Sasaki was part of a partnership to develop an interactive web-based tool—NRCsolutions.org—to help local leaders, planners, and engineers identify opportunities for nature-based flooding solutions. Nature-based solutions—like protecting dunes or restoring wetlands—can help mitigate flooding impacts, while also providing significant additional benefits to communities. Since 2006, the U.S. has experienced 23 major weather disasters caused by hurricanes or flooding, resulting in more than $187 billion in damages and 654 deaths. Beyond just increased frequency and impact of disasters, communities across the country are confronting a growing number of challenges and demands on their limited resources, such as economic development, concerns of public health, and infrastructure spending. Fortunately, investments in nature-based solutions to address flood impacts can also provide returns in these other areas. NRCsolutions.org is a tool to promote the use of nature-based solutions across the United States.
Working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the American Planning Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, and the National Association of Counties, Sasaki’s role included conceptualizing the interactive resource and technical development of the website itself. In this role, Sasaki designed the user experience and interface, created the branding of the site, and developed a series of interactive visualizations. The goal was to create a site that easily allows different kinds of users—from local leaders to planners to engineers—to browse the more than 30 strategies and case studies and identify opportunities that could be appropriate for their community. Because flooding means different things to different kinds of communities, flexibility was key; the website needed to make it easy for large or small, coastal or riverine communities to easily identify relevant opportunities.
An example of Sasaki's multidisciplinary teamwork in practice, the project was a close collaboration of many disciplines within the firm: planners, landscape architects, ecologists, and civil engineers worked alongside web developers, UX designers, and graphic designers. The site provides a range of information and a diversity of starting points for different kinds of users. Decision-makers can browse the high-level summary on the website’s interactive homepage, while engineers can quickly drill down to learn more about a particular strategy that could be appropriate for their community. The site’s branding and interface make it easy for people to find information at a comfortable level of detail and provide an appealing digital environment that encourages them to continue exploring.
Since launching in February 2017, the site has had over 7,800 unique visitors in its first three months—including 27% from countries outside the United States. Beyond that, the guide has made a major splash, having been featured in The Atlantic’s City Lab and E&E Climatewire. Additionally, each partner from the team has presented it at their respective annual conferences, with the guide receiving a special call-out at the opening plenary session of the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Convention. The success of the site reinforces the importance of collaborative design. By bringing together designers, engineers, computer programmers, and a broad range of partners, the development process incorporated diverse perspectives and led to an interactive website that is helping communities across the globe learn about nature-based solutions for flooding.
The Naturally Resilient Communities program is made possible with support from the Kresge Foundation.