Rising sea level prompts city to build St. Paul's Hospital to withstand future floods

·2 min read
Construction of the new St. Paul’s hospital is pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Construction of the new St. Paul’s hospital is pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The construction of the new St. Paul's Hospital and Health Campus in East Vancouver's False Creek is in progress, but the project won't be completed anytime soon as the facility needs to withstand future floods that could come with rising sea levels.

According to the senior sustainability specialist with the City of Vancouver, infrastructures around the municipality were built at a time when water levels were predictable and there were no concerns for rising sea levels — so the city is not prepared for what might come in the next 30 years.

"We are very vulnerable to the slow impact of sea level rise, as well as the sudden impact of a coastal storm surge that could happen when we have a high tide and sea level rise and that will cause overland flooding within our communities," Angela Danyluk told Stephen Quinn on the CBC's The Early Edition.

She said the city is currently taking steps and planning for a future where sea levels are much higher than what we see now.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"We are expecting about 50 centimetres of sea level rise by 2050 and then about 1 to 1.4 metres of sea level rise by 2100, and there'll be more sea level rise coming, perhaps 200 centimetres, by 2200," Danyluk said.

She says that means golf courses in the city will be inundated, South West Marine Drive will become a shoreline, Stanley Park will become an island and False Creek, the new location for St. Paul's Hospital, will return to a muddy tidal flat stretching east as far as Clark Drive and north up to Prior Street.

Building for the future

"We have to build to a 2050 standard and a 2100 standard," said Providence Health senior manager, Kevin Little.

He said because the hospital site was previously a mud bay, construction crews are drilling secant piles to create a dam around the site and then excavating down to solid till, a hard firm clay, before constructing the building.

"They will be pulling out over 300,000 cubic meters of soil, and it should cut off all the ground water and everything coming in," he said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

He said the 1.5 million-square-feet hospital will be a post-disaster hospital, meaning the facility must be functional even after a flood.

"That's all incorporated into the elevations we're building and how we factor the site in the roads and all the infrastructure around the hospital as well."

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