By Brecon Welch
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that I am addressing with this project are life on land, sustainable cities and communities, industry innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.
My main goal in designing this project is to create a safer environment for both animals and humans on the highway, in particular the Merritt Parkway. The Merritt connects many Connecticut towns and is known for its scenic views as it is surrounded by forests on either side. Since there are so many roadkill accidents, I wanted to find a way to reduce this (what I believe to be) easily avoidable problem and consequently improve the safety of drivers and wildlife. It also would be used to provide light for the highway. As my project progressed, I decided to design an additional nature center that would help to raise awareness about the issue of roadkill accidents.
In just Connecticut alone, thousands of animals are killed every year by cars. For this project, I will be focusing on the Merrit Parkway, one of two main highways in Connecticut, since it is surrounded by forests on both sides and therefore has more wildlife. Because of the many animals, the winding roads, and a lack of lamps for night driving, there are lots of accidents that occur between animals and cars which end up injuring or killing the animals (and possibly the humans too) as well as damaging the cars of the people driving them. It also potentially dents the highway barriers. Creating habitat corridors or what I like to call “nature bridges” would not only protect wildlife and humans, but it would also add more greenery to the highways. Additionally, I would add lights on the entrance, exit, and/or underneath part of these bridges because that would help with the problem of the lack of lighting on the roads and make it safer for both drivers and animals.
The wildlife bridge space will be used by local animals like deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and even bears and moose who will cross over the highways on the bridges. It will also be used by drivers since the bridge will provide light as they approach and drive under the bridge.
The nature center will be mostly used by local residents, citizens of neighboring towns, and potentially for field trips as it is located on the local park grounds, Waveny Park.
BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS: INSPIRATION
I looked at three wildlife bridges from three different countries in order to see what made each bridge successful so that I could combine all those attributes in my design. The first habitat corridor I looked at was one that crosses the I-70 highway in Colorado which used fencing to guide animals and prevent them from going into the road. It also mentioned the use of cameras to record which animals use the bridge and when which I thought would be a good idea to include in my project as I could have the live stream playing in the Nature Center so that people could watch how the animals migrate.
The second bridge I used for inspiration was the Banff National Park Overpass in Alberta, Canada since it crosses a highway similar to the Merritt Parkway and has two arches with a pillar in the middle like what I was thinking about for my design. The main takeaway was the importance of limiting the noise from the highway in order to encourage animals to use the bridge by including more trees and plants. There is also a clear wire fence on the bridge which prevents the wildlife from jumping or falling off when crossing while also not ruining any sightlines of the landscape views for drivers.
Finally, I looked at a habitat bridge in Seoul, South Korea that connected the peaks of two mountains in the Mount Umyeon and Maljukgeori parks. The unique design and ability to provide access for both humans and animals was very interesting to see and I liked how it mimicked the mountain terrain. The most appealing aspect for me is how eco-friendly the bridge is with its built-in water collection and distribution system that allows it to self-sustainably maintain the greenery. This was one of my concerns because I didn’t want to burden any workers to have to take care of the plants on the bridge so that nothing would overgrow and become a hazard on the road. I noticed that the structure is also made of steel which I had planned to use anyway but it reassured me that I made the right decision for material choice.
ANALYSIS OF THE SITE
THE DESIGN PROCESS
RESPONDING TO FEEDBACK
Listening to the constructive comments left by both my teacher and peers helped me immensely as I came closer to the finished product because I was able to see what parts of my project were missing in order for my audience to get a full picture of what I was trying to accomplish.
THE FINISHED RESULT
While I did experience setbacks with the SketchUp software, I’m proud that I was able to finish my work and think about a new way to respond to a problem that occurs daily and affects not only animals but humans as well.
Some Last Takeaways:
- My Catalyst Project evolved over the course from just a wildlife bridge to designing a nature center as well to educate younger and older generations alike.
- I wanted to make the building environmentally friendly so I conducted an interview with a Greenwich Audubon employee who told me how they were able to create such a sustainable center
- I learned that one of the main ways they do this is through a Geothermal HVAC system which I implemented in my building as well. This HVAC system is much better for the environment than Conventional systems which use electricity or the burning of natural gas to heat air when it’s cold out and electrical refrigeration to cool the air when it is hot. For the Geothermal HVAC system, it is the Earth that heats itself and cools the building.
Thank you so much for reading about my project and feel free to leave any feedback or questions you may have in the comments!