Green Infrastructure Adds Health to Flamingo, Miami Beach: A Silva Cell Case Study

– Just a stone’s throw away from the ocean in the Flamingo neighborhood of Miami Beach is a new development with green infrastructure front and center.
– The Baptist Health Urgent Care center is part of the multiuse space at 709 Alton Rd. The structure was designed with architecture that promotes health and well-being for the patrons and the planet.
– The space focuses on accessibility and the needs of pedestrians.
– Twelve trees line the new construction project, enhancing the pedestrian area near the building.

Completed in 2018, the space at 709 Alton Rd. reflects construction aimed at supporting the holistic well-being of the people who enter it. The building embraces green health and wellness design starting with the 12 trees that partition the street and sidewalk, offering ample shade and a sense of protection from the street. The Live Oaks (Quercus Virginiana) face Baptist Health Urgent Care on the first floor through the glass façade. The building includes a patient education space, conference and training areas, and a shaded roof terrace garden. The building also has a parking area that can be accessed from the interior of the building, contributing to the accessibility of the street, sidewalk, and roof garden.

The designers, Savino & Miller Design Studio, wrote about the project in  Architect Magazine  in 2018. They noted the sidewalk space has a dedicated 20 ft. zone for pedestrian and patron activity along Alton Road. Supporting the trees, their roots, the road, and sidewalk activity are 204 2X Silva Cells. The decision to build on what was once a barren parking lot to create a health center is not in itself unique. Adding green infrastructure will help sustain the space for generations while adding to property value, making streets safer, improving air quality, and helping to manage stormwater. The underground Silva Cell system ensures these green advances for generations. The Silva cells allocate 418 ft3 of soil volume for each of the 12 trees, allowing for root expansion and growth among the urban infrastructure.

Figure 1: Photo courtesy of Architect Magazine. 709 Alton Street at dusk.

“Savino & Miller Design Studio seeks to create equity and resiliency within the public realm and are committed to the establishment and the longevity of trees. 709 Alton Road was a complicated site, adjacent to a busy commercial street.  The DeepRoot team was dedicated to helping us, the contractors, and ultimately the community to ensure everything fit together and went smoothly.”

– Barry Miller Savino Miller & Design Studio

Figure 2:  Live Oaks partition the bike lane and pedestrian space at 709 Alton.

While there has been considerable pushback from many residents, the city of Miami Beach is raising streets in an effort to protect residents and property from the impending sea level rise. The city’s original 2014 strategy, of raising all roads to at least 3.7 ft. above a national elevation designation, is well above the 2 ft. rise expected in Southeast Florida by 2060. While not completely evident from the photographs, the silva cells were installed 3′ higher than the adjacent Alton Road (State Road 907). Eventually, after Alton Road itself is raised, the top of the Silva Cells will again be in their traditional elevation, slightly below the curb, and the Live Oaks, native species, will be in rain-capturing bioswales. This new project all but guarantees the residents here will not have to wade through king tides and is an example of developers and municipalities working hand in hand to combat the realities of sea-level rise.
Horticulturally, the Silva Cell systems were installed below the sidewalk to allow roots to grow below the walkway, augmenting the adjacent green swale’s soil volume. In this way, the sidewalk does not become an impediment to the trees’ root growth.

Figure 3: April 2019, photo courtesy of Google Street View. Twelve Live Oaks add vibrant color to the block between 7th and 8th street.

Figure 4: Silva Cell installation in February 2018. 204 2X system provides a total of 5,016 ft3 of soil volume for the Live Oaks.

A Google Street View Series: Before, During, and After Construction From 2015–2018




Installation Summary:
Number of Silva Cells: 204 2X
Amount of Soil Volume Per Tree: 418ft3 (12m3) of soil volume
Number of Trees and Type: 12 Live Oak Trees
Type of Project: Integrated trees stormwater
Project Designer: Savino & Miller Design Studio
Project Contractor: Arellano Construction Co.
Installation Date of Silva Cells: January 2018
Project Time Line: 2015–2018