greg received both his Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture from the UF College of Architecture.



  • 20 May 2017 5:52 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Posted May 20, 2017

    By Harold Bubil


    It's all about the curve.

    If the Fountainebleau Miami Beach hotel (pronounced Fountain-Blue by the locals) had been built in a straight line, it might have been just another rectangular block of hotel rooms on a crowded shoreline. But Morris Lapidus, in the best traditions of Miami Beach architecture, chose to give his magnum opus a quarter turn.

    Read more http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170520/florida-buildings-i-love-no-24-fontainebleau-hotel-1954-miami-beach

  • 11 May 2017 10:12 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    AIA's new Foresight Report offers an environmental scan looking at trends that could transform our profession. Digital copies are free for members. Download today. Two new tools are also available for members only: a PowerPoint deck with select data points to use and a strategic foresight planning workbook.

  • 01 May 2017 9:00 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    SAF and School Board Team Up to
    Preserve Rudolph Canopy Walkway
    at Sarasota High

    SHS Rudolph Canopy Walkway

    The 1960 Paul Rudolph-designed Building 4 at Sarasota High School, renovated and reopened in fall 2015, includes a canopy walkway to the left of the front steps. The iconic building faces Bahia Vista Street and is the focal point of the reconfigured entrance to the school. Photo by Anton Grassl, Esto.  

    SARASOTA, April 27, 2017 – The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) and the School Board of Sarasota County have reached agreement on a plan that retains and restores a significant section of the Paul Rudolph-designed canopy walkway at Sarasota High School. The agreement was formalized at the School Board’s regular meeting on April 18, with SAF board members attending.
    Rudolph was the most prominent member of the midcentury regional architecture movement known as the Sarasota School of Architecture. He designed dozens of private homes and institutional buildings in Sarasota, including the iconic Umbrella and Cocoon houses, and the 1960 addition to Sarasota High School.
    The canopy walkway is located south of the Sarasota High football stadium and west of the school’s Rudolph-designed Building 4. The plan calls for renovation of approximately 235 linear feet of the geometrically complex concrete structure, including removal of pipes and conduits, patching, waterproofing and painting. Sections of the canopy were taken down in 2015 and 2016 to facilitate renovations of both the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) building and the Rudolph-designed gymnasium.
    “It was a pleasure to be part of the effort to save and rehabilitate the Rudolph canopy walkway in partnership with the Sarasota County School Board. This has been a year-long collaboration with a win-win result for all parties,” said SAF Board Member Dr. Michael Kalman. “Like the 2015 accord we reached with Ringling College of Art + Design to preserve the canopy section next to SMOA, this new agreement with the School Board is great news for fans of Paul Rudolph’s work. The canopy walkway links the Rudolph buildings on the Sarasota High campus with the historic 1927 building that is being transformed into the art museum. Education and art in all its forms — including architecture — will be celebrated and showcased at this center of creativity and learning. We’re pleased that SAF is playing a key role in this ongoing community success story.”  
    Dr. Kalman and Sarasota Magazine Founder Emeritus Dan Denton each donated $15,000 to the $34,000 project budget, with the remainder coming from SAF’s preservation fund. Following completion of the restoration, SAF will install a plaque on one of the canopy pillars, explaining the architectural significance of the covered walkway.
    “This agreement is a great example of a community initiative,” said Sarasota County Schools Assistant Superintendent/Chief Operating Officer Scott Lempe. “The plan for the canopy walkway at Sarasota High, developed by SAF and district staff, follows a successful effort five years ago to get suggestions from citizens about improvements and additions to the campus.”
    The 2012 collaboration among SAF, the School Board, Harvard Jolly Architecture, Jonathan Parks of Solstice Planning & Architecture and the Sarasota community resulted in the establishment of guidelines for the renovation of the campus’s Building 4. The canopy restoration will be part of the final phase of the SHS renovations scheduled to be completed in July 2017. When finished, the Sarasota High campus enhancements are projected to cost approximately $42 million.
    “SAF, our dedicated membership and modern architecture enthusiasts around the world will take great pride in the outcome of the Paul Rudolph canopy preservation project. We look forward to a formal dedication later this year, and are excited about the prospect of seeing the structure much as it would have appeared almost 60 years ago.” said Janet Minker, Sarasota Architectural Foundation Board Chair
    The dedication ceremony details will be announced this summer.

    A large section of the Paul Rudolph-designed canopy walkway on the west campus of Sarasota High School, installed in the 1960s, will be restored following an agreement reached by the Sarasota County School Board and the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF). Photo by Elliott Himelfarb, SAF.

    The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF), a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement, helping to preserve and rehabilitate its irreplaceable buildings, and demonstrating its relevance to the contemporary built environment. A copy of our official registration and financial information #SC-1050 may be obtained from the Florida Division of Consumer Services by calling Toll-Free 800-435-7352 within the state. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the state. FEIN 04-3699738.

  • 24 Apr 2017 9:59 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    This is the time of year when the Sarasota area starts raking in its usual haul of architecture awards.

    Cindy Peterson and Carl Abbott got things rolling recently.

    Abbott, whose Sarasota practice passed the 50-year mark last year, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Florida’s architecture school. He earned his degree there before going on to study under Paul Rudolph at Yale in the early 1960s.

    Peterson, as if her 2016 honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects-Florida/Caribbean chapter were not enough, will go to Orlando next week to collect the same honor, except this time from the national AIA.

    For Peterson, earning such an honor requires an enormous amount of work and sacrifice to advance the cause of a profession in which she has only a supporting role.

    The wife of prominent Sarasota architect Guy Peterson, Cindy is his firm’s archivist, earned a master’s degree in library science, curated the architectural archives at the University of Florida, co-founded the Center for Architecture Sarasota, acquired the Scott Building in downtown Sarasota as CFAS’ headquarters and commanded its renovation. She also partnered with the University of Florida’s CityLab architectural program, chairs CFAS’ board of directors and produces a steady stream of educational exhibits and events, including the fundraising Modern Show on May 13.

    And, she has a day job — executive director of the Elling Eide Center for Asian Studies, where she oversees the cataloging and curating of the late Sinologist’s mammoth collections of books, art and artifacts.

    “Honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects is an accomplishment achieved by only those that dedicate years advocating for the profession,” said Joyce Owens, a Fort Myers architect who is the 2017 AIA-Florida president. “Cynthia Peterson has dedicated a lifetime.

    “In her new role as a visionary member of Florida Foundation for Architecture, she will utilize her passion and expertise as a preservationist of architectural archives to curate traveling architectural exhibitions around the state.”

    Said Tampa architect Mickey Jacob, AIA’s 2013 national president, “She has touched the architecture profession in a way that not many people have touched it ever,” Jacob said. “She has a transformative way of thinking about architecture, from both a practice concept to an educational process and a historical context, as well. Her enthusiasm in being a vocal advocate for what architecture does in our communities, and being someone who believes that design makes lives better and actually lives that, is something that you rarely see.

    How does design make lives better? By creating spaces and places that are efficient, comfortable, visually appealing and that create interactions between people and their surroundings, Jacob said.

    “Understanding how buildings touch the pedestrian environment is an example,” he said. “By taking the CFAS building and repurposing it as a community gathering place, where people come not just to socialize, but to learn and share thoughts, to celebrate, to have social collisions that you normally wouldn’t have with people — this, as a piece of architecture, and her leadership in bringing it in, has created a place that has become a node of energy in your community.

    “We as a profession and the community of Sarasota are very lucky to have Cindy Peterson doing what she does.”

    Early in his career, Abbott worked with Yale classmates Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, who today are two of the most famous architects in the world.

    Meanwhile, Abbott has raked in the awards over five decades in the Florida / Caribbean region. Honors include the Medal of Honor for Design, and no one has won more AIA-Florida “Test of Time” awards “for buildings of enduring significance to the people of the region.”

    Abbott also has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of UF. As a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Abbott has lectured to the World Monument Fund, the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, DOCOMOMO and the Maya at the Playa Global Conference.

    “Abbott has practiced his craft with a consistency of elegance and experiential quality unparalleled by almost any other architect of his generation,” wrote Robert McCarter, former architecture dean at UF and an architectural historian.

  • 19 Feb 2017 5:57 PM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)
    2100 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota. Paul Rudolph, architect; interior renovation and exterior restoration in 2015 by Harvard Jolly with Jonathan Parks, AIA.

    The 1960 addition to Sarasota High School, designed by Paul Rudolph, was the influential architect's seminal work in Sarasota.

    By the time it opened, Rudolph, then 42, had become dean of the architecture department at Yale. The building marked his transition from dainty beachfront houses to the large-scale public buildings of his Brutalist period.

    Built without air-conditioning, the building's classrooms have large glass panels on the south side that opened to allow cross ventilation. The interior hallways were open-air, allowing hot air to escape through the roof system. The building's signature, vertically mounted shading panels helped control the sunlight.

    As part of a larger campus renovation plan, the county School Board spent $8.5 million to revamp the landmark, creating a fresh image for the school and preserving a building that exemplifies the celebrated Sarasota School of architecture.

    The renovation completed an often-contentious 15-year effort by the local architectural community to save the building.

    Before demolishing another Rudolph-designed building, Riverview High, in 2009, the board promised to "appropriately rehabilitate" Rudolph's work at Sarasota High. In 2012, plans coalesced to restore the building's exterior, keeping the entry breezeways open while rehabilitating interiors for "21st-century learning."

    Sarasota Architectural Foundation members generally praise the restoration work.

    "The rehabilitation of the exterior looks fantastic," said Janet Minker, the foundation's board chairman. "Our community has saved one of the most important midcentury public buildings in America, and we should all be proud."

    The school district's deputy superintendent, Scott Lempe, says the rehabbed structure is a "win-win" for staff, students and the architecture community.

    "As you walk up to the school today, your arrival experience is very much like it was in 1959," Lempe said during a recent tour. "The students of SHS have the best science experience in the county today because of what was done on the inside of the building."

    Tandem Construction completed the work from Harvard Jolly Architects designs, with expertise on Rudolph provided by Sarasota architect Jonathan Parks.

    The renovation was originally expected to cost $7 million, but the discovery of asbestos in exterior stucco required a tedious and costly abatement. All concrete surfaces had to be scraped and chiseled by hand, then repaired and recoated.

    Other major parts of the project included removing a parapet to restore the roofline as Rudolph designed it; shoring up the west end of the building, which had settled into the elevated ground about three inches; removing air-conditioning and electrical conduits from the exterior; installing code-compliant railings; and repairing several damaged support columns.

    "The success of the project is to keep the breezeways open," Parks said. "The bigger success was not having the building torn down.

    "The original gestures of the exterior are now prominent," he added. "The parapet had put a lid on the building. Now it is like a ballerina on her toes."

    "Florida Buildings I Love" was created by real estate editor Harold Bubil as a Facebook and Twitter series in 2016 and is being adapted for this section. Harold has prepared a slide show for presentation to civic groups.

  • 14 Nov 2016 10:07 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    Letter From Home: After the beach is gone

    By Harold Bubil
    Real estate editor

    I recently completed an article on sea-level rise. It is scheduled to appear on page A-1 on Sunday.

    I say “completed,” but the sea-level rise story is one that has no ending. Not in our lifetimes, not in the lifetimes of those 20 generations from now. The sea will go up and down until there is no sea. People debate the cause, and whether it is increasing in rate because of the burning of fossil fuels, but I don’t want to get into that here. You are invited to share your views in the Comments section or on your Facebook page.

    For our purposes, it is prudent -- no, essential -- to think about what could happen by 2040, and 2140, to Florida’s economy, particularly its real estate market, if the sea rises 3 to 10 feet or more in the coming century, as many predict. People come here for the weather and the beaches. Then they buy houses. We have spent many billions developing our coastlines, and a lot of communities depend on the property tax revenue that such development generates.

    Ringling College futurist Dr. David Houle predicts that Florida’s beaches will be underwater -- along with a lot of beaches around the world -- by 2040 because of sea-level rise caused by a warming atmosphere. That will melt glaciers and ice sheets on land, and as that water runs off into the sea, the level will rise.

    If all the ice on land melted, sea level would go up by 212 feet, scientists estimate. Clermont, in Lake County, is at 300 feet. Most of the rest of the state would be underwater if that happened, but we may be talking hundreds of years from now, says oceanographer John Englander, author of “High Tide on Main Street.”

    When Houle gave a speech to local Realtors recently, he made headlines by asking, “At what point does it become fraud to sell beachfront property?” Especially if the beach will disappear long before the house falls down.

    He elaborated on that comment for me in a more recent interview.

    “The two industries that understand climate change more than any others are the insurance industry and the reinsurance industry,” Houle said. “By 2020 or shortly thereafter, expect that nobody buying any beachfront property will be able to get a 30-year loan; they may not be able to get a 20-year loan. They might only be able to get a 10-year loan, because the insurance industry may not think there will be collateral against the loan by the time the mortgage is paid off.”

    I noted that most homes on the beach, including all the newer ones, are elevated one story, so they would not suffer structurally from the 3- to 6-foot rise that is being predicted by the end of the century.

    “Even the house is elevated, there won’t be any beach, so it won’t be beachfront anymore,” Houle said. “So the elevation doesn’t matter.

    “I wanted to be provocative,” in speaking to the Realtors, he said, “because part of me, as a futurist, is to provoke people. I then said, ‘However, I’ve been hearing that a lot of the big sales in Sarasota have been all-cash. So when does it become fraud for a real estate agent to do an all-cash transaction on beachfront property?’ If it is all-cash, there is not going to be a disclosure that only a 10-year mortgage is available. If they are really, really rich, they may not care. ‘Oh, I will get 10 years out of this building. That is fine.’ But when does it become fraud not to disclose it? That is what provoked the conversation.

    “The most distinguished grey-hair in the room was smirking,” Houle told me. “Afterwards, this man comes up to me and says, ‘I am in the lending business, and I’ve been telling my guys that we’ve got to get out of beachfront lending as soon as possible.’

    “So what I had forecast 10 minutes earlier, this guy was saying he has to do now. So to me, it validated my vision that not lending on beachfront property is going to be fairly accepted in five years.”

    That is something that no one in real estate wants to hear.

    Architects on board?

    Houle also recently spoke to a group of local architects, but found them much less receptive to his message than were the Realtors.

    “I am surprised that he has said that,” said Fort Myers architect Joyce Owens, incoming president of AIA-Florida. “I felt that when we had John Englander, our strategic council immediately jumped on board to what he was saying. It became one of three topics we decided to pursue.”

    She said AIA-Florida is committed to its sea-level rise policy.

    “It is just a fact now. You can see the glaciers melting and the water rising in those low-lying areas. But there is political thought that it is not happening. We feel very strongly and are not backing down on that.

    “The board is on board, and they are raising awareness to the membership. Englander was very well-received; the audience loved it. That is what we should be doing as an organization – be the thought leader for the profession. Nobody booed him, but there are skeptics. You can’t deny climate change. You can dispute whether it is manmade, but it is happening.”

    In taking up this cause, the AIA’s role will be both to educate its membership and their clients.

    “It is going to be encouraging clients to not to be blind to the fact,” Owens said. "Designers will have to consider that in the design. I work a lot on Sanibel and Captiva, where houses have to be on pilings. She says “island rethink” is necessary to solve the design challenge of higher sea level.

    “How do we redesign these buildings so you can take positive advantage of building the houses higher and making the space under the house usable space? Try to have beautiful outdoor spaces under the houses you want to use.

    “Under the house – so it doesn’t become space for weeds and to be walled in storage. Make it into something useful. You have to design that space to the right proportion so it is not uncomfortable. Draw people into the house at the lower level. It takes a lot of skill to do it right. It can be a space that is usable and alive.”

    The end of Florida as we know it?

    Houle said that in 100 years, Florida will be a much different place. Millions of people will have had to move from the coasts; he says “strategic retreat” is the orderly way to do it. In other words, plan ahead.

    “Florida as it has been defined in the 20th century (as a dream state of beaches, resorts and waterfront living) will be over,” he said. “That doesn't mean Florida will be over. That is the problem with making these distinctions. People say, ‘Oh, you’re just a nihilist. Of course, there is going to be a Florida.’ Yes, there is going to be a Florida; it might have 500 fewer square miles in it, by 2040 for sure. And there won’t be any beaches. But there will be a Florida, and it could be a wonderful place. But we need to start thinking about the wonderfulness of the place, rather than through the current lens.”

    Five hundred square miles is only 1 percent of the state's land area, but there is a lot of expensive real estate in those 500 square miles, which includes beach and bay areas, river banks and the Everglades.

    “My two-word answer to sea-level rise is, 'Wisconsin and Minnesota.’ They don’t have tornadoes, they don’t have earthquakes, they have plenty of water. Sea-level rise will not affect them. I am trying to do humanity and America and Floridians and Sarasotans a service by saying, 'Wake up, let’s get together. Here is the future, whether you like it or not.’

    “Architects so don't want to hear it.”

  • 14 Nov 2016 10:05 AM | AIA Gulfcoast (Administrator)

    "The sea is rising, and it can’t be stopped.”

    “Climate change is a hoax.”

    “It is the end of Florida as we know it.”

    “Buyers don’t care about something that might happen 60 years from now.”

    That, in three dozen words, sums up the divergent beliefs in what could turn out to be the biggest real estate story in Florida since Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsula in 1513.

    Florida coastline sensitive to sea-level rise

    Bigger than the 1920s boom. Bigger than the 2007 bust. Bigger than the 1862 Homestead Act.

    Sea-level rise “is not a science issue. It is a real estate, finance and built-environment issue,” said John Englander, a Boca Raton-based oceanographer and author of “High Tide on Main Street.”

    The planet’s ice has melted before — even the skeptics will stipulate to that — and it will do so again, scientists say. The atmosphere will get warmer, which may or may not be caused by the burning of fossil fuels by humans. So, the questions become, when will the sea rise, by how much, and what will it mean for a Florida economy that is built around the waterfront dream?

    And, most importantly, what should we do about it?

    No less an organization that the American Institute of Architects’ Florida-Caribbean chapter has adopted a policy that its members should plan for 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. Many scientists believe the 3-foot estimate is inadequate; the rise could be 6 feet or more.

    Besides raising infrastructure, installing pumps in storm sewers and elevating buildings (steps for which the architects would play critical roles), the simple answer for the state’s homeowners, should the sea rise appreciably in this or the next century, would be to evacuate the coasts. Property along the Lake Wales Ridge, in Highlands, Polk and Lake counties, could rise in value, as elevations of 150 to 250 feet above sea level are common there. Clermont soars to 305 feet.

    Sarasota’s average elevation — and it is the highest coastal city in southern Florida — is 16 feet. Venice and North Port are at 9.8, Bradenton and Punta Gorda 5.9, Naples and Holmes Beach 2.95.

    Sea-level rise believers, such as Englander and Ringling College futurist-in-residence Dr. David Houle, say Sarasota could become an island — and one whose fabled beaches will be underwater by 2040.

    “Sea-level rise is already baked in,” Houle said. “The question is how much, and by when?

    “We need to be thinking about, what does it mean to live in the post-beach economy?”


    In flat, low-lying Florida, “for each foot of sea level rise, the shoreline moves inland 300 feet,” Englander told the AIA-Florida last summer.

    “The beach doesn’t matter. One foot could be a mile inland on tidal rivers.”

    Reducing carbon emissions, while perhaps admirable and necessary, Englander said, is not the solution. “Less carbon is good, but it will not stop sea-level rise. If the world never burned another lump of coal, we will still have SLR. The heat is in the system.”

    But there is no need for panic, Englander is quick to add: Sea-level rise presents opportunities for innovation and even profit.

    “With this crisis, there is an opportunity. This is not going to whack us tomorrow. We have time to plan and adapt if we stop fooling ourselves. We have to plan for it with the right criteria,” he told the AIA, even if the benefit might not be evident for decades.

    “Let’s do intelligent adaptation. Let’s say, if you can see the big picture, know that it is going to be 3 feet or more higher. Let’s start planning for it, but not panic,” Englander said. “That is counter-intuitive because we tend to be prepared for the disaster tomorrow, and this one is not the kind of thing we usually plan for. It is like planning for our retirement; we need to do it incrementally and as we go along.”

    There will be “huge fortunes made helping people relocate, helping people elevate, helping new designs,” Englander said. It could be a growth industry rather than just a drain, relying on no tax dollars, he said.

    But in the interim, sea-level rise, and the bad publicity surrounding it, could cause waterfront property values to fall and people to move away from the coasts. That may not seem like a bad thing to some, but the fallout for local and state governments, with less property tax revenue to pay for services, could be disastrous.

    “There are going to be some places we eventually need to abandon,” Englander told the Herald-Tribune in an interview. “But this is slow enough that it doesn’t need to be catastrophic.

    “The longer we delay and deny, the worse it will be. Sea level is going to be higher, and Miami and Sarasota, sometime in the next two centuries, aren’t going to be the cities we know now. There may be parts that have been elevated. There may be some floating parts. We don’t know that yet. But until we tackle the problem, it is like saying, ‘Let’s go to the gym, let’s eat well, take vitamins and take care of our bodies.’ We kind of need to do that with the land; we just never thought it was at risk before.”

    Not buying it

    Many people in the real estate industry — including builders, architects and developers — aren’t buying the sea-level rise issue.

    Architect Gary Hoyt, whose firm has designed many prominent buildings in downtown Sarasota, says it is a hoax promoted by people just looking to gain prominence and income.

    “Follow the money,” Hoyt said.

    Sarasota homebuilder Lee Wetherington and Sarasota waterfront luxury homebuilder Mark Miller are with Hoyt.

    “I have been a resident for almost 46 years,” Miller, whose company is Westwater Construction, said in response to a Herald-Tribune question posted on Facebook. “I have been a builder for 26 years on the waterfront. Climate change has occurred for millions of years. There has not been any real evidence of rising water level locally in the last 100 years. Streets have always flooded, and the Miami example is not an accurate depiction of sea-level rise.”

    On the west side of Miami Beach, for example, streets are at or only slightly above sea level because of subsidence, the gradual caving in or sinking of land. Seasonal high tides push water up through the storm sewers from Biscayne Bay and onto the streets. Some say this has always been a problem, but a study by the University of Miami says king-tide and sunny-day floods are getting more frequent and lasting longer.

    “As with all of my clients and anyone who chooses to live on a tidal body of water, there always is risk,” Miller said. “Until there is a proven pattern of water level rise, the risk is worth the reward and waterfront will keep going up in value.”

    “I’m a skeptic,” said Wetherington, who has been building houses in Manatee and Sarasota counties since the 1970s. “I’ve been listening to this nonsense about water rising for 40 years. It hasn’t. Most all the people who are experts are being supported by grants from the government. I remember in the 1980s, when the left pushed (that) we would run out of oil by early 2000s. We did not.

    “I haven’t seen the water in the bay any higher than I did 40 years ago. Property values will continue to go up by the water. Those owners will always get insurance and financing. I’m more worried about hurricanes and lightning strikes than climate change. ... The flood maps have changed because of storm surge, not higher water. We'll just have to wait and see if it happens or is this more nonsense from the left.”

    But Englander counters that there is a reason the water doesn’t look any higher in Sarasota Bay than it did in the 1970s.

    “Sea level can’t go up more than a few inches a year, no more than a foot a year in the worst-case scenario we can imagine — the ice sheets melting, something on that order. If storms come to town, we would get 10 or 20 feet of storm waves, so we worry about them,” he said. “The sea level is creeping along, only an eighth of an inch a year, but the rate is doubling every 20 years. It used to be 40 years.

    “In five doublings, we have gone from an eighth of an inch to 2 inches a year. It is a geometric progression. We tend to overlook it because it is small at the moment, but even accumulating an 1 inch a decade is a problem, because tides and storms often breach a levee, or get in the threshold of your house, by a 1 inch difference. That is why it is so confusing.”

    Wait and see?

    The cost of waiting and seeing is something that alarms Englander.

    “One of the reasons politicians and some businesspeople are reluctant to deal with this is because cheap energy from coal and other sources is very seductive. We are used to it. We don’t want to give it up,” he said. “But we have trillions of dollars in the world invested in coastal property that is going to go under water in the next couple hundred years. That is a problem, a risk, and we are going to have to adapt.”

    Longtime Sarasota architect Phil Skirball backs AIA Florida’s new policy.

    “Low-lying areas may become wet, uninhabitable and worthless,” Skirball said. “Parts of Miami already (are) flooding during high tides. Governments and therefore taxpayers may be forced to spend money on drainage improvements and pumping equipment in a futile or horrendously expensive attempt to try to turn back the sea. (That is) already happening in South Florida. Flood maps and high-water lines will be revised, making some lots unbuildable. Insurance rates will increase. The economy will suffer.”

    In the meantime, the Florida waterfront dream will continue for those who can afford the risk.

    “The demand for waterfront homes in Sarasota remains strong,” said Kim Ogilvie, a Realtor who has sold a lot of them during her long career with Michael Saunders & Co. “There will always be risk associated with waterfront property, just like there is risk with mountainside homes in California due to earthquakes, riverfront homes in the Midwest due to floods, and so on.

    “But for decades, thousands of homeowners have felt the rewards to be much greater. The demand has not changed, and, if anything, we have seen the current global economic and political conditions affecting decisions far more.”

    This story has been updated to correctly identify Mark Miller.

AIA Florida Gulf Coast Chapter | P.O. Box 160 | Sarasota | FL | 34230 | info@aiagulfcoast.org | 941.315.8242

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