The University of Miami School of Architecture Center for Community and Urban Design (CUCD) teamed up with Miami-Dade County and an innovative builder of net-zero housing to talk resiliency and sustainability with students in the COAST Academy at Cutler Bay Senior High School.
The lineup included Sonia Chao, director of the CUCD, who chaired the event and is an authority on resilient neighborhood design; Katherine Hagemann, the sustainability coordinator for Miami-Dade County, also an expert on resilient neighborhood design; Beatriz Baldan, the principal of 3-C Innovate and designer of net-zero housing and developments, and John Onyango, director of the UMSoA Master of Science programs and an expert on sustainable building materials and design.
The symposium gave an overview of climate change and sea level rise, and how they affect South Florida. The School of Architecture’s Chao laid out eight simple steps students can take to help mitigate and adapt to the changing climate, based on her years of work with the CUCD on resilient and sustainable design.
“Most of you are too young to vote, but being educated about what’s going on your community and voting to change things are important,” Chao said. “Curb your consumption – we produce twice as much waste per person as we did in 1980. Act to change things in your school and neighborhood. Plant a tree! And, of course, be sure to spread the word.”
Chao explained to the students that the three distinct concepts of mitigation, resilient design and climate adaptation will be key to the future of South Florida. “Resiliency and sustainability are closely associated and indicate a community’s capacity to ‘tolerate—and overcome—damage, diminished productivity, and reduced quality of life from an extreme event without significant outside assistance,” she said. “Mitigation refers to limiting the scale and rate of long-term climate change. By contrast, adaptation focuses on managing impacts of a changing climate.”
Hagemann went into more depth on the science of greenhouse gases and thermal expansion. She also discussed Miami-Dade County’s Green Print initiative, which is the county’s roadmap of aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3-C Innovate, Baldan’s company, has a mission to develop and build environmentally sustainable housing that is still affordable. She told the students about concepts like rainwater harvesting and natural landscaping used in her company’s home and property development to mitigate environmental impact, and explained that every home aims for gold LEED certification, and exactly what goes into attaining that status.
Onyango explained how something as simple as the directional layout of a home – which rooms face north, south, east or west – can affect its energy consumption, that most thermostats are set far lower than necessary and that renewable materials such as hempcrete can actually absorb carbon dioxide from the air. “The building sector is responsible for 36% of carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries,” he said. “Good design should be low emission.”