Australia has developed a tantalizing approach to curb humankind's carbon footprint. Since the country signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2007, it has been actively fighting to moderate air pollution and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australia continues to adopt mainstream tactics such as cutting down on deforestation and land clearing, and has recently revealed a new technology that promises to turn carbon emissions into green building materials. Factories are the main producers of global air pollution, as they are often to blame for the release of harmful chemicals and gases into the atmosphere. Six years of research conducted by the University of Newcastle, Orica, and GreenMag Group has resulted in the proposal of a pilot plan for the building of a factory that would convert greenhouse gas emissions into construction materials, such as bricks. The technology used in this process is groundbreaking: It transforms carbon dioxide emissions into solid carbonate. This biodegradable mass can either be disposed into the environment or can be used to create eco-friendly building materials. The factory will be built on the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources headquarters under the management of Mineral Carbonation International (MCi) and will use carbon dioxide from Orica’s Kooragang Island manufacturing facility in Newcastle. MCi will receive $9 million in funding over the next four years, and plans to use this capital in an attempt to introduce this modern technology into large-scale commercial projects. The factory would help diminish air pollution by mitigating the impact of human and industrial activity on the environment and generating renewable resources. By adopting such sustainable development projects, it would be possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the threat that climate change presents to our planet.
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On the roof of a construction site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn Monday, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the release of a new report outlining 69 rebuilding strategies designed to both help Hurricane Sandy–ravaged communities and to serve as a model for coastal regions across the country that are vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels. Close to the waterfront, the site overlooked the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant—one of the few sewage treatment facilities to survive Sandy intact. It was a fitting place for Secretary Donovan, who also serves as chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, to introduce this bundle of new recommendations that address both immediate and long-term needs of coastal communities, including resilient and region-wide approaches to rebuilding and infrastructure investment. A number of the initiatives in the report, such as HUD's "Rebuild by Design" competition, are already underway. "And today, less than a year after the storm, we've already provided help to over 250,000 families, and thousands and thousands of businesses across the region," Secretary Donovan said at the announcement. "FEMA alone has provided more than $12 billion of help. But we are not just focused on speeding relief to families and communities, we're also focused on protecting communities from the risks of a changing climate." While the task force has mapped out a range of far-reaching initiatives, it will refrain from dictating how local communities should use those resources. Secretary Donovan recalled that President Barack Obama told him, "No big foot," in one of their first post-Sandy meetings. "And what he meant by that, this is not about the federal government coming in and telling communities what they should build or how they should build. It is about us supporting local visions," Secretary Donovan continued. The funding, which is tied to different recommendations in the report, will come from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (Sandy Supplemental) and will be allocated and managed by various agencies and federal departments. Secretary Donovan said that the next "tranche" will focus primarily on infrastructure and is to be used at the city's discretion. A buyout program will be available to residents who live in coastal areas that are at particularly high risk, but the secretary said that this group makes up a small minority and most waterfront communities will be able to safely rebuild.
Resiliency is a word that has become lodged in the vocabulary of nearly every lawmaker since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast last October. And this month, government officials—on a local, state, and federal level—are taking steps to ensure that coastal cities are more resilient and rebuilt to better withstand natural disasters in the future. Yesterday, at a panel discussion on Innovation & Resilience Design in Sandy Rebuilding at NYU, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, announced the launch of a new regional design competition, "Rebuild by Design" seeking teams—made up of the top engineers, architects, landscape designers, and other experts—to propose projects that tackle issues such as climate, economic, and infrastructure (and as the press release states, "will actually be built"). These proposals can run the gamut from green infrastructure to residential retrofits. "It is not enough for communities to build back to what they were," said Secretary Donovan during the panel. "Our solutions will have no boundaries." Donovan is collaborating with the Rockefeller Foundation, which will provide $3 million in funding in support of the competition. The competition calls on teams to look at "coastal communities, high-density urban environments, ecological networks, and a fourth category that will include other innovative questions and proposals." Donovan explained that the competition will "unfold in four stages" starting with a call for proposals and the selection of up to 10 teams. Teams will then study the region and submit design proposals. From there, Donovan and his partners will choose a winning project, which will then be implemented. Speaking on the panel today, Seth Pinsky, President of New York City Economic Development Corporation, pointed out that the advantages of this competition are that it endeavors to "pull together inter-disciplinary teams for a common goal" and its savvy "regional approach" that looks at the relationship between each region to provide more thoughtful and effective solutions.
President Obama is expected to nominate Sally Jewell, the President and Chief Executive Officer of national outdoor retailer REI, to succeed Secretary Ken Salazar as the head of the Interior Department. Jewell, a former engineer for Mobil Oil and commercial banker, has run the $1.8 billion company for over a decade and has established herself as a strong advocate for land conservation. The Washington Post reported reported that she is one of the founding board members of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, and serves on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association. The Department of the Interior manages and protects the country’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, along with relations with tribal nations. As extreme weather patterns put climate change front and center of the policy debates in Washington DC, the Secretary of the Interior will take on an increasingly critical role this term.
Floods last spring in the United Kingdom have inspired a flood-resistant housing design that works with floodwaters instead of against them—homes that rise from their foundations with floodwaters and return to ground level once waters have dissipated. Baca Architects has proposed the first “amphibious house” in the UK, on the banks of the Thames River in Buckinghamshire, that if successful could reverse a decision to ban new construction in low-lying areas. The house will rest just over 32 feet from the river's edge at ground level making it possible for owners to enjoy gardens, but during an intense flood, predicted once every hundred years, the concrete base will rise as it fills with water lifting the home’s light timber frame, allowing it to float like a buoy. Four vertical posts keep the structure from floating away. The garden will be terraced at differing levels and will show rising water levels at each increment giving residents ample warning time to decide whether or not evacuation is necessary. Although still a fairly new technology, the first amphibious house was built in the Netherlands, while others are being built New Orleans. The design was so successful that Dutch company, Deltasync, has designed a series of floating cities to compensate for rising waters in low-lying areas. Baca Architects' design will have a life expectancy of 100 years and would be the biggest amphibious house at 2,420 square feet, but at around $2.5 million it is also 20 to 25 percent more costly than a traditional home of the same size. [Via Gizmag.]