British Columbia

New St. Paul's Hospital being built to withstand future floods as concern over rising sea levels grows

The construction for 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.

It is estimated that sea levels will rise 50 cm by 2050, says sustainability specialist

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

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.

Angela Danyluk from the City of Vancouver’s sustainability department is standing next to a 2014 art installation showing the rising sea levels under the Cambie Street bridge in False Creek. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We are expecting about 50 centimetres of sea level rise by 2050 and then about one 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.

A map on the City of Vancouver's website shows what the city could look like by 2100 if no changes are implemented and sea levels continue to rise.

It shows Stanley Park as an island and Southwest Marine Drive as shoreline. The higher sea level would also mean places like False Creek, the new location for St. Paul's Hospital, could return to a muddy tidal flat.

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.

Kevin Little with Providence Health says because the hospital's new location was once a mud by, construction crews are creating a dam and excavating until they reach solid till. (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."

Stephen Quinn visits the future site of the St. Paul's Hospital where planners have to take into account the changing landscape of the city because of climate change.

With files from The Early Edition

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