All posts in Sustainability

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Building Bones

Skanska rolls out a new tool to evaluate embodied carbon
Construction remains one of the most carbon-intensive industries, with materials often contributing significantly to the final project's total pollution (concrete production, for example, is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions). A report from the Carbon Leadership Forum, a network of academics and industry professionals hosted at the University of Washington to focus on reducing embodied carbon, suggests that as the population grows, the equivalent of one New York City in additional floor space will be built every month around the world. That's as much as two trillion square feet of new building, or significant renovations, happening over the next 32 years, according to the nonprofit Architecture 2030. While many environmentally concerned architects and builders focus on operational impacts—certainly a significant contributor to climate change—others have emphasized a concomitant need to focus on the embodied carbon, emissions that result from construction and from creating and transporting materials themselves. A signatory of the Paris Climate Accord, the construction giant Skanska is the latest AEC company to enter the fray of carbon-reduction solutions with an open-source tool called the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), developed in collaboration with C Change Labs and incubated at with funding from Skanska and Microsoft. Current tools and assessments center on these lifecycle impact and operational efficiencies of buildings, however, embodied carbon can account for around half of a building’s emissions impact over its average lifespan. “It may not matter how efficiently we operate our buildings over time if we don’t immediately address the carbon embodied in what and how we build,” Skanska USA chief sustainability officer, Beth Heider, FAIA, explained in a release. The hope with EC3 is that those in the AEC industry can better understand their impact in order to reduce it. “Until now, the building industry has not had a way to assess our supply chain through the lens of their carbon impact,” said Stacy Smedley, regional director of sustainability for Skanska’s building operations based in Seattle, whose benchmarking research was foundational to the project. Currently in a limited pilot, EC3 is an open-source database of over 16,000 materials, searchable by performance requirements, design specifications, project location, and global warming potential—all based on environmental product declaration data. The hope is that stakeholders in the building process, such as designers, developers, and contractors, can better understand the potential carbon impact of their projects. Skanska reports that current participating projects are seeing carbon reductions upwards of 30 percent with little to no difference in cost. EC3 will be publicly released on November 19.
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Pittsburgh's Green Streets

Pittsburgh launches its own International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings
Last month on September 12, the United Nations Economic Council on Europe (UNECE) and the Green Building Alliance (GBA) signed an agreement launching the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence on High Performance Buildings. Pittsburgh is the second city in the world to participate in the program following New York City’s Building Energy Exchange, and will join a network of sustainability experts in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and “distill best practices in design, construction, training, and policy into scalable solutions.”   As one out of five commissions of the United Nations, UNECE works to improve access to clean energy and help reduce greenhouse emissions in order to meet Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Founded in 1993, GBA works to advance innovation in the built environment by “empowering people to create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant places.”  “Of all the approaches to addressing the world’s climate challenge, improving the energy performance of buildings stands out. Beyond reducing our carbon footprint, this action will enhance quality of life, reduce energy bills, improve health, create jobs and encourage innovation,” said Scott Foster, UNECE director of Sustainable Energy, at the launch ceremony. The Center will follow the UNECE’s Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and will be a collaboration between regional partners, including the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. In following the framework, the Center will conduct training programs for design professionals, host discussions, and advocate for local and state policy changes regarding building codes and energy regulations. Pittsburgh has been well on its way to meeting these goals already. In early September, Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto introduced legislation that would require all government buildings to be net-zero energy efficient, just weeks after the city released its first energy benchmarking report. Pittsburgh also has the world’s largest 2030 District, which strives toward 50 percent reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030. "The International Centers transform how we build cities, from the materials we use to building design and construction, to the policies that set new standards for the future," said GBA executive director Jenna Cramer in a statement. Both GBA and UNECE hopes the Center will unite the area’s most influential developers, business leaders, and policymakers to “dramatically advance sustainable solutions.”
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Carbon Canceled

A built environment symposium closes out Climate Week NYC 2019
With Climate Week NYC coming to a close, the Built Environment Symposium was a fitting finale, gathering together political bodies, industry professionals as well as architects and designers to speak openly about their collaborative efforts to make New York City a greener place The third panel discussion in particular, “New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act: Significantly Reducing Building Emissions,” brought together preeminent voices working to address the environmental impacts of New York’s buildings. Melanie La Rocca, commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) sat down with Jason Vollen, director of architecture for Metro New York at AECOM and Christopher Toomey, vice president of major projects at McKinsey & Company to discuss the importance of addressing the costs of the built environment, and why pieces of legislation are invaluable to instituting rapid change.  With 67 percent of the city’s emissions stemming from its buildings, the need for action is acute, and the mayor’s office has accentuated the urgency by implementing Local Law 97, a mandate that all buildings over 25,000-square-feet comply with aggressive carbon caps by 2024. The very building the panelists sat in, the Midtown Manhattan office of host firm AECOM, is one such building that will fall under the new jurisdiction.  Local Law 97 is the first of its kind to make the financial penalties for non-compliance so significant that building owners will have to address the issues head-on. Fines start at $268 per metric ton over the predetermined limits (based on a building’s size and class) and additional fees are added for non-submittal of records, as well as false or flawed reports, all on an annual schedule. Hopefully, these financial roadblocks will incentivize building owners in ways that previous legislation has only wagged fingers.  This regulation doesn’t just apply to new buildings, but all buildings in New York City. That’s roughly 50,000—and this measure has sparked controversy as older buildings will have to invest in major renovations, as many did not incorporate energy efficiency in their original designs. Aged technologies like boilers and old-fashioned window glazing will need to be replaced, likely at a great initial cost to those landlords.  The panelists talked very seriously and practically about the realities of retrofitting all these spaces. “We could build an entire industry around retrofitting structures,” Toomey said, adding that there are studies that speculate that this would necessitate the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs.  However, the bureaucracy involved in clearing thousands of new buildings in the next four years in advance of the “penalty stage,” where non-complying structures will be fined heavily for carbon use, is intimidating even for the DOB: “We don’t want 20,000 applications coming in 2023,” said La Rocca. To avoid this, the DOB, architects, and project managers are encouraging companies to act now and stay ahead of the curve for not only the 2024 benchmarks but the 2030 ones as well. “No one wants to be an SUV in a Prius world,” said Vollen, “It would be an embarrassment down the line.” Architects like Vollen are encouraging high-profile companies to handle their compliance measures sooner than later with a leading mindset—to both leverage their names as well as allow for more time to design creative, innovative solutions to emissions targets rather than hasty adaptations.  While the panelists all acknowledged the risks and experimentation needed in NYC’s fight to lower emissions, La Rocca closed the discussion, saying, “This is an opportunity for us all to reimagine what we do.” 
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Green Scene

What to see during Climate Week NYC 2019
Climate Week NYC 2019 kicks off next week with hundreds of events, panels, and dialogues around climate change and its diverse intersections with the city, from transportation to urban farming. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best events surrounding design and the built environment not to miss.  Oceanic Global x Arcadia Earth Arcadia Earth has just opened a six-month multi-sensory, experiential art exhibition at 718 Broadway, curated by the nonprofit Oceanic Global. The ocean conservation body has described the space as a place to host and foster “climate change artivism” and bring together leaders in the field. For Climate Week, Arcadia Earth will also be hosting a series of lectures and panels at the venue, thematically organized around issues of ocean conservation. Professionals ranging from landscape architect Emily Bauer to climate scientist Richard Seager will discuss new paths and options for the future of their fields.  RSVP for a lecture here Pitch Finale - Access Cities  This summer, Access Cities, an international alliance for sustainable urban development, partnered with the City of New York to solicit submissions through an open innovation call addressing air quality and urban “heat island” effects, two pressing issues that New York and cities around the world are facing. Join to see the finalists announced, as they pitch to a final panel of judges, as well as a panel discussion with mayoral representatives from New York and Copenhagen—topics will include city-to-city collaboration on a myriad of climate-related issues and even a comedy show. Organized by Danish Cleantech Hub   AI Sustainable Development Summit This day-long summit is designed to bring guest speakers, international representatives, and scholars together to envision how AI technologies can, or should, accelerate the world towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Keynote speeches, as well as hands-on workshops, will address current issues affecting promising frontier technologies and open discourse for industry leaders to offer solutions. The AI Sustainable Development Summit was organized by UN advisors and technologists. Making NY an Offshore Wind Hub  Many coastal states have taken steps to support and incite wind energy jobs and development, some even offering rewards for the first scaled ventures. New York has the potential to become a leader in the renewable wind industry, and this breakfast panel brings together industry leaders looking to explore how New York has opened up opportunities for wind business, and what else can be done.  You can register for the event here International Pathways: Cities Decarbonizing Buildings  The Japan Climate Initiative and the Building Energy Exchange are hosting this international showcase of cutting-edge city policies supporting climate initiatives and action. Many of the world’s largest cities boast mature transit systems and little heavy industry, but their buildings are responsible for a large amount of energy consumption and carbon emissions. This event and invited guest speakers will explore practical to radical solutions to the decarbonization of buildings and cities, reducing emissions from existing as well as future building projects.  Climate Smart Cities in Small Island Developing States The Marron Institute at New York University will present their findings and experiences working with The Green Climate Fund on small island developing states, or SIDS, during this event. As sea-level rise threatens the coastlines and cities of island nations, this panel will focus on solutions to how islands can be more resilient. Addressing the areas of urban expansion, grey and green resilience infrastructure, community and governance in the context of the Institute’s experience in Grenada, the panel will be hosted by a Climate Smart Cities expert.  Register for the event here EV + Clean Energy Happy Hour Climate Nexus has organized an official Climate Week happy hour for good, facilitating conversation between experts in both the public and private sectors as well as media professionals. With a focus on electric vehicles and clean energy initiatives, this is an opportunity to learn, mingle, and savor small bites and refreshments at Draught 55 from 6-8pm to end a long day of Climate Week events. Email mmiceli@climatenexus.org to request an invitation.
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Droning On

A fleet of drones will try to shut down London’s Heathrow Airport next week
London's Heathrow Airport, the largest airport in the U.K. and seventh busiest in the world, has become the next target of criticism by climate activists. A group called the Heathrow Pause plans to interrupt flight activity at the airport by flying toy drones over the transit hub on September 13 in order to draw awareness to the transportation sector's contributions to greenhouse gases in the U.K. This comes in response to the Heathrow Expansion Plan, which contravenes the Climate and Environmental Emergency declared by Parliament in May 2019.  Stopping traffic at the airport requires the creation of an “exclusion zone” that would surround the airport and completely ignores Heathrow’s 3.1-mile no-fly zone for drones and aircraft not affiliated with the airport. The Heathrow Pause is calling for climate activists to join their fight against the airport and its members are willing to face arrest under the main belief of their manifesto that, “In light of current scientific knowledge and quantifiable evidence it is a crime against humanity - and all life on earth - to support carbon-intensive infrastructure projects.” The Heathrow Expansion’s main goal is to connect all of the U.K. under a nine-point Connectivity Plan, as stated on their website, with the bold statement exclaiming that the plan is “Supported by the Whole of the UK”. Despite corporate support, Heathrow has been a steady target of climate activists. In 2017, the airport emitted 19.5 million tons of carbon, and if a third runway is built there, an addition of 4.3 million tons of atmospheric pollution would be released per year. In the wake of the declared U.K. Climate Emergency, there have been more efforts to stop the airport's expansion.  Carbon emissions from air travel are one of the hardest sources to cut due to the fact that there is no current alternative to carbon-heavy jet fuels. Bio-jet fuels that can operate at the scale of use of major airlines are still far from complete development. The only current solution is to reduce flight activity or abandon air transportation altogether.  Due to the intensity and potential impacts of their peaceful protest, Heathrow Pause has created a list of protocols to ensure the safety of those involved and affected by the protest. The airport authorities have been given a six-week notice of the start date and time of the protest, and there will be a one hour notice before each drone flight. Drone use is planned to stop in the event of a “genuine emergency" and will not be flown through flight paths. Although the fleet of toy drones won't stop air travel completely, it just might be an action large enough to draw attention to the importance of investment in climate reform. 
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Prepping for Sandy 2.0

Army Corps of Engineers will erect miles of seawalls along Staten Island

The United States Army Corps of Engineers is slated to begin construction on a $616 million seawall in the New York City borough of Staten Island, one of the areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The storm, which wreaked havoc on much of the mid-Atlantic coast between New Jersey and New York, exposed and exacerbated Staten Island’s vulnerability to storm surges and flash flooding. In light of predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other climate-monitoring agencies that the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes will increase as global warming progresses through the 21st century, local and federal officials hope that the seawall will prevent higher levels of physical damage in the future.

When Sandy struck the New York metropolitan region in October 2012, floodwater depth in certain parts of Staten Island hit 12.5 feet above sea level. Within the area protected by the proposed seawall, depths exceeded previous records by four feet and damaged 80 percent of all structures, including critical infrastructure like schools. The storm killed 43 people in the city, including 24 in Staten Island alone.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the seawall system will include several components, known collectively as the Staten Island Multi-Use Elevated Promenade. About 4.5 miles of buried seawall, which will be topped by a walkable promenade, will protect the area against up to 21.4 feet of seawater rise. In addition to the 0.6-mile gate in the levee, there will also be 0.35 miles of floodwalls, 300 acres of natural water storage to manage surge, and over 226 acres of tidal wetlands and ponding areas. The latter two components will have the capacity to absorb an immense amount of floodwater, forming a robust natural barrier against major storms. One priority of the project is to protect vital infrastructure on the island, including senior centers, schools, hospitals, a wastewater plant, and police and fire stations.

While Sandy served as a catalyst to mobilize resources and agencies to officially begin the project, research that led to the ultimate seawall system proposal actually began after a pair of severe storms in 1992 and 1993. Hurricanes, Nor-easters, and superstorms present a major threat to the borough, but the low-lying parts of Staten Island also face flooding damage in the face of regular rainfall. In addition to protecting the coastline from such stress, state officials have promised that the seawall system will enhance waterfront access for members of the public. The boardwalk will be open to cyclists, pedestrians, and other hobbyists, allowing users to experience both the shoreline and the coastal wetlands. Governor Cuomo’s office also suggested that the seawall might one day serve as a tourist attraction, bringing in visitors from across the region and country.

Signing on to a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA), New York State and the Army Corps have committed to reducing the costs of flood damage in the area by about $30 million per year. The PPA opens the project up to $400 million in federal contributions, which will be added to the existing budget of $216 million—$65 million from the city and $151 million from the state. Construction is set to begin in 2020 and will hopefully be completed before the next major weather event.

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Greenhouse Glasses

RIBA sustainability chairman urges London to consider a glass tower ban
Following NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s "ban" on glass-clad buildings in April, a leading sustainability expert in London has spoken out against London mayor Sadiq Khan’s refusal to enact the same legislation—Simon Sturgis, an adviser to the Greater London Authority and a chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) sustainability group, believes that England's capital should follow suit. While de Blasio’s "ban" was in actuality proposed as a check on excessive use of glass and steel, glass is an inherently problematic building material to use in a world facing a climate crisis and rampant carbon emissions. Sturgis told the Guardian that, “If you’re building a greenhouse in a climate emergency, it’s a pretty odd thing to do, to say the least.” The two cities of New York and London are home to iconic skyscrapers like The Shard and the World Trade Center, both considered pinnacles of glass and steel construction, but while their uninterrupted views and the striking skyline aesthetic attract architects and high-profile tenants at the moment, the environmental irresponsibility may soon phase the desirability out.  “Big commercial tenants don’t like standing up in front of their shareholders and saying they’re doing embarrassing things,” said Sturgis. Glass facades have a short life span, only about 40 years, so the impact of their embedded carbon (how much carbon a product will emit over the course of its entire life) is significant, as a building's glazing is nearly impossible to recycle and inevitably necessary to replace. However, the more immediate consequences of these glass facades is a heavy need for air conditioning. The amenity's adverse environmental impacts are well documented—almost 14 percent of total global energy use stems from air conditioning, and the heat captured and retained in building interiors by glass curtain walls is significant, especially in the summer heat.  In the same article, head of sustainability at Mitsubishi Electric, Martin Fahey, stated that rising temperatures across the globe has led to AC equipment needing to work much harder than in the recent past. “Most air conditioning equipment is designed to give an internal temperature between seven-to-ten degrees lower than the ambient temperature,” he said. But when the recent heat waves struck London and New York this summer, cooling from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to a more comfortable 70 took a toll on local electrical grids as well the air conditioners themselves. Broken AC units and their subsequent replacements add to the embedded carbon footprint of our built structures.  Advanced glazing and passive cooling options exist today that can minimize the greenhouse effect of glass, like darkening to let in less light in the warmer months, for example, the double- or triple- glazing systems are still hindered by the short life span and non-recyclability, and often not nearly at the level needed to amend the footprints of commercial emitters. Sturgis warns that “the connection needs to be made between the climate emergency and all-glass buildings. But the connection hasn’t been made yet.”
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#Pledge

Architects sign on for the Global Climate Strike
You may have heard Greta Thunberg’s name in the news recently. She’s the 16-year-old from Stockholm who in August 2018, week after week, stood in front of the Swedish Parliament building with a sign reading “School Strike for Climate.” Today, Greta is joined by thousands and thousands of teenage leaders from around the world who purposely walk out of their classrooms on Fridays to advocate for action against climate breakdown. Her mission for climate justice and to bolster a living planet has inspired countless numbers of people from all generations and geographies. The public outreach initiative, Architects Advocate, is following the lead of Global Climate Strike, a grassroots campaign calling upon the architecture industries’ professional interests and commitments to the building sector. Architects Advocate co-founder Tom Jacobs has pleaded for architects to stand up for the next generation and support the “true leaders of our time.” The pledge form states, “The building sector accounts for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and buildings alone account for 72% of U.S. electricity use. The transition from fossil fuels to a thriving zero-carbon economy isn’t just possible—it’s necessary.” The Global Climate Strike will occur on Friday, September 20, just ahead of a UN emergency climate summit. On this day, inspired by the countless schoolkids leaving the classroom, everyone—sports-stars, actors, architects—are encouraged to disrupt business as usual. Architects Advocate are encouraging widespread industry participation, stating, “we share responsibility for creating healthy and safe communities for all.” To coincide with the global strike, the organization is initiating a mass assemble on September 20 at Chicago’s Federal Plaza, arguably the city’s most popular public square known for a cluster of three austere Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings: the Everett McKinley Dirksen Building, the John C. Kluczynski Building, and the (most beloved) Post Office building. Perched in the middle of Mies’ pitch-black intervention is Alexander Calder’s fiery Flamingo sculpture. Both individuals and firms may pledge to support #StandWithGreta. Below is a list of participating architects and firms at the time of this posting, although the number of Architects Advocate members is much larger. Firms: Krueck + Sexton Architects, blank studio design + architecture, Bright Common, John D. Kelley, Drawing Conclusions LLC, Architecture Is Fun, Inc., Strawn + Sierralta, Jones Studio, Jurassic Studio, DTW Architects + Planners, Kuklinski+Rappe Architects, Atelier Ten, Corporate Architectural Services, Harboe Architects, dSPACE Studio, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, COULSON, Pappageorge Haymes Partners, Lake|Flato Architects, Manypenny Murphy Architecture, Design2 LAST, Peckham Architecture, Sheri Olson Architecture, DIAG Studios, David Fleener Architects, Rykerson Architecture, Paragon Designs, Thomas W Angell Architect, Asakura Robinson, emar Studio for Public Architecture, Cleary Design Studio, Heidrun Hoppe Associates, Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design, Abruna & Musgrave Architects, BCG AE, LightLouver, ArchitecturaLAB, Robin Ashley Architects, Croft Design Collective, Atelier Ten, Landon Bone Baker Architects, beta-field Individuals: Tom Jacobs, Jason Roberts, Hilary Noll, Phoebe Schenker, Holly Lennihan, Melanie De Cola, Alison Musch, Peter Exley, Mia DiMeo, Theron Gabel, Luis Huertas, Raphael Sperry, Pam Crowell, Alima Silverman, Robert Harris, Fumiko Docker, Josephine Jacobs, Cory Rouillard, Alan Scott, Taryn Sabia, Lee Burkart, Dante Amato, Matthew Hardy, Karen Votava, Jennifer Park, Jim Morgan, Maria Bergh, Mark Weitekamper, Scott Rappe, Michael Kloefkorn, Nicole Ellis Semple, David Langdon, Kristin Boyer, Keith Knapp, Joshua Grossman, Xiang Qiang, Beau Rhee, Rory Gilchrist, Yugene Cha, Debbie Slacter, Jennifer Cutbill, Mika Sautet, Brian Kidd, Patrick Danaher, Heather Holdridge, Joe Villanti, Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham, Marcy Giannunzio, Rick McDermott, Christopher May, Laurie Barlow, Angie Klein, Ryan Ornberg Meanwhile, as the Architects' Journal reports, the U.K. Green Building Council and Ben Derbyshire, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), have also pledged their support for the strike.
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Up in the Air

Foster + Partners' Marseilles airport extension flagged by environmental agency
Foster + Partners’ design for a new extension to the Marseilles Airport on a former brownfield site is being scrutinized by France’s environmental agency, which has called for a resubmission of the plans in fear they don’t align with the country’s ambitious plan to go carbon neutral by 2050.  The Autorité Environnementale (AE) said that the current plans are “underestimating the project’s environmental impacts and overestimating its socio-economic benefits” in their statement. Areas of concern for the AE include Foster + Partners’ addressing of traffic, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and even the impact on local birdlife.  The renowned British firm won the competition for this extension in 2017, beating Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners for the chance to add the “missing piece” between the existing buildings of the airport—the original ’60s modernist wing by Fernand Pouillon and a 1992 addition designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership. The winning design features a prominent glazed volume, a space for newly connected departures, and arrivals hall. In addition to the 72-foot-tall windows that will pour light into the building, an array of continuous skylights in the inverted beam roof will add to the naturally-lit "glass box" effect. The goal? “A clarity of layout and expression,” according to the firm, inspired by Pouillon’s project, with the ability to process over 12 million travelers per year.  “In regards to the content, the extension project has been thought to be virtuous,” said an AE spokesperson, clarifying that the query wasn’t a question of the design, but of the methodology. While the architects defend their claims that the airport will be sustainable—even exceeding the cutting edge French HQE and E+C- standards—the project's focus on new public transit connectivity and more efficient airplanes seemed to miss the mark for the AE and have muddied the proposal for the agency. The new E+C- standards place a priority on energy-positive and low-carbon emission building projects, ideas that came into effect after pledges at the 2016 Paris Agreement amongst UN countries.  France is due to receive the resubmission of more detailed plans for environmental action at the Aeroport Marseilles Provence by September 2019 and has reaffirmed its commitment to environmental action in the face of a growing denial of climate change in international politics. The carbon neutrality plan is seen as being “trialed” by the French, and the government’s attention to the new law, just implemented in June, has sent ripples throughout the international community.  Foster + Partners has recently taken several internal steps to address and highlight climate concerns, and have expressed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and movements like Net Zero Carbon Commitment. Foster + Partners has publicly pledged to have 100 percent of their own occupied offices be carbon neutral by 2030, and has joined Architects Declare, a collective of UK firms verbal in their recognition and combating of climate change. 
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California Dreaming

How is California dealing with its disappearing coast?
The questions raised by global warming, climate change, sea-level rise, and the resulting migration crisis are not to be taken lightly. They offer us myriad dramas in the form of disappearing cities, changing neighborhoods, dwindling resources, and existential anxiety about living near water. The Los Angeles Times recently took on some of these tough questions in a special report titled “California Against the Sea.” Illustrated with sweeping photography (not shown here) of the state’s Pacific shore, the extensive feature examines the disappearing California coast, potential fixes, and the consequences those fixes might bring. As much as two-thirds of the beaches in California could be gone by the end of the century. In California alone, it is estimated that $150 billion in property could be at risk of flooding. Several points became clear from reading the LA Times reporting, done by Rosanna Xia. One is that the problems created when parts of the coast become uninhabitable are not easily solved by design or technology. Physical interventions, like seawalls—which can cost up to $200,000 per house—often make the problem worse by encouraging erosion and sand build-up around the structure; short-term solutions, like adding sand to beaches, are expensive, and there is only so much sand in the world. Environmentalists and many others favor “managed retreat,” or carefully and systematically moving away from the coast, but this option faces deep resistance from some landowners. The report shows that the crisis is a real estate drama above all else. Entrenched interests are often opposed to solutions to environmental issues if those solutions threaten people’s property. Especially in California, a strong tradition of homeownership is at odds with what many consider sensible public management of the coastline. These conflicts are already playing out on a small scale. In Pacifica, a small city just south of San Francisco, the beach is already eroding, despite efforts begun in the 1970s to install seawalls, piles of rocks, and special concrete to preserve the shoreline. Although some homes have already been removed from the coast, not all residents are willing to accept managed retreat. “‘Managed retreat’ is a code word for giving up—on our homes and the town itself,” Mark Stechbart, who is concerned about the future value of his Pacifica home, told the Times. “This is not just some intellectual exercise. These are real people and a real town at stake.” “The public has rights to the beach, but I apparently don’t have rights to my house,” Suzanne Drake, another homeowner said in the report. “I’m a left-of-left Democrat, but these environmental zealots are next level.” It is fairly scary to think about how these issues will play out if the scale and seriousness of the crisis grow. According to the Times, in the last 100 years, sea levels rose 9 inches along the California coast, but are expected to go up by as much as 9 feet by the year 2100. If a town like Pacifica is experiencing this kind of disagreement and controversy when a handful of houses are involved, how will a city like Miami deal with entire neighborhoods negotiating how to relocate (or not)? Each person has their own beliefs and personal fortune at stake. This is unfortunately already happening in Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina, among other places. There are no straightforward design solutions. Lessons from the past say that human intervention can actually make things worse—not to mention that safeguarding the whole state of California would require upward of $22 billion, according to the Times. A simulated game in the special report has three outcomes: loss of beaches due to seawall construction; cost overruns; and success, by way of managed retreat and careful diplomacy that requires negotiating with individual homeowners. There are problems with the latter solution. Buyout programs have proven successful elsewhere, but not in places with coastal California market prices. Staten Island’s post–Hurricane Sandy program bought 300 homes for $120 million, which would buy about ten houses in Malibu. These are massive problems that are only going to get bigger. Can design do anything to help? Or if it is a question of real estate, can the markets be managed without tearing communities apart? If California is any indication, both of these possibilities appear unlikely.
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Ocean Motion

Architects rethink material and form with a new floating lab
For many, the future floats. Seasteaders, BIG’s floating city, the “Danish silicon valley” (at sea, naturally): in a time of rising tides, many are suggesting working with, or on, the ocean rather than against it. Add the Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab to the list. The 13-foot-by-8-foot object was designed by architects and designers Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, and Evan Jones as a prototypical "island" that demonstrates not just an understanding of marine ecology, but also digital design and fabrication techniques. And, not just a Band-Aid approach, it actively protects coastal communities from the brunt of rising seas by dispersing the energy of oncoming waves. The Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab is the result of a collaboration between California College of the Art’s architecture school and students in the Architectural Ecologies Lab (AEL), along with scientists at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Benthic Lab. Fabrication support was supplied by Kreysler & Associates. The AEL was founded in 2018, as Ikeda told Hyperallergic, “a research lab that could link speculative architectural thinking with real-world prototyping and scientific expertise,” and go beyond academic borders. Intended as a “new kind of resilient coastal infrastructure,” the Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab is the result of multiple years of research into new composites and new forms for ecologically-sound architectures. One of the Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab’s key innovations is its fiber-reinforced polymer composite substrate. The “ecologically optimized” material can be digitally formed into varied contours—“underwater topographies”—that encourage the settlement of invertebrate animals that “contribute to the biological diversity of the marine ecology.” Using peaks and valleys on both sides of the structure—produced in two identical halves to minimize the waste of producing custom molds—of varying sizes, the Lab features “fish apartments” supplied by nutrients from plankton and other invertebrates that are carried along by flowing water. Not only does this process and living space for marine animals increase biodiversity, but the biological growth it facilitates also has the added effect of “attenuat[ing] wave action and reduc[ing] coastal erosion.” Thinking ahead, the Lab has scouted out additional locations to attach more prototypes, including future versions of structures made from the same unique composite, designed to further enhance wave attenuation, or reduce the intensity of waves acting on it. The Buoyant Ecologies Float Lab will be deployed in San Francisco Bay this year.
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Standard Procedure

The Rockefeller Foundation nixed its resilient cities program. Now it's launching a new one
Elizabeth Yee, who served as 100RC's Vice President of Resilience Finance for five years, will be joining the Climate and Resilience initiative as the managing director. Before landing at 100RC, she worked in public finance at Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, and Barclays. "Rapid changes in climate are exposing global citizens to unpredictable risks, and there is an increasing need to leverage data and technology to ensure we make informed decisions, and design and deliver solutions that improve the resilience of communities," said Yee in a prepared statement. "Continuing to support the 100RC Network is a core part of our ability to understand and tackle these immense challenges, which require creative, blended capital solutions to address at scale." The Climate and Resilience initiative will facilitate grants for disaster recovery, and will tie into the foundation's long-term work in health, food, energy, and, per the press release, the "expansion of US economic opportunities." Last month CityLab reported that part of the reason for 100RC's dissolution was that The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to drop around $5 or $6 million on the program annually, not the $30 to $40 million it was spending. Beyond money, the foundation didn't quite know how to measure the results of its investments, particularly the Chief Resilience Officers (CROs). The CROs are a network of professionals who oversee resilience capacity-building in member cities' governments whose salaries were paid by 100RC. The Climate and Resilience initiative will continue to cut checks for CROs, but as of now, it is unclear how long the initiative will be funded.