02 May 2023 | Lisa Hall

In the wake of disaster, this self-sustaining community that was best known for its renewable energy became the benchmark for hurricane-proof design.

‘Catastrophic damage will occur.’ Splashed across newspapers and emblazoned on television screens nationwide. Southwest Florida braced for impact. Neighborhoods in Hurricane Ian’s path prepared for devastation. Babcock Ranch felt prepared. After all, it was designed for this very moment.

In 2006, environmental engineer Amy Wicks’ boss at a civil engineering firm tasked her with creating a storm-safe water system for retired NFL player Syd Kitson’s 27-square-mile, solar-powered community, which straddles Charlotte and Lee counties. Working off models of the land from the 1940s, Amy recreated the historic water flow through a functional and sustainable design. Rather than using berms and pipes, she engineered wetlands and recreational greenspaces to easily distribute and detain water during heavy rains, preventing flooding.

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