Posts tagged with "Climate Change":

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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 XYZ 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.
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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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The Strelka Institute announces new terraforming research initiative

The Strelka Institute in Moscow has announced its newest research initiative, a three-year intensive exploration into the possibilities and necessities for terraforming a post-climate crisis earth. The initiative, called The Terraforming, will be led by American professor and theorist Benjamin Bratton, with the aim of “exploring a renewed Copernican turn,”—a lofty goal the program deems necessary for a planet being consumed by its own beneficiaries. The tuition-free program is similar in structure to Bratton’s previous three-year venture at Strelka, an urban think tank called The New Normal, that just wrapped up its research on interdisciplinary solutions on a future for urban design. 
Bratton and some of his former New Normal faculty are reemerging for the new venture, and turning the word “terraforming” on its head—usually used in reference to adapting other planets to human life, the initiative acknowledges that human activity harming the earth and our atmosphere will necessitate "terraforming" on our own planet in the possibly near future. Original research projects and proposed solutions will pull from areas such as planetary urbanism, global energy infrastructure, and speculative design, to name a few of the more accessible vocabularies.  Partnering with both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the new program is literally looking towards the future of design as a world-building game. The program and its students will use the vast Russian rural landscape as a study site, and, according to the website, “From here, [look] out into space and then back down to Earth to orient what 'planetarity' should mean."
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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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Indonesia will move its capital to Borneo

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who was reelected to serve his second term in office this year, announced last week that the country will move forward with plans to relocate its capital from the megacity Jakarta to the island of Borneo. As AN reported in May, the move will allow the Indonesian government to conduct its operations in a city that is less crowded and less congested than the current capital, which currently faces serious threats from natural disasters. The BBC reported last year that Jakarta is one of the world’s fastest sinking cities—a predicament that imperils its 10 million residents (30 million if you include the metropolitan area).

Widodo’s most recent announcement clarified some of the details of the move, including which province will host the new capital. East Kalimantan spans much of the eastern coast of Borneo—an island that Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei—and has three main population centers: Balikpapan, Samarinda, and Bontang. Rather than crowning one of the existing cities as Indonesia’s new capital, a new settlement will be built on government-owned land between Balikpapan and Samarinda. The location was chosen over Indonesia’s many other islands and provinces because of its location at the geographic center of the country and relative lack of natural disasters. While Java, Sulawesi, and other islands have been struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and major storms in recent years, East Kalimantan has sustained little damage. The province benefits from comparatively well-developed infrastructure but is also well-known for deforestation as palm oil plantations have expanded throughout Borneo’s jungles.

Perhaps looking to avoid accusations of escapism, Widodo has assured the Indonesian public that the relocation of the capital does not represent a wholesale abandonment of Jakarta. The metropolis will continue to serve as Indonesia’s financial center, and the national government will invest in measures to mitigate the effects of crippling traffic and climate change. Officials also hope that moving government operations out of the city will help to alleviate strains on the city’s infrastructure. Still, the relocation effort will be an expensive endeavor, with most estimates placing the total cost of moving the capital at 466 trillion rupiah, or $33 billion. Widodo has indicated that funding will come from a combination of public funds, state-run enterprises, private corporations, and public-private partnerships.

Even with the criticism that Widodo and local officials in Jakarta have faced over the city’s increasing dysfunction, moving the capital may seem like an extreme step, but several countries have made similar moves in history. The United States commissioned Pierre Charles L’Enfant to concoct a plan for a new capital city in 1791, which led to the development of what is now known as Washington, D.C. in a sparsely-populated swamp. In the 1950s, Brazil decided to relocate its capital from Rio de Janeiro to the hinterland, where it built the current capital city of Brasilia as a modernist beacon of the country’s progress. In many cases, including that of Indonesia, leaders have cited capital relocation as a strategy to bring investment to less developed parts of a country.

Still, the decision to move the seat of government away from Jakarta marks a significant moment in Indonesian history. Formerly known by its Dutch name Batavia, the port city has served as the nation’s capital since it gained full independence in 1949 and as the capital of the Dutch East Indies for centuries before that. In the precolonial era, the settlement served as the seat of several kingdoms and sultanates. 

Widodo and the Indonesian government have indicated that they intend to begin construction on the new city as early as 2021, with the actual relocation of the capital slated to begin in 2024.

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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.”