A Winning Model in Puerto Rico

Architect John Marvel earns a Presidential Citation for "outstanding hurricane relief innovations” in San Juan following the devastation of Hurricane Maria 

By Kate Carsella, Associate Editor | May 3, 2019
@artcollazomore | Architect John Marvel_Presidential Citation_San Juan solar initiative
Photo: Ramiro Collazo/Unsplash

Efforts that brought energy resiliency and “outstanding hurricane relief innovations,” to San Juan, Puerto Rico, following the devastation by Hurricane Maria in 2017, earned architect John Marvel a Presidential Citation from the National American Institute of Architects, and will likely provide a solid model for application in other U.S. cities undertaking energy infrastructure projects, particularly in response to or preparing for natural disasters.

Marvel, founder and principal of Marvel Architects, with offices in New York and San Juan, marshalled several solutions through his nonprofit, Resilient Power Puerto Rico (RPPR), to revitalize the island’s energy grid.    

Such costly events are becoming the norm for many American communities. The so-called hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 was the most costly on record, and Maria was the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history. In 2018, California’s record wildfire season caused more than $3.5 billion in damage. Historic floods ravaged the Midwest this spring, with elevated flood risk projected for about two-thirds of the continental U.S.

RPPR’s Community Solar Energy Initiative, launched just days after the Category 4 storm hit the small Caribbean island—an unincorporated U.S. territory—partners with local leaders to evaluate energy needs and to determine the best community centers for solar energy system installations.

To date, the nonprofit has helped develop 28 solar micro-grids in 11 municipalities, completed 10 full system installs, with funding in place for 38 future sites in 17 more municipalities in Puerto Rico.

RPPR created an interactive, open reporting and mapping database called PR Energy Toolkit, as well, to detail current disaster exposure risk and sensitivity and assess accessibility and capacity for possible future grid installations.

For the future, Marvel is prototyping storm-resilient communities equipped with safeguards that, in the event of severe weather, lessen the impact on communities while they wait for aid from first responders—safeguards that will, ideally, be applicable to any area affected by a natural disaster. 


Access a PDF of this article in Professional Builder's May 2019 digital edition