On Friday, December 4th—while hundreds of officials gathered in Paris for the COP21 UN climate change conference—scholars, historians, scientists, architects, and designers came to Columbia GSAPP’s Avery Hall for a similarly urgent conference, “Climate Change and the Scales of Environment.” The urgency lies in the fact that buildings are accountable for approximately half of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States today. At the December 4 conference, the range of experts discussed this issue across multiple scales—ranging from a single molecule to the planet as a whole. At what scale should architects engage? And how do the different scales tie together? Dean Amale Andraos explained to AN that using these disciplinary questions of scale to enter a cross-disciplinary discussion on climate-change kept the conversation focused.
Posts tagged with "Climate Change":
Students at RISD imagine how a climate change museum in New York City could reclaim a vulnerable site
James Hansen, one of the world’s preeminent climate scientists, has issued an alarming new paper about the impacts of climate change—and the findings are way worse than what anyone expected. According to Hansen and the team of 16 scientists he worked with, sea levels could rise up to 10 feet over the next 50 years. “Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating,” conclude the scientists. “It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.” If Hansen’s predictions are right then many American coastal cities would be uninhabitable—but not everyone in the scientific community is convinced that they are. (The paper is not peer-reviewed and predicts a significantly more dire climate reality than the consensus agreed upon by the UN's International Panel on Climate Change.) With the clock ticking, perhaps faster than previously imagined, Miranda Massie, the founder of the Climate Change Museum Launch Project, is attempting to raise awareness about the changing climate with a museum solely dedicated to the issue. The institution, the largest of its kind, would be located in New York City. Massie said she wants to have it up and running by the end of the decade—a good idea considering that sea levels continue to rise, drop by drop. The New York Times reported that “the New York museum would aim to attract at least a million visitors a year and seek to influence the world, including political leaders in the United States. At the end of the tour, visitors would be encouraged to volunteer their time to help groups that are trying to address climate change: doing anything from making calls on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council to volunteering to help elect a candidate who is determined to reduce carbon emissions.” There are no immediate plans to start work on the project, but Next City reported that the New York State Board of Regents has granted the Climate Change Museum a five-year provisional charter. As for the building’s eventual design, students at RISD have some ideas. Anne Tate, a professor of architecture at the school who is married to Massie’s cousin, tasked her students with coming up with visions for the institution. The students were given a vacant site in Lower Manhattan that is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. "One student proposed to build a cavernous stormwater catchment system beneath the building," Next City explained. “Another proposed a smaller footprint and returned the rest of the site to wetlands. Many of the designs include solar panels, some incorporated urban farms, and all were sensitive to energy loads and orientation.” All of the students proposals can be found here.
When it comes to the urban impacts of climate change, said FIU College of Architecture's Marilys Nepomechie, Miami is "the canary in the coal mine." In addition to the perennial threat of hurricanes and the challenge of managing a hot, humid environment, AEC industry professionals must grapple with South Florida's increasing vulnerability in the face of rising sea levels. "As water levels go up globally, places like Miami are affected," explained Nepomechie. "This has implications for infrastructure, as well as our assumptions as to where public life happens in the city—at street level." But for Nepomechie and fellow architect and FIU College of Architecture associate dean John Stuart, Miami's position on the front lines of environmental change presents a set of opportunities as well as challenges. Continually updated in the wake of devastating storms like 1992's Hurricane Andrew, the region's building codes—especially with respect to glazing—have made it "a model in terms of hurricane preparedness," said Nepomechie. "While these are uniquely Miami's for now, we have an opportunity to solve problems that will be in other places soon," added Stuart, citing high-wind storms and high humidity as two areas in which South Florida is innovating. While for years architects, landscape architects, and engineers have looked to the Netherlands for answers to flood management, said Nepomechie, "Miami has the opportunity to be to the 21st century what the Netherlands has been to the century before." Nepomechie and Stuart, who will co-chair a panel on "Responding to the Environment: Sea Level" at September's Facades+ Miami conference, are looking forward to an in-depth discussion of designing for resilience with panelists Marcia Tobin (AECOM) and Enrique Norten (TEN Arquitectos). "What's exciting about Marcia is that she's trained as a landscape architect and environmentalist," said Nepochie. "Performance agendas ask architects, landscape architects, and a range of engineering disciplines [to work together]. Miami is a place where we have wonderful examples of these solutions." Norton, meanwhile, represents the challenge of translating architectural solutions designed for other climates to the Miami context. "Enrique brings an interest in building at the quality he's able to achieve elsewhere," said Stuart. "He's had to rethink building skins to maintain the [standard] he's accustomed to." To hear more from Nepomechie, Stuart, Tobin, Norten, and other movers and shakers in high performance envelope design, register today for Facades+ Miami.
Detroit's Water & Sewerage Department hopes an experiment in so-called blue infrastructure will help the cash-strapped city stop flushing money down the drain. The Detroit Free Press reported that a pilot project in the far east side area of Jefferson Village will divert stormwater runoff into a series of small wetlands and pieces of green infrastructure to reduce the pressure on an overloaded city sewer system. Such experiments in alternative stormwater management could save owners of large, impervious surfaces like parking lots tens of thousands of dollars each year in forgone drainage fees, while the city could save millions by scaling back or scrapping expensive, "gray infrastructure" investments like newer sewer pipes. But the plan, which is expected to be ready in a few months, is not a done deal, writes John Gallagher in the Detorit Free Press:
It is by no means a simple problem to solve. Multiple licenses and approvals would be needed from a variety of agencies, including the city itself, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others. But there is great enthusiasm among experts for trying the experiment. Blue infrastructure is a key recommendation of the Detroit Future City visionary framework and has been much talked about in recent years, but nothing of this magnitude has been done so far in Detroit. So far, "blue infrastructure" in metro Detroit has meant the creation of porous parking lots and so-called "green alleys" that allow rain and snowmelt to filter down into the ground beneath instead of running off into sewers.Across the nation urbanists and landscape designers are embracing innovative stormwater capture and retention techniques as concerns over climate change, flooding and drought collide with a renewed interest in public spaces and site design.
Eavesdrop> What Climate Change? Florida government allegedly bans the words “climate change” and “sustainability”
Florida officials have reportedly banned the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from using “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” in all official correspondence. According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, this “unwritten policy” went into effect in 2011, after Republican Governor Rick Scott took office and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as DEP director. In response to this story, a spokesperson for the department would only say that it “does not have a policy on this.” Rising sea levels are expected to affect 30 percent of Florida’s beaches over the next 85 years. Eavesdrop is no environmental scientist, but if that projection proves true, not mentioning its cause will not make it go away.
When it comes to responding to climate change, said Stacey Hooper, senior associate at NBBJ, architects have tended to be more reactive than proactive. "Our industry is so insular," she explained. "As a profession, we're really interested in the coolest, newest thing—not necessarily how we're going to support these bigger global challenges." Hooper had this in mind when she sat down with co-chair Luke Smith (Enclos) and the rest of the planning team to lay out the inaugural Facades+ LA conference, taking place in February in downtown Los Angeles. "We were talking about, 'Who are the influencers?'—not just in the building industry," recalled Hooper. "Where will real influence come from?" Hooper, who has practiced in California for more than a decade, includes government regulations high on the list of changemakers. "The state has been pecking away at energy consumption standards for 40 years," she noted. At the local level, Los Angeles has struggled to push through energy measures, water standards in particular. A representative from city government will deliver an introductory address on day 1 of Facades+ LA. "It seemed like a good introduction to a conference here to bring in a government body to talk about the necessity [of energy standards]," said Hooper. The tech industry has also made an impact, especially in California. "At NBBJ we see the influence of things like Silicon Valley; industry-driven change," said Hooper. "There's a need for high-tech workers, and they're being very demanding about what their environment is. That's a good thing because that demand drives change." Then there are the individual examples. Hooper mentions the Historic Green Village on Anna Maria Island in Florida, which achieved LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy for its first 18 months of operation. "You have these smaller influencers that build into something big," she observed. "These are all great role models for the profession. The client is another piece of the environmental puzzle. Hooper recalls working on ZGF's Conrad N. Hilton Foundation building in Agoura Hills, California, designed to exceed LEED Platinum Certification. When the mechanical engineer told the team that direct sunlight could harm the building's passive mechanical system, the architects followed up with a series of digital studies before importing an exterior system from Germany. "That's my benchmark I'm thinking about now," said Hooper. "When I get asked, 'Where's curtain wall going?' I say, "'It's not doing enough; let's start thinking about things in a different way.'" Thinking about things in a different way is where the architect comes into the picture, said Hooper. "It's a great privilege and a real challenge," she explained. "You need to be able to leverage design thinking to really serve the environment, and serve humans at an individual scale. That's what I love about working on envelopes: it starts at this big citywide level, then it manifests in these finite details in our built environment." To learn more about Facades+ LA or to register, visit the conference website.
As part of New York City's quest to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, Queens councilman Donovan Richards has introduced legislation that would force commercial buildings to switch their lights off after their occupants head home. The Daily News explained that the councilman's bill would limit light usage in 40,000 buildings across the city. Under this legislation, if those buildings don't flip the switch, they will be fined $1,000. Richards said he got the idea for his turn-the-lights-off-bill after visiting Paris which enacted a similar measure in 2012. While Richards can't quantify the exact impact of his legislation, the Paris plan removed about a quarter million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the air. The next question is obviously: What happens to New York City's skyline at night? Well, not much said Richards. He told Capital New York that the legislation would not apply to "iconic landmarked locations and buildings and zoned areas." The same goes for small business and storefronts, holiday displays, and buildings that need lights for security.
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced a second batch of cities in its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. The foundation launched the challenge last year as a way to support resiliency measures in cities around the world. This includes support to hire a Chief Resiliency Officer. One year after the first 32 cities were selected, another 35 have been added to the list, including six in the United States—Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tulsa. To see the full list, visit the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge website.
A collection of grain silos and railroad tracks next to the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus is set to become a “living laboratory” for climate resilience, according to its designers and allies in city and regional government. Prospect North would be a mixed-use development with a “science park,” library, business incubators and new industrial spaces all plugged into a local power grid dedicated to the eight-acre development. Sandwiched between Highway 280 and the TCF Bank Stadium northeast, the project benefits from the recently completed Green Line—an 11-mile line that connects the Twin Cities by light rail for the first time in decades. “We saw that development was going to happen here,” Richard Gilyard, an architect working on the plan, told Next City's Rachel Dovey. So, Gilyard continued, he and other residents of the nearby Prospect Park neighborhood rallied support for a new kind of development from the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Public Housing Authority, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and the University of Minnesota, and other local players. Gilyard and others saw the former industrial area as a proving ground for afuturistic, climate resilient neighborhood-scale technologies. “You don’t have this in Cambridge or Berkeley,” said Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, in a brochure for the project. “It’s a great opportunity for the Twin Cities to show what a 21st Century city could be like. How do we live? How do we educate ourselves? How do we live sustainably?” Prospect Park 2020 is still in planning phases. But its partnership with local agencies is rooted in previous climate action in the Twin Cities. Citing data from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the city's climate action plan warns Minneapolis could see a substantial increase in heavy precipitation due to climate change, as well as higher average temperatures. That could push already aging infrastructure past its breaking point. The plan also calls for Minneapolis to reduce energy use by 17 percent by 2025, in part by generating 10 percent of its electricity from “local, renewable sources.”
It had been a few days—maybe even weeks—since we’d seen a new report about the devastating impacts of climate change, but, as expected, that short streak has ended. The latest end-of-the-world-type report comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and let’s just say there’s a reason these scientists are so concerned. Their report, Encroaching Tides, found that the frequency of tidal floods in coastal areas will increase dramatically over the next 15 to 30 years. In some areas, that could mean flooding more than once a week. And it gets worse down the road. According to the report, in 2045, Philadelphia could experience over 200 tidal floods a year, Miami could have 250, and Washington, D.C. could reach 400. For context, D.C. currently has around 50 tidal floods a year. The report presents four key strategies for cities to boost their resiliency: upgrade at-risk infrastructure, stop building in vulnerable areas, consider benefits and risks of adaptation measures, and to develop a long-term vision. [h/t CityLab]
Five state capitals will get help from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop green infrastructure that could help mitigate the cost of natural disasters and climate change. Resiliency, whether it be in the context of global warming or natural and manmade catastrophes, has become a white-hot topic in the design world, especially since Superstorm Sandy battered New York City in 2012. EPA selected the following cities for this year's Greening America's Capitals program through a national competition: Austin, Texas; Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va. Since 2010, 18 capitals and Washington, D.C. have participated in the program, which is administered by the EPA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In each city, EPA will provide technical assistance to help design and build infrastructure that uses natural systems to manage stormwater. Here's a bit on each of the new projects via EPA:
· Austin, Texas, will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade. · Carson City, Nev., will receive assistance to improve William Street, a former state highway that connects to the city's downtown. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. · Columbus, Ohio, will receive assistance to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood that use green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling. · Pierre, S.D., will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions. · Richmond, Va., will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue, a street which serves as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
The International Union of Architects (UIA) has made a major commitment to do its part in the fight against climate change. At its recent World Congress in Durban, South Africa, the Union—which represents 1.3 million architects from 124 countries—universally pledged to eliminate carbon emissions from the built environment by 2050. The “2050 Imperative” was created by the non-profit Architecture 2030 and approved by the UIA on August 8th. If this pledge is met, it could have a serious effect on reducing the planet’s overall carbon emissions—70 percent of which come from cities. And since about 60 percent of the world’s building stock is expected to be built or rebuilt within the next 20 years, the UIA said it is presented with an “unprecedented opportunity” to bring carbon emissions to zero. “We recognize our responsibility to seize this unique opportunity to influence ethical, socially responsible development throughout the world: to plan and design sustainable, resilient, carbon-neutral and healthy built environments that protect and enhance natural resources and wildlife habitats, provide clean air and water, generate on-site renewable energy, and advance more livable buildings and communities,” said the declaration. To achieve this ambitious goal, the UIA agreed to the following actions:
- Plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings, to be carbon neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce, or import, from renewable energy sources.
- Renovate and rehabilitate existing cities, towns, urban redevelopments and buildings to be carbon neutral whilst respecting cultural and heritage values.
- In those cases where reaching carbon neutral is not feasible or practical, plan and design cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings, and renovations to be highly efficient with the capability to produce, or import, all their energy from renewable energy sources in the future.
- We commit to the principle of engaging in research and setting targets towards meeting the 2050 goal.
- Advocate and promote socially responsible architecture for the community.
- Develop and deliver equitable access to the information and tools needed to:
- Plan and design sustainable, resilient, inclusive and low-carbon/zero carbon built environments.
- Design no-cost/low-cost, on-site renewable energy and natural resources systems (e.g., passive heating and cooling, water catchment and storage, solar hot water, daylighting, and natural ventilation systems)