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Climate Crisis: The Latest Architecture and News

New York City Is Failing Its Citizens on the Environment

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

The new, online NYC Climate Dashboard confirms that New York City is not doing enough to meet its climate goals. What’s worse, the goals don’t measure up to the challenge citizens face. A growing consensus among scientists says the world has only until the end of this decade to avert catastrophic climate change. Here in New York, the biggest contributions to greenhouse gasses come from our buildings and our driving. As an architect and urban designer, John Massengale shares what he believes the world is missing and some significant changes that the world can make for the sake of future generations.

© Iwan Baan© Jermaine Ee on Unsplash . Image Central Parkvia Shutterstock User OscityCourtesy of NYC Municipal Archives+ 6

Self-powered Homes That Pay for Themselves by Producing Clean Energy

Courtesy of Cosmic Buildings
Courtesy of Cosmic Buildings

Now that the effects of climate change are visible and indisputable, consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever. In fact, as a United Nations 2021 study suggests, 85% of them reveal that sustainability plays a key role when making their purchase decisions, motivating businesses and manufacturers to respond accordingly. This explains the rising demand for electric vehicles and products made of renewable or recyclable materials. However, architecture – and especially traditional housing – seems to be several steps behind compared to other industries. Although there are numerous efforts to move towards a greener built environment, the way most buildings are made today continues to be outdated, creating tremendous amounts of waste and significantly contributing to the global carbon footprint.

The Real Problems of Today’s Design

Since the emergence of the design profession, boosted in the Industrial Revolution with the increasing production of objects and the desire of a middle class eager to consume; designers, interior decorators and architects are known as professionals who create spaces and products to beautify the world.

Photo by Brady Bellini via UnsplashPhoto by Chris Gallagher via UnsplashPhoto by Petr Magera via UnsplashPhoto by Sergei A via Unsplash+ 8

Climate-Smart Furniture: The Story Behind a 100% Sustainable Lounge Chair

Since the early 2000s, it has been widely reported that the construction industry accounts for nearly 40% of the planet’s CO2 emissions. The role of interiors in that percentage has been historically underestimated, with common statistics suggesting that a project’s furniture, fixtures and equipment are only responsible for about 7 to 10% of its overall carbon footprint. However, new research notably indicates the contrary: in a building’s average life span, the carbon footprint of its interiors will equal – if not exceed – that of the structure and envelope. Interior design, to the surprise of many, has actually been doing great harm.

Earth Day 2022: The World's Progress towards Achieving Sustainable Architecture

As the climate crisis continues to present itself as a significant threat to the future of the ecosystem and built environment, this year's IPCC report, titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, found that while adaptation efforts are being observed across all sectors, the progress being implemented so far is greatly uneven, as there are gaps between the actions taken and what is needed. On this year's Earth Day, we explore the progress being made by governments and architects to achieve net-zero operations within the next decades.

Hospital Sarah Kubitschek Salvador / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé).. Image © Nelson KonZero Cottage / David Baker Architects. Image © Matthew Millman Photography© Joe FletcherBee Bricks. Image Courtesy of Green&Blue+ 6

What Does the Future Hold for Coastal Cities Following the Aftermaths of Climate Change?

Coastal cities have always been a point of attraction for residents, tourists, and businesses. Alongside the aesthetic features, their proximity to the sea has made these cities a focal point for maritime transportation with the construction of ports, as well as hotspots for recreational and aquacultural activities. However, the past decades saw these particular regions threatened with a shortened lifespan; rising water levels, floods, and recurring cyclones, along with other natural disasters, have endangered coastal communities, putting their population, ecosystem, and built environment at risk. 

Aarhus Harbor Bath / BIG. Image © Rasmus Hjortshøj - COASTUNESCO Removes Liverpool’s World Heritage Status. Image Courtesy of Broadway Malyan, © webbaviation.co.ukUrban Requalification of the Colina Sagrada do Senhor do Bonfim / Sotero Arquitetos. Image © Leonardo FinottiChina's Sponge Cities. Image © Turenscape via Euronews+ 8

Understanding the Scales of Carbon Emissions: Who Makes the Most Impact?

Carbon footprints and CO2 emissions are large topics in our conversations about how we create a more sustainable future. Over time, different companies, organizations, and individuals have pledged to alter their lifestyles and habits to make changes that show that they are dedicated to combating climate change. Especially in the design industry, where buildings generate nearly 40% of annual CO2 emissions broken down between daily operations and construction/demolition, architects have long been feeling the pressure of exploring ways to prove that we are doing our part.

When we take a look at the different scales of emissions, one question commonly occurs- how can we measure the different levels of impact? Is it on us individually to recycle and ensure we never use plastic straws again? Does this even have a major impact? Do more car manufacturers need to find alternates for gasoline-fueled automobiles? Do architects need to only source sustainable materials? What are the actionable steps that truly have an impact?

Can Exterior Green Walls Contribute to a Carbon Neutral Architecture?

London's Largest "Living Wall" / Gary Grant. Image Courtesy of Green Roof Consultancy and Treebox
London's Largest "Living Wall" / Gary Grant. Image Courtesy of Green Roof Consultancy and Treebox

A carbon neutral building is achieved when the amount of CO2 emissions is balanced by climate-positive initiatives so that the net carbon footprint over time is zero. Considering their unmatched ability to absorb CO2, planting trees is often viewed as the best carbon offsetting solution. But as cities become denser and the amount of available horizontal space for green areas drastically reduces, architects have been forced to explore other approaches. Therefore, to address these climatic challenges and connect people to nature, exterior green walls have become a rising trend in increasingly vertical cities. Even if there is research to claim that these can positively impact the environment, many question if they can actually contribute to a carbon neutral architecture. Although the answer may be quite complex, there seems to be a consensus: green walls can be effective, but only through good design.

The IPCC’s Latest Report Highlights the Impacts, Adaptations, and Vulnerabilities of Climate Change

Following an extensive report on the impacts of climate change last year, the second installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nation's body for assessing the science related to climate change, addresses the current and anticipated impacts of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities across the globe, along with action plans on how the natural world and human societies could adapt to these changes before reaching an "irreversible" state.

Support / Lorenzo Quinn. Image via Pixaline (pixabay.com); bob license Creative Common© Alejandro Luengo on Unsplash . ImageMiami shorelineopen pit mining in Augsburg, Germany.. Image © Tom Hegenvia Shutterstock by ArboursAbroad. ImageAerial View of the Almeda Wildfire in Southern Oregon+ 6

Reimagining the Possibilities for Affordable Housing in a Climate Risk Environment

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Affordable housing has become an increasingly dire global issue. Be it rent or homeownership, the unaffordability of homes has been on the rise. A look at U.S. Census data illustrates a sharp decline in homeownership in recent decades. Although Millennials were the most populous generation by 2019, they only contributed to homeownership at a rate of 47.9%. Contrastingly, Gen-X’s homeownership rate stood at 69%, following the silent generation at 77.8%. Trends of generational decline in homeownership are mirrored in other parts of the world, such as in the U.K. where rates have steadily dropped from 71% in 2003 to 64% by 2018. Many experts point to affordability as a large reason for this decline.

As Climate Becomes Extreme, How to Deal with the Building Envelope?

House with Gable / mia2/Architektur. Image © Kurt Hörbst
House with Gable / mia2/Architektur. Image © Kurt Hörbst

When talking about energy efficiency in buildings, it is inevitable to mention thermal insulation. We rarely see it in a finished building and, even in the technical drawings, the insulating layer appears as a thin hatch. But this is an element that is of vital importance, as it acts as a barrier to the flow of heat, hindering the exchange of energy between the interior and the exterior, reducing the amount of heat that escapes in winter and the thermal energy that enters in the summer. In a building with good thermal insulation, there is less need for heating to keep the house at a pleasant temperature, also reducing its carbon footprint. Currently, there are many countries that require a minimum level of thermal insulation for buildings, with increasingly strict parameters. But how should this issue be dealt with in the near future, with the worrying climate crisis forecast?

Agro-Waste Design: Husks, Bagasse and Straw Transformed into Efficient Building Materials

The concept of upcycling refers to taking an item that would be considered waste and improving it in order to make it useful again, adding value and new functionality to it. This is a common word in several industries, such as fashion and furniture. In civil construction, this concept can also be incorporated, making the waste generated by the industry itself recirculate or even bringing what would be discarded from other industries to be processed and incorporated into constructions. This is the case of transforming agricultural waste into building materials, bringing a new use to discards, reducing the use of raw materials and creating products with excellent characteristics.