Posts tagged with "Sustainability":

EQUINOX Symposium | United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Join us on the 2019 Spring Equinox for the 3rd Annual EQUINOX Symposium. Established in March 2017 as a platform to advocate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the annual EQUINOX Symposium is dedicated to socio-economic-ecological impacts of sustainability. The initiative advances a diverse set of interdisciplinary programs -- catalyzing local and global collaboration among institutions of higher education, professionals, policy makers, stakeholders, community members, and advocates.
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Cornell symposium looks at architecture and construction post-waste

Can you imagine a world without waste? A world where the leftovers of today are easily turned into a delicious dinner tomorrow? Can such a world be designed? Such was the premise and the promise of the symposium Wasted: Design for the End of Material as We Know It, held at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning on March 8 and 9. The event’s organizer, Caroline O’Donnell, challenged practitioners, educators, and students not to wait until the end of a product’s life to passively recycle it. Instead, the entire lifecycle of materials could and should be accounted for at the beginning of the design process. In response to this prompt, the audience was treated to a wide variety of methods for reducing the production and consumption of new architectural resources. These were often framed and diagramed in the context of a “circular economy,” a system of exchange where the refuse of one practice becomes the raw material or capital for the next project or investment. Some proposals echoed the efficient forms and goals of modernism; Peter Van Assche, Sabine Rau-Oberhuber, and Billie Faircloth showed projects where the disassembly and reuse of building components were integral to the design. These schemes recalled the logic and the style of the Eames House, and of Walter Gropius’s General Panel Corporation from the 1940s. Juliette Spertus’s investigations into a faster, cleaner mode of moving garbage in cities via pneumatic tubes directly updated the systems approach to planning of the 1960s. Even Michael Ghyoot and The Living’s David Benjamin references to spolia, the ancient practice of mining elements from otherwise obsolete buildings, was positioned via the optimizing framework of digital cataloguing techniques. Other examples, like Meredith Miller’s “Post-Rock” project, presented a more playful if not more menacing vision of what living in a world made out of other people’s garbage might be like. Similarly, the strange, slumped, and bio-degradable designs shown by Maria Aiolova and David Benjamin offered an uncanny version of planned obsolescence, one that challenged the architectural myths of stability and perpetuity. The mycelium-based materials they have developed are designed to disappear back into the earth, literally nurturing it rather than defiling it. All present seemed to agree that what needs to be thrown away is the idea of waste as an inevitable byproduct of the design and construction process. Instead, waste was consistently repositioned as a resource to be creatively used. Clearly, there are many ways of designing with waste; some ways can make do with DIY tools and software, while others will need large capital investments. Also shared was the ethos of not taking no for an answer—not from city planners, or industrial and material engineers, or from business managers and consultants. Changing the status quo requires the development of even more optimistic acts of architectural disobedience. Surely, more of these can be imagined and designed.
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Over 600 citizen-architects meet with Congress members on Capitol Hill

Today more than 600 citizen-architects are lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to advocate for public policies that promote school safety and improved energy saving in buildings across the United States. As part of Grassroots 2019, an annual conference for AIA chapter leaders, these architects will meet with 135 members of Congress and 197 Congressional staff spanning 358 House districts in all 50 states. This event comes after the AIA has become more vocal in recent years about amping up architects' role in policymaking. Under 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante’s leadership, the organization pushed for members to take a seat at the table by getting involved with local efforts to create safer, healthier, and more equitable cities. Through both the individual efforts of its members as “architect-activists” and the overarching authority of the AIA itself, the group has put more stake into the public realm than ever before. From most recently coming out in support of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, to proposing legislative ideas that ensure safe school design to senior cabinet members at the White House, the AIA has not been shy about making sure elected leaders hear from architectural experts regarding some of the country's biggest problems. In November, the organization outlined six key issues it would address with the new Congress in 2019, two of which are being tackled on the Hill today. Of course, not all of the AIA's outspoken moments have satisfied all of its members. At times, people have taken to social media and other venues to oppose the national group, or to castigate the group for staying silent on design-oriented national issues. In recent months, however, the organization has seemed to be more committed to political advocacy. Today's collective meetings bring AIA representatives from across the country—real, diverse practioners—to D.C. to share their experience both living and working in the built environment. Not only that, but hundreds of local architects are also meeting with state officials to discuss these issues while others are using the AIA's virtual portal to express their voices.
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California’s Building Decarbonization Coalition plans to green building operations

While politicians in Washington, D.C., spar over the estimated costs of implementing a Green New Deal, California’s Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) is making a plan and taking action. The Sacramento-based group recently released a report, A Roadmap to Decarbonize California Buildings, which sets out a series of guiding principles and quantitative targets that could help the state meet its aggressive emissions reductions standards. As BDC’s name suggests, the group has targeted buildings, which in California produce roughly 26 percent of total carbon emissions, as a key area for improvement as the state works to eliminate carbon emissions entirely by 2045. California’s greenhouse gas emissions peaked in the early 2010s at nearly 500 million tons of pollution per year and have dropped slightly every year since. California even met its 2020 emissions goals several years early, mainly as a result of the ongoing build-out of previously-planned renewable energy infrastructure and due to the realization of energy conservation goals, among other efforts. But now, with the low-hanging fruit picked, reality is starting to set in: The road to zero emissions is going to be long and hard-fought, and California needs a concrete, coordinated plan to achieve its ambitious and necessary climate goals. But don’t let those early gains fool you. Despite the progress, Panama Bartholomy, BDC director said via press release, “building emissions spiked 10 percent nationally in 2018, driving one of the largest national emissions increases in decades.”  Bartholomy added, “Yet even here in California, the nation’s climate leader, there is no plan in place to address these emissions.” The BDC hopes to change that. While state legislators work steadily to make increasing density—which will reduce transportation-related emissions—a higher priority in California’s cities, BDC aims to fine-tune the ongoing use, operation, and maintenance of the new and existing buildings that fill those cities. It is expected that California’s building stock will increase by 30 percent between now and 2045, a key opportunity to lock-in carbon emissions savings for the long term if all goes according to plan. A key approach for achieving this aim in the building sector, according to the group, is to reduce and eventually eliminate the reliance on natural gas-powered appliances like stoves, furnaces, water heaters, and other elements in new construction and in existing buildings as they are upgraded over time. This way, as the state’s energy grid draws more of its juice from renewable sources, emissions will fall two-fold due to a decrease in the use of dirty fuels in appliances as well further savings generated through the production of the new green energy sources that power them. As with many of the efforts to transition toward a zero-emission society, however, the challenges are cultural as well as technological. Conventional construction methods and business operations favor fossil fuel-powered appliances, for example, while consumers harbor their own preferences for gas stoves and other household items. To shift tastes and practices, BDC advocates for incentives over punitive measures. The group’s three-pronged effort seeks to first spur new demand in renewable powered appliances via new policies, public information campaigns, and financial incentives that support wider adoption of sustainable approaches. Once that demand is built up, the group advocates for lowering costs of individual products, like high-efficiency heat pumps, for example, through additional financial incentives so that cleaner technologies and appliances can compete with conventional approaches across price points. After that, the group envisions targeted informational and incentive campaigns that ensure wide adoption of these approaches by low-income and other hard-to-reach groups. With debate over national decarbonization strategies taking shape, keep an eye on California’s efforts to rework its building sector. Crucial lessons are sure to emerge as the plan comes to life.

The University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning presents Building Better Futures: Innovations in Equitable Development

Cities have made a remarkable comeback, however large swaths of their populations are being left behind. Developers, lenders, advocates, and policy makers work to mitigate these disparities by creating innovative solutions and opportunity through equitable development. Now more than ever, new approaches are required to make cities places where individuals and families can thrive. At the center of making this work are initiatives that put equity at their core and strive to find the right mix of public, private, nonprofit, and grassroots policies, investments, and strategies that serve the needs of all residents and workers. In Building Better Futures: Innovations in Equitable Development, U-M Taubman College will convene experts at the forefront of designing, financing, developing and promoting better buildings, better outcomes and better futures for all across race, income, age, ability, household type and geography. This conference will examine the ground-breaking policy mechanisms, design innovations, and financial incentives that connect communities, build wealth, and create frameworks to promote equity across demographics. Join us as we investigate, define, and present solutions for social and equitable development to build better futures.
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Ancient technology gets an update in sustainable cooling solution

“The way we cool our buildings right now is totally wrong,” said Indian architect Monish Siripurapu in a video produced the United Nations' Environment program. The words are bleak, but arguably true; the electricity and hydrofluorocarbons most modern cooling systems demand ironically warm the planet overall while they cool our conditioned spaces. On top of that, with global temperatures rising and worldwide populations growing, demands for cooling are only increasing. More eco-friendly options are urgently needed, and Siripurapu’s New Delhi–based firm Ant Studio has proposed an affordable, scalable, sustainable, and aesthetically appealing solution to the problem of air conditioning. Ant Studio’s mission is to combine “art, nature, and technology,” and its temperature-regulating solution is designed to be as much an art installation as a cooling system. The Beehive, as the system's first iteration is called, was built to ameliorate high-temperature conditions for laborers at the Noida, Uttar Pradesh–based manufacturer Deki Electronics, where generators and other equipment output their own heat, adding to high outdoor temperatures. The Beehive is part of a larger exploration by the firm that leverages terracotta tubes and water as part of a low-energy cooling system. The Beehive, so-named for its honeycomb-like structure, follows an Indian tradition of using earthenware to cool water. “Traditional architecture has so much wisdom,” said Siripurapu. The ancient process has been wholly modernized, with tools such as computational fluid dynamics modeling, as well as the addition of low-energy water pumps and, if needed, electric fans. But instead of using fans with the Beehive installation, Ant Studio’s cooling device was placed right in front of the exhaust vents of the diesel generator near where workers at the factory were active. This was able to drop the “scorching” air being expelled from the generator from 122 degrees Fahrenheit to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, while lowering the overall temperature in the area and reportedly consuming 40 percent less energy than other cooling systems, not to mention using no refrigerants. The cooling system consists of arrays of open terracotta cylindrical cones (designed in such a way to maximize surface area and fired at “mid-level” temperatures to maintain the clay’s ability to absorb moisture from the air) over which water is poured. The water, which adheres to the clay, naturally lowers in temperature due to evaporative cooling, which in turn cools the air passing through the tubes. The water can be recycled throughout the system, requiring only infrequent topping off, and biofilms of microalgae that grow on the clay surfaces can actually aid in air purification, according to the firm. Further, as explained in an informational video from the firm, “all materials are recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable.” While the Beehive at Dika Electronics took on a particular nature-inspired form, the system can be designed in all manner of shapes and sizes, and is inherently modular, making fabrication and assembling on-site simple. The overall hope with the project is to devise a system that is functional and visually appealing at the same time.” Ant Studio views the cooling systems as a work of sculpture as much as a functional tool. The terracotta cooling systems also could have broader social impact. Besides being a cheap, energy-efficient way to cool factories and public spaces, the craft required to manufacture the tubes creates local employment and skill-building opportunities. It also keeps alive traditional manufacturing techniques that provide a unique, hand-hewn character that industrial cooling systems certainly lack. The clay-based materials also mean a net reduction in embodied energy for these cooling systems. Ant Studio has also proposed a smaller system which they’re calling ETHER, a cooling device for personal use and small spaces that resembles something like a cross between a Dyson fan and an ancient artifact. Ant Studio’s cooling projects were one of the twelve winners of the United Nations’ Asia-Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge and have been nominated for the Clean Energy Challenge from What Design Can Do, a “platform” and series of global conferences on design. Nominated teams are given the “opportunity to improve their project” with the final winners to be announced on March 6.
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AIA issues statement of support for proposed Green New Deal legislation

American Institute of Architects (AIA) president William Bates has issued a statement of support for the recently unveiled preliminary Green New Deal (GND) legislation.  In a press release, Bates said: 
We applaud the efforts of Congress and its committees this week to find new ways to support achieving a carbon neutral future by 2030, which is critical to our global future. By investing in infrastructure, upgrading the existing building stock, and improving resilience in the built environment, we can make progress towards AIA’s 2030 Commitment goals. However, there’s a great deal of work that needs to be done. AIA encourages Congress to swiftly enact public policies today that will address the dire consequences we’re facing.
The statement comes just days after a non-binding draft resolution calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the American energy grid was unveiled by New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts senator Ed Markey. Last week The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with architects from around the country to gauge what they would like to see included in an eventual plan.  According to the AIA press release, AIA members are scheduled to visit Congress on March 6 to advocate for legislative action on a range of initiatives related to climate change, resilience, and energy efficiency. As currently planned, the AIA delegation is scheduled to meet with several House and Senate committees, including the Energy & Commerce, Transportation & Infrastructure, Energy & Natural Resource, Environment and Public Works committees as well as the recently reinstated Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in an effort to “to achieve measurable outcomes.” AIA’s support for the GND follows the adoption of the organization’s 2030 Commitment, a program that seeks to “transform the practice of architecture in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project based, and data-driven” by prioritizing energy performance in order to make America’s building stock carbon neutral by 2030, a goal that is roughly shared with the preliminary GND legislation. A draft of the GND legislation calls for “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort, and safety,” among many other goals. 
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What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”

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Concrete production produces eight percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions

Concrete is perhaps the most prolific and malleable construction material in the world, but our continued dependence on it may be contributing to climate change more than was previously known. The English international affairs think tank Chatham House recently released a report that attributed approximately eight percent of the planet’s annual carbon dioxide emissions to concrete production. The chemical processes used to create cement, burning limestone and clay in a high-temperature kiln and grinding the result, contributes the greatest share of emissions (though the collection of sand, a commonly used aggregate, has its own problems). With the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) complete, a “rulebook” for enacting the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change was agreed on by the 23,000 international delegates present. Even with a guide in place for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the problem with concrete is that demand is only expected to rise. Currently, the world produces 4.4 billion tons of concrete annually, but that number is expected to rise to over 5.5 billion tons by 2050 as poorer countries rapidly urbanize, according to the Chatham House report. For the concrete industry to fall in line with the Paris Agreement’s targets, emissions will need to fall 16 percent from current levels by 2030. The report argues that target is already an ambitious goal. The production of Portland cement, the kind most widely used today, has remained largely the same since the 1800s. Limestone and clay combine in the kiln to form carbon dioxide and “clinker,” a substrate then mixed with limestone and gypsum to create cement. According to Chatham House, research into “alternative clinker” and low-carbon production methods has thus far been slow going. Less energy-intensive kilns, new types of clinker, carbon capture technology, and switching to renewable energy during the production process will all be necessary “to achieve CO2 reductions consistent with at least a 50 percent chance of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100," according to the BBC. Timber, which sequesters the carbon dioxide absorbed by trees over their life, has slowly but surely made strides in replacing concrete in some projects. High-rise timber buildings have gotten a green light in Oregon, and continued research into carbon-neutral (or negative) projects is continuing apace.
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Fort Lauderdale complex proves prefab affordable housing can bring the glamour

Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will be home to a new affordable housing unit as part of the collaborative work between Glavovic Studio and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an organization that delivers medical care and services dealing with HIV/AIDS to over one million people worldwide. Fort Lauderdale–based Glavovic Studio plans to transform one-and-a-half city blocks into a green, multi-functional neighborhood for locals to enjoy, all within walking distance of South Florida’s New River. The 3.4-acre design concept called “ON3RD” strives to tackle the nation’s affordable housing and homeless crises by providing fast access to cheap and environmentally friendly housing for low-income individuals. The “affordable residential development campus” will contain a 15-story residential tower, parking garage, and two preexisting service buildings owned by AHF. With the growing number of workers and residents in the area, as well as the steady increase of homelessness generally in the United States, there has been a rising demand for pedestrian and transit-friendly environments in downtown Fort Lauderdale, especially those that incorporate greenery, support infrastructure, and urban open space. Glavovic Studio sought to create a community that reflects the existing fabric of Fort Lauderdale, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades. The firm made sure to include multiple landscaped plazas, terraces, and micro-gardens in the site plan, contributing to the idea of a wholesome, walkable, urban space. While the housing units are designed to tie in seamlessly with the existing fabric of the city, its various zones and neighborhoods will provide visitors with a sense of being in a “city within a city.” The L-shaped residential building that serves as the focal point of the site will house 680 modular micro-apartments, including 260-square-foot-units and 400-square-foot-townhomes on its first four floors. These unit types were chosen primarily because they can be built efficiently using basic construction methods, and they include prefabricated interior bathrooms and kitchens, repeated window wall systems, and standard floor plates, all of which can be built off-site and installed into the building with ease. To diminish the building’s massive scale, its protruding balconies fluctuate at various angles to make it seem as though the structure is composed of a series of interconnected, smaller buildings. Glavovic Studio, which views sustainability as a core part of its philosophy, will layer the building with decorative masonry breeze blocks, which will not only give the structure a sense of texture and depth, but also regulate its exposure to sun and shadow in order to provide each unit with an abundance of shading and cooling. Because the breeze blocks will reduce the need for air conditioning systems, they will save energy and drastically lower the monthly electric bills for the residents. The jutting balconies provide shade and further lower the room temperatures of each unit, a necessary feature for South Florida's hot and muggy climate. “Working with AHF, we have looked far beyond architectural solutions to include political, social, and strategic approaches as well, including community partners and the public on affordable housing issues,” stated Margi Nothard, founder of Glavovic Studio, in a statement. “The ultimate goal is to create a model for a sustainable, economically viable and dignified solution to this entrenched problem.”
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Spokane, Washington, aims to be free of fossil fuels by 2030

The city council of Spokane, Washington, has adopted a new ordinance that would make it the second city in the state after Seattle to set the goal of being powered entirely with renewable energy by 2030. The so-called Fossil Free Spokane initiative will create a new Sustainability Action Commission in the city that will update Spokane’s Sustainability Action Plan to include a specific climate action roadmap aimed at reducing its fossil fuel consumption down to zero. The plan aims to do so by deploying a mix of community-benefitting sustainable energy initiatives that include creating a low-income solar program, expanding regional access to clean transit, and working with local utility providers to transition to renewable generation methods.  “Creating an electrical grid from 100 percent renewable energy is urgent, but requires collaboration across all sectors,” said Spokane council member Breean Beggs during a recent meeting. Beggs added that work was already underway with local utility Avista to “create a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to upgrading Spokane’s electrical grid.” The pledge will bring the number of American cities vying for 100 percent renewable energy generation to 79, a group that includes large, medium, and small-sized cities, including Salt Lake City, Utah, Sarasota, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, San Diego, California, and Concord, New Hampshire. These cities are all aiming to derive all of their energy from renewable resourced by 2030 or 2032, according to the Sierra Club. At the county level, nine counties have made the pledge, including Multnomah County, Oregon, Buncombe County, North Carolina, and Pueblo County, Colorado. The state of Hawaii has signed on to a similar promise, as well. Though it might seem like a pie-in-the-sky effort, five smaller American cities have already hit this lofty goal. Those cities are Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont, Greensburg, Kansas, Rock Port, Missouri, and Kodiak Island, Alaska.  A recent report by the environmental group CDP found that over 100 cities worldwide generate a majority—over 70 percent—of their power from renewable sources, up from just 42 in 2015. The report found that 40 cities worldwide are entirely powered by clean energy and that investment in renewable energy sources was highest across Europe, Africa, and Latin America, where billions of dollars in recent clean energy investments are remaking the energy portfolios around the world following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
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New York’s subway temperatures surge past 100 degrees

A study released by the nonprofit Regional Plan Association (RPA) last week found that temperatures in New York City’s busiest subway stations are soaring and that the average temperatures hover around 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Although temperatures climbed past 104 degrees at the Union Square station on 14th Street, solutions are stymied by the design of each station, aging infrastructure, and the trains themselves. The RPA surveyed 10 of the busiest stations in New York and found that the sweltering temperatures were exacerbated by the heatwaves that much of New York (and the world) have been experiencing this summer. The constantly late trains aren’t helping commuters either, as passengers have been forced to wait for longer periods of time on the platforms. Why exactly are these stations so hot? As the Village Voice explains, the city’s busiest stations are often its oldest and their design precludes centralized climate control; this is also the official reason given by the MTA. The trains themselves output a large amount of heat as well, both through their air conditioners as well as braking. Each full train weighs around 350 to 450 tons depending on the make and length, and the kinetic energy required to brake is converted to heat when a train stops at a station. The hottest stations surveyed were where trains idled the longest. The Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop in Tribeca was unsurprisingly featured as well, as the 6 train makes its last stop there then idles before departing on its uptown route. When WNYC surveyed 103 of New York’s stations during the July 2015 heatwave, the Brooklyn Bridge stop clocked in at 107 degrees. For its part, the MTA has pledged to keep the trains running more efficiently to reduce the time passengers have to wait on these overheated platforms. While the MTA tests new communication and signal technologies that could improve wait times and braking efficiency, New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford has pledged that most of the subway system will use communications-based train control by 2030. Still, as the climate warms, these types of heat waves are only going to become more common, and the fixes required to keep the city’s subway stations tolerable are solutions that will require long-term investments on par with the MTA's other sustainability initiatives.