Last Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner revealed plans for a multi-billion-dollar initiative designed to prepare the city against future climate change-related disasters. The 186-page document, Resilient Houston, elaborates on methods the coastal city can adopt to become better prepared for future storms, sea-level rise, and the urban heat island effect. “Houston, as the energy capital of the world, must lead the global energy transition,” Turner writes in the document’s introduction. “If we do not, we will jeopardize our regional economy and prosperity for generations of Houstonians.” To address the 667-square-mile city as a whole, Resilient Houston is divided into five scales: people, neighborhoods, bayous, the city, and the region. Each scale is met with a number of corresponding goals that includes “expanding access to wealth-building and employment opportunities,” “building up, not out, to promote smart growth as Houston’s population increases,” and “transforming city government to operationalize resilience and build trust.” The plan also proposes the planting of 4.6 million trees throughout the city, the removal or replacement of homes in particularly flood-prone areas, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Preparation for Resilient Houston began shortly after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city in August 2017. “One year after Harvey,” Turner explained, “we were not only focused on our recovery, but on the transformative change that comes from thinking and acting holistically to build and grow our long-term resilience.” The city received a direct allocation of $61 million following the development of a climate change resiliency proposal in November 2017 that called for enhanced infrastructure measures and the buying out homes in especially vulnerable areas of the Houston-Galveston region. According to the Houston Chronicle, the plan was pushed forward in the last year thanks to the recent appointment of Marissa Aho as the City’s Chief Resilience Officer last February. Aho previously helped craft a resiliency plan for Los Angeles, a city with a population density and reliance on automobiles similar to that of Houston. With a $1.8 million grant from Shell Oil, Resilient Houston allowed the city to gain membership in the 100 Resilient Cities, a program developed by The Rockefeller Foundation that provided funding, capacity building, and technical assistance for climate change resiliency around the world before concluding in July 2019.
Posts tagged with "climate resilience":
On May 17, 2018, BSA Space will premier NatureStructure, a global overview showcasing more than 30 architectural and design projects that work in harmony with nature to heal and restore ecosystems and make cities more resilient and sustainable. Curated by Scott Burnham, the creator of Reprogramming the City, with exhibition design and curatorial assistance by Samantha Altieri, NatureStructure will feature a vast array of international projects that weave built projects with nature and natural functions to enable cities and regions to function as living systems. The works on display include the US premiere of the Delfland Sand Motor, a feat of engineering that uses coastal tides to distribute sand along the coast of the Netherlands to reverse erosion and protect against sea level rise; Pop-Up, a revolutionary parking garage by Denmark’s Third Nature that rises in the city scape as its base absorbs rainwater overflow; and 3D printed reefs and seawalls by Australia’s Reef Design Lab to repopulate Sydney Harbor sea life and counter the depletion of reefs in the world’s oceans.
It's been almost five years since Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York, and the city has been steeling itself for the next storm ever since. In that spirit, the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) is working with residents and property owners to update the emergency flood zoning it chartered right after Sandy. The proposed Flood Resilience Zoning Update comes after the agency released its climate change design guidelines in June. In revisiting its 2013 post-Sandy rules, DCPs' ultimate goal is to create a zoning text amendment that will help flood-proof the whole city for 2018 and beyond. Both the zoning initiative and the design guidelines are being carried out under OneNYC, the mayor's sustainability plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets building standards in vulnerable areas based on the flood risk maps it produces. Cities are required to design standards around those maps. The code requires residential living spaces to be about the flood elevation, and ground-floor commercial buildings to be waterproof.D DCP released a video, linked below, to explain the thinking behind the proposed zoning. To the city, resilience planning includes creating offshore landforms and wetlands that diffuse powerful waves, installing bulkheads and seawalls, embedding utilities in waterproof casings, and promoting flood-resistant new construction. Flood-resilient zoning can lower the risk of floods that occur regularly in some areas and help communities plan to adapt to rising sea levels, but retrofitting is a challenge. Raising homes out of the floodplain can be expensive and foiled by existing zoning the city is working to change. The video cautions owners that this is especially true for larger buildings or attached structures: By moving their ground floor living spaces up, owners might lose a part of their house or whole apartments in multi-unit dwellings. The loss, though, is meant to mitigate future risk. Today, the city estimates that there are 71,500 buildings and 400,000 residents in the one-percent-annual-chance floodplain, areas that could be totally devastated by a 100-year flood. By the 2050s, there could be over 800,000 people in the floodplain (the city maintains online flood risk maps that help residents determine if they live in a flood-prone area.) The DCP is holding community outreach events in vulnerable communities through the end of 2017 and 2018; information on upcoming meetings can be found here.
Last September, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism. I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Luke Leung, director of sustainable engineering for SOM. In Shanghai's Jin Mao Tower (an SOM building), we talked air quality, sustainable design metrics, and whether humanity might be able to build ourselves out of the environmental mess we find ourselves in. "The tall building can help to create better health and potentially less carbon emissions in the city per capita," Leung said, but he added it's important to address the issue holistically. We need to reduce emissions associated with embodied carbon, transportation carbon and operating carbon, Leung said: “We need to strike to make those three components to be all approaching net-zero.” Asked if LEED is still the best way to rank green buildings, Leung acknowledged shortcomings in how we talk about sustainable design. “It's amazing that the focus is on energy and water, while the building is designed for human beings,” he said. And he called for more attention to human-centric systems that address human health: “From that standpoint all the green building systems, they have room for improvement, but LEED is one that starts addressing some of those issues.” Finally, in light of technological progress, Leung stressed humility before nature. “[To] go back and listen to the basic laws of nature is our best bet,” Leung said. “But that time is limited.” Watch more videos on CTBUH’s website, and on YouTube. You can subscribe to their monthly video series here.
Last September, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat invited me to serve as the special media correspondent for its Shanghai symposium, entitled Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism. I conducted video interviews with dozens of architects, developers, building managers, and others on topics relevant to tall building design and sustainable urbanism. Among the many designers, engineers and other tall building types I interviewed was Christopher Drew, director of sustainability for Chicago's Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. In Shanghai's Jin Mao Tower, we talked about responsive design and environmental technology—everything from greenery and air quality to geothermal energy and the possibilities of net-zero skyscrapers. “It's not going to suddenly happen, it's going to happen incrementally,” he said of net-zero tall buildings. “I absolutely believe it's possible.” His comments on disaster and climate resilience were also revealing. In addition to buildings being resilient, Drew said communities need to be able to react to changing weather patterns—perhaps by relocating or changing local land-use and zoning patterns. Ultimately the sustainability director for the firm behind Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower and 215 West 57th Street in New York City was hopeful. “We do have a whole opportunity to build our way out of this, but we can't do it just on our own,” he said. “It has to be through collaboration with the supply chain … we also have to work with the legislators.” Watch more videos on CTBUH's website, and on YouTube. You can subscribe to the monthly video series here.