Sitting close to the Bay Area shorelines, the offices of technology companies like Facebook, Google, and Cisco face huge risks of flooding as rising sea levels threaten to swamp the area.
The forecast is said to be true even under the most optimistic circumstances of big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, which is meant to stall the rapid increase in sea levels that threaten the very existence of the Silicon Valley prime properties.
Located on the San Francisco Bay shoreline, the 430,000-square-foot Facebook campus is the most vulnerable. Designed by Frank Gehry, the office is an extension of the Menlo Park base property and boasts of a 9-acre garden rooftop and, more importantly, houses 2,800 employees.
"Facebook is very vulnerable," said Lindy Lowe, a senior planner at California's Bay Conservation and Development Commission. "They built on a very low site - I don't know why they chose to build there. Facebook thinks they can pay enough to protect themselves."
She further adds that while the company can address temporary flooding within the campus, the temporary flooding on the roadways will be beyond their control.
Facebook, as a precaution, has elevated its office, but even with the lower end of sea-level-rise projections, the area stands to be inundated. Very soon, regular flooding will severely impact the viability of the office despite the major adaptation measures the company will eventually have to take.
On the other hand, offices of Google and Cisco are in a slightly better position. Located at Mountain View, the Google office faces the risk of getting submerged if the Antarctic ice sheet disintegrates and pushes the sea water beyond 6 feet.
According to Kristina Hill, an expert in environmental planning and urban design, the 101 highway by the Googleplex will be swamped even with a small increase in sea levels, leaving no option for the company but to rebuild its campus. However, surprisingly, Google neither made any statement nor indicated that such adaption measures are on its radar.
Currently, almost $100 billion worth of prime properties - both commercial and residential - in the Bay Area are at high risk from the increase in sea water level as well as severe bouts of storms.
Photo: Marcus Kazmierczak | Flickr