prescribe mountains


Protection from sea level rise, transportation, links to nature, and affordable housing all in one.

overview of the idea

False Creek in Vancouver once extended all the way to Clark, and some of the properties which are most iconically 'Vancouver' – Kits Point, Museum of Vancouver, Granville Island, and the Olympic Village are all low enough to cause concern, especially at king tides and when storms cause surge, or a combination of the two.

Protecting the city from climate change in principle seems easy, at a certain point, a cost-benefit analysis will drive the decision of whether to build protection in some form, or abandon the land altogether. Jokes are often made that Richmond will either liquify in an earthquake, or flood because one of its existing dikes proves insufficient, but False creek is often unconsidered.

Walling off False Creek at the Narrowest point, however, fails to protect any land in between Kitsilano and the Bridge. There is another option, however, takes inspiration more from the Superdikes in Tokyo, and, and could do far more than protect existing property. If a dike is bigger, it can start serving other functions – such as creating a transportation link between the West End and Kitsilano, making the trip to UBC much easier. Another function is that of Housing – for which Vancouver has an urgent need. It turns out that given the number of people who could live on the bridge, one could affordable create housing, and in the city could be protected – free.

So: Protection from Sea Level Rise, Transportation, Links to Nature, and Affordable Housing all in one.

how it works

The BC 'Cost of Adaptation – Sea Dikes and Alternative Strategies' lists the cost of protecting False Creek with a sea wall at $23-$43 Million … though does not suggest the method. Given that the equivalent cost of the Thames Barrier, even scaled down in size and flood height (~6m tidal variation vs. 4m for Vancouver) would cost closer to $300 million to protect the narrowest point between the pylons of Burrard Bridge.

The cost to create a concrete dike across the mouth of False Creek is on order $150 million ($8.3 million per kilometer per meter height), which for 1500 units works out to $100,000 per Condo. This could be sold on the open market for far more than this, or kept by the city as Affordable Housing for $200,000 per unit, low by area standards.

This dike would have a bridge near the existing deep channel, which would allow normal boats at all times, and sailboats on lifting. What is unique about this bridge is that the bridge deck itself becomes the sea-gate, rotating upward for sailboats, and down for storm/tide protection. In the case of greater than 3m sea level rise, an additional set of 'pixels' will be necessary outboard of the existing ones, however, the current high blocks could then be build upon to again help finance the future construction. The pixel modules would be assembled with gaps in-between and power generating sluice-gates installed to provide power generation from tidal movement, and minimize stagnant water.


Video simulation

Watch the video simulation below to see how the installation would look in False Creek.



Poster Board

See a high resolution poster board featuring all of the images from the gallery above. Download.


How communities will adapt and thrive

Certain areas in the region will undoubtedly prove too expensive to save, but many areas are too valuable, both culturally and financially to abandon. The areas of the Seawall around False Creek are built to 3.5m above mean sea level, this level only allows ~1.5m of sea level rise before Vancouver experiences frequent Aqua-Alta high water over the Seawall. This could be adapted to in the same way as the Venetians have done for the lowest areas around False Creek, but further Sea Level Rise above this would be essentially impossible to adapt to without abandoning the ground floor around much of False Creek.

A habitable dike crossing False Creek turns the negative aspects of climate change around, and presents an opportunity to expand the ability of many to live on the water. The dike would provide a site for a new Science Center devoted to Climate change – linked in spirit to the existing Expo facility on False Creek. This dike would also increase access to the water – which because of the 'cliff' edge to the seawall, is illusory on much of the Seawall.

Finally, transportation links between Downtown and UBC are enhanced by the shorter and lower link across the water – the difficult climb over the Burrard Bridge from the West End would no longer be a barrier to UBC students and staff living in the West End, and reduce the reliance on cars and public transportation by those who do.


supporting information

Cost of Adaptation - Sea Dikes & Alternative Strategies

Report estimates the costs of adapting the Vancouver area to a 1m rise in sea level. Download.

Costs of Adapting Coastal Defences to Sea-Level Rise

This journal article presents new information on the unit costs of adapting coastal defences for three specific case studies in low-lying delta regions. Download.

False Creek - flooding?

This blog article discusses how susceptible the City of Vancouver and False Creek is to climate change impacts including rising sea levels. Download.

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