Posts tagged with "Climate Change":

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Venice’s (failed) plan to protect itself from flooding is over 15 years in the making

For centuries, tourists have flocked to the Italian city of Venice for its fragile beauty and water features. In the last hundred years, however, those elements have become increasingly threatened by rising waters attributable to climate change. After the city was slammed with a flash flood this November, with heights in some areas exceeding six feet, the drive to see the City of Bridges saved from a watery future has been strongly felt the whole world over. Considering the inundation the city faced, questions have been raised over the status and suitability of MOSE, the 6 billion euro ($6.6 billion) flood barrier project that has been under construction since 2003. MOSE, an Italian acronym for Experimental Electromechanical Module (as well as a reference to Moses, who parted the Red Sea), was originally scheduled to take eight years to complete but was halted in 2014 when taxpayer money was illegally funneled away from the project and the mayor of Venice was arrested on corruption charges. “The delays are an all-Italian shame, and we urgently need a solution,” said Alessandro Morelli, the head of a parliamentary transportation committee. The main elements of the project already in place are the 78 enormous underwater gates placed between the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon that would automatically rise during high tide to redirect water away from the city. First prototyped in the 1980s, MOSE is only engineered to temper sea rise levels predicted decades ago, rendering the project already obsolete within the near future even if it were complete. Scientists estimated that if MOSE had been completed in time, however, it would have mitigated a significant amount of damage during the most recent floods. Luigi D’Alpaos, a professor at the University of Padova, has stated that the project “is obsolete and philosophically wrong, conceptually wrong. MOSE might work tranquilly and without issues for 10 to 20 years. But then problems will arise, and it will be necessary to take other actions.” Though MOSE was designed as a compromise between modest sea-level rise projections and aesthetic discretion, UNESCO has concluded that a scaled-up version of the project would need to be implemented in order to protect the city from excessive flooding. D’Alpaos and other members of the local preservation community have offered longer-term solutions, one of which includes raising the terrain of the city via an injection of seawater underneath the bedrock. No matter what, the way the debates over the solution for Venice unfolds, whether MOSE is completed or scrapped in favor of any number of alternatives, will undoubtedly become a bellwether for other areas around the world affected by rising sea levels.
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Where are the so-called Eco-Visionaries coming to save our planet?

To planet Earth, the city of Venice being a designated UNESCO World Heritage site is meaningless. It can, and will, treat the city with abject indifference as was demonstrated earlier this month. In more recent climate chaos news, floods have devastated other parts of Italy, causing a viaduct to collapse near the city of Savona; meanwhile, across the other side of the world, fires are raging across the Amazon and Australia. Bizarrely, and tragically, many governments lack the impetus to make any meaningful change in this regard. We find ourselves in a dire situation, crying out for radical approaches that will galvanize the human race into action, something that Eco-Visionaries, which opened last weekend at London's Royal Academy of Arts (RA), strives to do. First of all, what an exciting name: "Eco-Visionaries," does it get more enticing than that? Upon entering the exhibition, audiences are greeted with a rotating model globe shrouded in green, murky dust. Playing through speakers in the background meanwhile, is Clara Rockmore's ominous rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Cygne (The Swan). This is Domestic Catastrophies nº3: La Planète en Laboratoire by French artist collective HeHe and it sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which is a sobering affair; but the vision of what, exactly, is as about as clear as HeHe's installation, despite being populated with visionaries. But that's not to say it's all doom and gloom either, despite the fact that the second installation you see features a giraffe being graphically shot, with blood spewing rapidly from its neck. A journey has been crafted by in-house RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado (who worked with Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana to curate the original show for Lisbon's MAAT) taking patrons through installations that highlight the climate crisis we find ourselves in and propositions that attempt to mitigate it. This seems like a natural progression one should take when addressing the issue of saving the planet: here's a problem and here's how we might solve it. However, Eco-Visionaries jumps between art as commentary and architecture as proposition, and struggles to get a strong grip on either. The architecture that does hint at radical change has to build upon the success of others—New York firm WORKac developed The Dolphin Embassy from Ant Farm, while Paris-based Studio Malka Architecture's Green Machine riffs on Archigram's Walking City. Both fall short, and architects don't come off as potential planetary saviors by any stretch. The strongest installations, meanwhile, are presented as art. An imaginative proposition comes from Turkish designer-artist-researcher Pinar Yoldas, whose Ecosystem of Excess envisages plastic-gobbling pelagic insects populating a post-human planet and cleaning it up in the process. On a similar strand, working alongside DeepMind artificial intelligence, artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's recreation of a white rhinoceros is powerful. The now-extinct creature comes to life at a 1:1 scale, developing from a wandering cluster of pixels into a great beast that seems confused by the white box it finds itself in. Here we question, besides humanity, what lies ahead for the animals of this Earth. Extinction? Digital archival? That's certainly not the case for jellyfish, who, as it turns out, are seemingly the harbinger of the end times. The pulsating creatures thrive in the conditions created by climate change. "More warm water," says a narrator in the exhibition's final, and best, exhibit, "is a disaster for anything that breathes and a dream come true for anything that doesn’t breathe much, like jellyfish.” Titled win > < win, the installation is by Berlin-based artist group Rimini Protokoll and occupies a room in the third and last gallery of the exhibition. win > < win splits audiences in two with a circular tank filled with jellyfish—something the RA had to obtain a zoological license to host. With clever lighting, the two audiences are revealed and hidden from each other, the tank acting as both a mirror and portal for the divided audiences. Through headphones, we learn about the ascendance of jellyfish, a species that benefits from humans killing their predators with overfishing and pollution as plastic bags kill turtles and other animals. The influx of jellyfish has direct consequences for humans too, as they clog up nuclear power and desalination plants across the world. "Jellyfish will be the only survivors when everything else has fallen apart," the narrator ominously intones. Despite this sombre note, win > < win is fun, engaging and informative all at the same time and makes the $15 exhibition fee is worth it. It also represents a success for Delicado, who told AN that he wanted the exhibition "to talk a younger audience," hence the inclusion of more familiar names like Virgil Abloh and Olafur Eliasson, whose installations—a gold, supposedly sunken chair and pictures of melting ice, respectively—do little to inspire. And that's what we need, inspiration. In his book, The is no Planet B, author Mike Berners-Lee writes: "Whilst the idea of limiting climate change seems like essential damage limitation, in itself, it spectacularly fails to excite most of us. More often than not, it gets framed primarily as the need to forego things we enjoy. And since humans–all of us–hate thinking about anything unpleasant, the temptation to switch off is hard to resist."
Eco-Visionaries, as its title tantalizingly suggested, might change that. This was a great chance to show the world that we might, by the skin of our teeth, be able to claw ourselves out from climate change-induced catastrophe. In this regard, Eco-Visionaries falls short. Perhaps this was because the RA only allowed the exhibition to have three rooms, preventing it from going further. However, while filled with insight and inquisitive introspection into how humanity lives on this earth, the feeling of future inspiration is sadly lacking. Eco-Visionaries runs through 23 February 2020.
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Snowmaking signals climate control mastery and avarice in a warming world

The artificial production of snow, like that of any other material once found in abundance, can be a riveting thing to witness for the very same reason it can cause alarm: it demonstrates both the mastery of our surroundings as well and our anxious desire to manufacture them in the face of escalating material scarcity. All around the world, ski resorts and other snow-based trades are reporting that they can no longer rely on the natural cycles of the global climate to produce the snow they need to keep their businesses afloat and must consider alternative means. “If [they] relied only on natural snow,” explained meteorologist Joel Gratz, “some resorts wouldn’t be able to open at all, and others wouldn’t be able to run their base areas.” The tools for snowmaking, as it is known today, were first developed in 1950 and patented in 1952 by engineers Art Hunt, Dave Richey, and Wayne Pierce by attaching a garden hose to a 10-horsepower compressor and spray-gun nozzle. From modest beginnings came sophisticated, large-scale instruments that have been helping related businesses to maintain operations more days per year, since the 1970s. The components sited on the edges of ski paths are known as snow guns, which shoot tiny water droplets into the air that freeze before they hit the ground. One version of the snow gun internally combines water and compressed air to split the water into droplets atop a slender tower and propels them far and wide, while the more expensive version, known as an airless snow gun, propels water using only a powerful internal fan within a cannon-like form. As simple as snow guns may sound, the hidden infrastructure and software required to sustain them are modern marvels of engineering. Resorts work year-round to service and stock the water reserves embedded within the slopes, and some are able to transport as much as 12,000 gallons of water a minute uphill. And because employees of a resort cannot reasonably inspect the varying weather conditions of their sites on foot, snowmaking systems are often equipped with computerized sensors that collect hyper-localized weather data to determine the most optimal times for activating the snow guns. These sensors can not only reduce the labor costs of up to 30 percent but can also significantly lessen the amount of water expelled over the course of the winter season. Given that some of the largest North American resorts can spend as much as $2 million annually on snowmaking alone, the sensors provide a much-needed strategy for improving cost and material efficiency. Snowmaking techniques have evolved so dramatically in the last forty years, in fact, that some resorts have opened up in warmer parts of the world by relying entirely on the technology. There are now indoor ski resorts in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, and other climates whose populations have rarely experienced snow first-hand. One of the first modern examples is Dubai’s Emirates Indoor Ski Resort, completed in 2005 by local company Majid Al Futtaim. The 240,000-square-foot building is raised just above the scorching desert ground, and its interior is snow-kissed every day of the year under a low-slung painting of a foggy blue sky. Even when temperatures outside exceed 106 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior of Ski Dubai remains within an optimal wet-bulb temperature range thanks to a series of overhead air conditioners that allow the snow guns attached to the perimeter to do their magic whenever a bald patch emerges on the slopes. Majid Al Futtaim is currently developing Wintastar Shanghai, which will become the world’s largest indoor ski resort at nearly one million square feet when complete, while the first indoor ski resort in North America is set to open in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on December 5 with 5,500 tons of snow on its slopes. The global water supply required for snowmaking, however, cannot easily keep pace with the development of ski resorts around the world. While the climates that have naturally supported skiing conditions, such as the Swiss Alps and parts of the American Northeast, are typically adjacent to copious water reserves that support snowmaking when necessary, the more recently developed ski resorts often go to much further lengths to keep their businesses afloat. And, given that it can take up to 14 kWh of energy (about the same as washing seven loads of dishes) to produce a single cubic meter of snow, the process of snowmaking for even a modestly-sized resort is far from energy-efficient. As naturally occurring snow becomes an even rarer commodity in the near future, the global competition among resorts for optimal skiing conditions by artificial means will no doubt continue unabated. With time, however, more sustainable methods of snowmaking may come to light—the only other alternative is conservation.
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Maya Lin will hang a grove of dead trees in Madison Square Park

Architect-artist Maya Lin is bringing a series of spectral cedar trees to New York’s Madison Square Park next year to shed light on the effects of climate change Talk about a timely topic.  On view from June 8, 2020, through December 13, Ghost Forest will feature a grove of regionally-sourced dead trees to stand in contrast to the Flatiron park’s lush summer landscape. The installation will show visitors first-hand the phenomena that occur year-round around the world as trees fall ill and die because of rising sea levels, salt-water inundation, and resource deprivation. Specifically, the trees chosen by Lin will come from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, a massive sandy forest on a coastal plain that is afflicted with poor soil. A 1.1-million-acre national reserve, the landscape was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy due to a build up of salt in the soil.  While located very close to the major cities of New York and Philadelphia, little is publicly known about the Pine Barrens and its plight, which is why Lin aims to demonstrate just how close-to-home ghost forests really are and to educate people on how to protect and restore natural ecosystems. The trees used in the installation will help clear the way for the regeneration of the surrounding species and shine awareness on other dying forests in North America, from South Carolina’s barrier islands to beaches along the Oregon and Washington coasts.  Ghost Forest is the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s 40th public art commission. To Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and chief curator, Lin’s piece will embody the spirit of the organization. “The Conservancy’s public art commissions are transient by nature,” she said in a statement. “Ghost Forest underscores the concept of transience and fragility, and stands as a grave reminder of the consequences of inaction to the climate crisis. Within a minimal visual language of austerity and starkness, Lin brings her role as an environmental activist and her vision as an artist to this work.” Lin has long-been an advocate for environmental sustainability and has explored climate change in various projects including her What is Missing? series, an ongoing project on the loss of biodiversity which she considers her final memorial. 
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Extinction Rebellion sinks a house in the Thames for climate protest

Last Sunday, a sinking house in London’s River Thames became a trending meme-of-the-day, specially manufactured by sculptor and fabricator activists from Extinction Rebellion U.K. to imitate conditions under a global climate emergency. The stunt worked particularly well in the U.K. as it happened to fall on the same day as flooding in Derbyshire and Yorkshire in Northern England, a coincidence—like the Venice City Council voting against climate legislation as high tides bathed Louis Vuitton shoppers on St. Mark’s Square—likely to become increasingly more common. The image was that of a traditional peak-roofed brick-and-vinyl-sided house with a smokestack, half-submerged and heeling, as it floated down the river past the Tower Bridge. The actual prop was carefully constructed—a facsimile of a home made semi-real. Its brainchildren, sculptor Katey Burak and fabricator Rob Higgs, had been given a budget of $3,500 from Extinction Rebellion U.K.'s savvy arts group to make it a week before the early October week of global disobedience against the climate crisis, but it took a month to carefully craft the flooded house. Burak and Higgs constructed the likeness by hanging fiberglass panels on a metal frame, hooked onto a scaffolding attached to a life raft. It was carefully crafted ruse, with the aim of producing an image, Higgs said, of “our society drifting downstream one after the other.” After assembling the parts in Cornwall that morning—a peninsula on the southwest tip of Britain experiencing increasingly severe winter storms—they dropped the raft onto the edge of the river at Hermitage Wharf Community Moorings in Wapping, Londo, during low tide, lowering down parts and painstakingly assembling them so the facade hung six inches below the water level. Working periodically as boat builders, they wanted to nail the corner of the house to perfection to sustain the illusion. Then, with the life raft's outboard motor, the team headed downstream to get the shot in front of the Tower Bridge. They were looking for a bit more of a close-up than the one that ended up being the project’s signature, which shows skyscrapers rising on either side. The message is, in the end, is fairly self-explanatory. “To raise public awareness of the imminence of the rising sea level issue,” Higgs said. “Just because it’s a few millimeters now or 1.5 degrees, people don’t realize its imminent severity. We’re building up sea defenses rather than a deeper form of adaptation.”
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New York City Council approves controversial East Side flood protection plan

The New York City Council voted to approve the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project yesterday, with little opposition from officials. Local councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the affected area, fell in favor of the $1.45 billion project, which will raise East River Park to 8- to-10 feet above sea level with landfill from Montgomery Street to 25th street to protect against future floods. Forty-six members voted in favor, with only one against and one abstention, and the plan now only has to cross Mayor de Blasio's desk, and he's indicated that he'll sign it. The project has experienced strong ongoing opposition from organized community groups, civic associations, and neighborhood parks advocates, who voiced opposition to the extended loss of play areas, removal of trees, and lack of consultation during the design process. A coalition of community groups had drafted an alternative People's Plan, which the final project considered as a part of its community engagement, along with the EDC's Waterfront Esplanade plan and WXY Studio's East River Blueway Plan. The city responded with a plan to phase work over a longer period to ensure the availability of parks during the construction. Others, like architect William Rockwell, who lives in an Amalgamated Dwellings Cooperative building and experienced severe flooding and loss of power during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, voiced support. Among the notable benefits of the design, apart from potentially live-saving flood protection, will be vastly improved pedestrian connections to the East River across on grade bridges spanning FDR Drive. The areas protected from flooding, according to the Scope of Work in the Environmental Impact Statement, fall within the 100-year flood zone and extend upland to meet the 90th percentile projection of sea-level rise to the 2050s. That includes large parts of the Lower East Side and East Village, Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Cove Park, which was built on top of low-lying marshes. Originated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as part of the BIG U Rebuild by Design project—with Bjarke Ingels Group as the lead urban designer in collaboration with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, ARCADIS, and Buro Happold—the ESCR became the northern half of two separate projects, with the other part section, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, extending below the Manhattan bridge. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development originally committed $511 million to the project during the Rebuild by Design phase, with New York promising an additional $305 million. The environmental impact statement (EIS), however, only cites the $1.45 billion cost and $335 million committed by HUD from a federal Community Development Block Grant. An October 2019 independent review of the ESCR by the U.S. arm of Dutch water research institute Deltares noted the lack of publicly available information on aspects of the project, making it impossible to review in its totality. The report argues that "transparency of the decision-making process by city agencies will help rebuild trust and gain [the] support of the community," and recommended establishing a community advisory group and keeping community representatives involved in the later, more detailed stages of project design. It also recommended adding two more feet of fill, coordinating with the green infrastructure program, and studying groundwater patterns in the East Village to evaluate the impact of rainfall on the neighborhood and basement flooding. The implementation is being led by the New York City Department of Design and Construction with AKRF/KSE Engineering as the lead consultant.
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Venice is slammed with floods as architectural treasures are submerged

Over the last 24 hours, the city of Venice, Italy, has experienced record-breaking flooding—the highest its been in over 50 years. According to city officials, 85 percent of Venice was underwater by yesterday evening with peak water heights reaching just over six feet.  Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called for a state of emergency, citing the flooding as more than just a city-wide problem, but a global issue and a result of climate change. The “Acqua Alta” as it’s officially called, was caused this week by high tides and a strong, low-pressure storm system in the north Adriatic Sea, reported The Washington Post. Hotel lobbies, churches, and even plazas like St. Mark’s Square, which through photos you can see was swimmable at one point, have been submerged and are now barely walkable.   Reports are also coming in that the 925-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica has been severely damaged by the event. It’s the second time the architectural icon has flooded in the last two years but could turn out to be the worst. The basilica has only flooded six times throughout its entire history.  Venice has been more strategically striving to stop such catastrophic flooding from happening in the last several decades. Its MOSE project was established in the late 1980s and construction began in 2003 in an attempt to protect the city and the Venetian Lagoon by building an underwater floodgate system to seal off the city’s inlets during acqua alta. Due to cost overruns, construction delays, and corruption within the Italian government, the build-out of all 78 gates essentially halted for five years and missed its target deadline of last year. With the goal of protecting Venice from flooding of up to 10 feet, work on MOSE is expected to be completed by 2022, although that could change thanks to this week’s devastation.  The Conversation US reported last September that without intervention like the completed MOSE project, Venice could be totally underwater by the year 2100. The publication conducted a research study with the National Research Center of Venice and found that such disastrous flooding could occur with nearly every high tide in 50 years. 
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Gateway National Recreation Area among top endangered places in U.S.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has released its Landslide 2019: Living in Nature report, which highlights 10 landscapes across the United States currently in danger due to climate change. One of those threatened places is the Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA), otherwise recognized as the entrance to the New York Harbor which spans from Jamaica Bay in Queens to Staten Island and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  Nearly 27,000 acres of islands, ponds, marshes, meadowlands, and historic structures make up the GNRA, which was designated by Congress as a U.S. National Recreation Area in 1972 and is managed under the National Parks Service (NPS). Ten million people visit the area each year to swim, hike, camp, boat, bird watch, and fish, making it the fourth-most popular national park. It’s no secret that the coastline of the New York metropolitan region, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has long been located in the way of potentially perilous weather. Particularly susceptible to flooding and sea-level rise, the GNRA, and residential neighborhoods around it, have suffered due to lack of, or slow, planning for the effects of climate change.  But that’s recently changed. After the storm hit exactly seven years ago, there have been significant reconstruction efforts and moves to buffer the city's shoreline from future catastrophic events. In August, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) would build a $616 million seawall along Staten Island that will double as a multi-use elevated promenade. The project is a result of the ACE’s on-going study of coastal storm risk management in the New York-New Jersey Harbor. An interim report on its initial findings was released last February.  Despite this state-backed effort, it’s possible that there will be little support from the federal government in combating climate change. On Monday, President Trump announced he would pull the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. And last week over 400 local elected officials, including 13 from New Jersey, pressured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass legislation that prioritizes top deferred maintenance issues within the National Parks Service’s looming, billion-dollar maintenance backlog. If passed, the Restore Our Parks Act and the Restore Our Parks (S. 500) and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1125) would invest up to $6.5 million over five years in national parks across the country—effectively bolstering them in the face of future inclement weather.  As the AH Herald reported, the GRNA alone currently suffers backlogged problems amounting to $123,286,570. Because of its size and unique makeup—connecting two states and three separate “units” as they’re called—the challenge of upkeep is monumental. In Brooklyn, the GRNA extends from John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to Shirley Chisholm State Park, which is currently under development and will be the largest state park in New York City by next summer. Floyd Bennet Field, the former airfield listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also included in the Jamaica Bay Unit, alongside Canarsie Pier, Fort Tilden, Breezy Point on the Rockaway Peninsula, and Jacob Riis Park, the beach and boardwalk outpost built by Robert Moses.  In the Staten Island unit of the GRNA, Fort Wardsworth, Miller Field, and Great Kills Park on the southeastern shore of the borough are at risk, while in the Sandy Hook unit in New Jersey, Fort Hancock, and Sandy Hook with its seven well-used beaches, salt marshes, and holly forest, are also in need of repair. 
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AIA urges Trump to reverse decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

Yesterday President Trump formally notified the United Nations that he intends to pull the United States from the Paris Agreement, which he had been promising to do since he took office in 2017. In response to the Trump administration’s notice, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) called for the decision to be reversed.  “The AIA deplores the administration’s shortsighted decision,” said AIA 2019 president William Bates in a statement. “The economic impact of the United States as a participant in the Paris Agreement is a fraction of the toll we will pay if we do not make climate action a top priority as a nation. The stakes couldn’t be higher—a reversal of this decision is critical.” Nearly 200 countries signed the accord in November 2016, which served as a collective pledge to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world. President Obama brought the U.S. into the agreement, but President Trump—who once described climate change as a “hoax”—has been warning neighboring nations that he would withdraw. As of Monday, the first day possible to do so, the Trump administration submitted its intentions to remove the U.S. from the agreement. It will take a year for the formal exit to go into effect on November 4, 2020—the day after the 2020 election.   While cities and states across America from Seattle to Los Angeles, Maine, New York State, and even Washington, D.C., have announced individual plans to go carbon neutral in the decades to come, having little-to-no federal oversight is still not acceptable to many believers in climate change, including several architects. AIA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy said the “abdication of America’s leadership on climate action undermines our nation’s credibility on the global stage.”  When AN reported earlier this year on the Green New Deal, design industry leaders noted how the impact of climate issues goes beyond global warming. While the Green New Deal calls for decarbonization across the entire U.S. economy, it also pushes the idea that a carbon-free economy is a socially-just one, too. That means thinking beyond environmental impact and shifting the focus to public projects that benefit all people, like affordable housing.  The AIA and many among the architectural community, in general, aim to solve the climate crisis by promoting healthy building design and reducing carbon waste during and after construction. In August, many architects took to the streets for the Global Climate Strike with climate activist Greta Thunberg. Even if President Trump is able to get what he wants by removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, there are a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates running against him who have trillion-dollar plans to reverse his damage. Regardless, the AIA has announced its opposition to the president’s move this week and urges him to think again:  “In order to move the needle on this global crisis, it will take the efforts of every industry, every company, and every citizen in the United States as well as the leadership of the United States government,” said Ivy. “The AIA will continue to prioritize climate action in an effort to support architects—and the entire design and construction field—in this critical role.” 
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Controversial Lower Manhattan flood protection plan moves forward

New York City's City Planning Commission met last Monday to vote on the future of the $1.45 billion resiliency plan to bolster flood protection in Lower Manhattan, a mammoth scheme designed and planned by One Architecture & Urbanism, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, AKRF, and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The approved East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project will stretch from Montgomery Street to 25th Street and, controversially, rebuild the East River Park eight feet higher than it currently stands. That plan, which was first unveiled in January, was designed to withstand a 100-year coastal flood scenario through 2050. In addition to elevating the East River Park, the ESCR project will also replace several bridges and build new flood walls, flood gates, and underground flood protection.  The ESCR is one of several projects initiated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to prepare the city for the continued threats of sea-level rise. The complete 10-mile-long plan, initially envisioned by BIG as the "BIG U," will wrap around the southern tip of Manhattan from West 57th Street to East 42nd Street. As far back as 2015, the original design proposal for the ESCR was rejected by Community Boards 3 and 6. Three years later, the city released the current iteration of the project, shocking some residents with its huge price tag and new design. The current version of the project will cost $1.45 billion, up from the original $338 million, but will shorten construction time by 1.5 years compared to previous proposals. The new scheme would also allow equipment to be brought in via barge to avoid closing the neighboring FDR Drive.  While the park and surrounding area were heavily flooded in 2012 by Sandy and fall well within FEMA’s 100-year flood zone, residents expressed outrage at the flood protection plan. Protestors were distrustful after previous plans were unexpectedly scrapped, and doubt the city's ability to meet the new  2023 deadline. Residents have expressed such intense opposition to the project that Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, recently commissioned an independent review by the Dutch group Deltares to assess it. Despite weighing the pushback, the City Planning Commission ultimately voted to approve the project, citing the immediate threat that rising sea levels pose. The ESCR plan will next need to receive the City Council's blessing before it can be voted on by Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval.
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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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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.