An organization dedicated
to New York City’s regional
waterways plans to release
the first version of a certification program for waterfront edge design in late
Modeled after the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building
certification program, the
Waterfront Edge Design
Guidelines (WEDG) program
is being developed by a
number of government
agencies, experts, and stakeholders and led by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
“It’s not just a report of best practices,”
says MWA Director of Outreach and Planning Michael Porto. WEDG will provide
a set of guidelines and a ratings system
to encourage and incentivize waterfront
edge designs that are resilient, accessible
to the public, and ecologically healthy.
The program will also cover the biggest
waterfront land uses, with residential and
commercial guidelines and ratings, parks
guidelines and ratings, and maritime and
industrial guidelines and ratings.
In addition to covering the major waterfront land uses, the guidelines will cover
seven categories or design areas: site selection and planning; public access and interaction; edge resiliency; ecology and habitat;
materials and resources; operations, maintenance, and monitoring; and innovation.
The WEDG program began in July 2012,
when MWA began discussions to develop
a waterfront design guidelines project
with its Aquatecture and Green Harbor
task forces. Then in October 2012 Super-storm Sandy demonstrated New York City’s
need for waterfront resiliency, resulting in
increased interest in as well as support and
funding for the program.
“It’s really about creating or positioning
developments, and parks, and industrial
maritime uses for coming climate change,
sea-level rise, and storm events,” Porto
says. “We’ve tried to tackle that head on.”
Porto acknowledges some people
would like to see development retreat from
waterfronts and are likely to question the
wisdom of a program that seems to incen-
tivize waterfront development, but MWA
considers retreat to be an unrealistic goal.
“Development will continue,” he says.
“[WEDG] is a resource and a toolkit that
we think provides best practices to do it in
the most responsible way.”
In order to provide the best possible
resource and toolkit to design professionals,
the program needed more than a vision for
the future. It needed the right resources for
crafting its guidelines.
“The team that’s been working on
the guidelines has always included some
engineers,” says Andrew Cairns, P.E., vice
president of the American Society of Civil
Engineers’ Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and
Rivers Institute and north region market
leader for port and marine at AECOM. The
institute provided the Metro-
politan Waterfront Alliance
with guidance, he adds, to
“make sure that engineering
principles were taken into
account—that it wasn’t just
planning and nonprofes-
sional engineers looking at
things that I think truly affect
design and engineering.”
WEDG guidelines will
not be overly prescriptive
however. “We’re not giving
people engineering draw-
ings,” Porto says. “That’s
impossible and certainly
not what I think anybody
wants regarding good
design. There’s such a site-specific aspect
to building in general, but along the water-
front…there’s a lot of variations.”
“I wouldn’t want a guideline that’s too
prescriptive,” Cairns says. “I think what
[WEDG] does is it promotes…sustainability
The first version of WEDG, which MWA
plans to release in late September, will
provide a limited checklist format of the
guidelines. It will be comprehensive in that
all the credits are there, but they have not
yet been fleshed out.
MWA hopes to release a second version
of WEDG by mid-2015, and has plans for
pilot projects using the first version in the
Although MWA has focused on New
York and New Jersey waterfronts in the
development of WEDG, many of the guidelines are applicable across the country.
Once a “waterfront building council” is
established to certify WEDG projects,
the council aims to expand the program
throughout the country.
Cairns appreciates the MWA’s efforts.
“I think [the guidelines] provide the design
community—not just the engineering
community but the planning and design
community, and potential owners of waterfront properties—some guidance on how to
treat their waterfront so it’s more sustainable [and] more resilient,” he says.
September Release Planned
For Waterfront Design Certification
In order to provide the best
possible resource and toolkit
to design professionals, the
program needed more than
a vision for the future. It
needed the right resources
for crafting its guidelines.