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Stacy Smedley/Skanska
Achieving Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Targets through Life Cycle Carbon Accounting

Climate change is the existential crisis of our time. The design and construction industry has responded to this challenge with a wave of green buildings that have reshaped expectations for environmental performance of the built environment, striving to meet increasingly stringent energy codes, rating systems, and greenhouse gas reduction targets. However, we are only solving the problems that we are looking at, and we are not seeing the whole picture. The substantial up-front carbon emissions associated with the production of building materials and construction have gone largely uncounted, as have those associated with demolition—but they are no less real and just as significant. New, high-performance buildings are designed to reduce emissions over the life of a building, but when will that payoff occur? Thirty years from construction? Fifty? Unfortunately, we cannot wait fifty or even twenty years for our new, efficient buildings to save us. Design and construction practices must be dramatically and immediately reshaped to drive down emissions associated with all stages of a building’s life—including materials, construction, and demolition—in order to meet critical global climate goals.

The Urgent Need to Reduce the Life Cycle Carbon Footprint of Buildings

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement established the necessity of capping global temperature rise to well below 2° Celsius, setting the target at 1.5°. In order to achieve that target, the world needs to get to net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. According to the 2018 UN Environment Emissions Gap Report, we are not on track to meet this goal [i]. In fact, we must now reduce global emission by 50% by the year 2030 to have even a 50% chance of meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement [ii].

At a global scale, building construction and operations account for approximately 39% of carbon dioxide emissions annually [iii]. We are also projected to build an astounding 2.5 trillion square feet of new construction globally by the year 2060 [iv], roughly doubling the current square footage of existing buildings. This is an extraordinary figure, and it means that building owners and professionals in the construction sector have a substantial opportunity and responsibility to reduce building-related carbon emissions to respond to the climate crisis.

The paradigm of sustainable design has for decades focused on reducing operational energy, with ultimate goals of net zero or even net positive carbon. This approach has driven energy reduction goals in codes, rating systems, and even carbon mitigation plans. While reducing operational carbon is a critical component to driving down carbon emissions in the built environment, “net zero” used in this context is a misnomer. The definition of net zero in the United States only includes the carbon emissions associated with the use phase of the building, also known as operational carbon, while excluding emissions associated with all other stages of a building’s life cycle, such as up-front carbon emitted during the production of materials and building construction, also referred to as embodied carbon, and emissions associated with end-of-life.

While we have made strides in reducing the operational energy of buildings, with an average global reduction of 1.5% annually [v], the impacts of embodied carbon have been overlooked. These embodied impacts were for many years thought to be negligible; however, it has become increasingly apparent that they are not insignificant. Embodied carbon contributes at least 11% of all global carbon emissions annually—and this percentage is increasing. In fact, projections made by the nonprofit research organization Architecture 2030 show that by the year 2030, embodied emissions will account for 74% of total emissions from all buildings constructed after 2020. As buildings meet higher performance standards and the grid becomes greener, operational carbon will continue to decrease, and embodied carbon will represent an increasingly large percentage of total life cycle emissions.

Because sustainable design practices have responded to what our industry has measured to-date—operational carbon—our industry has primarily focused on new, high-performance construction. This has reinforced the misconception that new buildings are good for the environment while existing buildings are energy hogs that should be demolished and
Gensler
An urbanizing world has put commercial real estate practices in the spotlight. Gensler’s Co-CEO’s Diane Hoskins and Andy Cohen discuss the ways the industry can lessen its climatic stress.

Mass urbanization and commercial real estate’s climate impact demand strong action by designers, urban planners and architects, developers and legislators around the world. It’s also a subject that Gensler has taken very seriously: the Gensler Cities Climate Challenge (GC3) outlines the firm’s commitment to design all their projects to net-zero standards by 2030; and addressed it in their recently released Design Forecast “Shaping the Future of Cities.” Diane Hoskins and Andy Cohen, Co-CEOs at the leading global design firm, spoke to GlobeSt.com about the real estate industry’s most urgent climatic challenges and how CRE stakeholders are responding.

GlobeSt.com: How has CRE’s climate impact changed and how much will that burden expand in the future?

Diane Hoskins: The growth of cities creates so much more of a need to focus on buildings, which account for 40 percent of CO2 emissions in cities. Cities overall create 70 percent of CO2 emissions even though they’re only 2 percent of the world’s land mass. Since 1990, we’ve seen a 70 percent increase in the number of people living in cities (to 3.8 billion). That obviously means more CRE in our cities and thus more CO2 emissions.

Andy Cohen: We are adding about 1.5 million people to cities every week for the foreseeable future, and 80% of the world’s GDP is in cities. More than half of the global population is now concentrated in urban areas, and by 2060 two thirds of the expected population of 10 billion will live in cities. The way we design, build and operate new buildings, and how we reposition existing buildings to be more efficient are critical factors in our global efforts to address climate change and the effects of climate change.

GlobeSt.com: What are the biggest climate concerns and how can cities be more resilient in response?

Cohen: Cities are at the forefront of these issues, dealing with the real-time impacts of weather events, rising sea levels, migration, and resource scarcity. Ninety percent of the world’s urban areas are on coastlines, so they are increasingly at risk. Working together, governments, institutions, and investors can anchor city planning in resilience to produce tangible, positive impacts on people’s lives, jobs, health and well-being.

Hoskins: A multi-pronged effort regarding material choices, building retrofits and new construction standards is required. For existing buildings, how we upgrade systems and the building envelope from both a thermal and energy-generation standpoint is critical, using new types of glass and even brick and other types of veneers that sequester carbon.

GlobeSt.com: What impact is climate change having on the real estate investment sector?

Hoskins: At the 2019 ULI Fall Conference, one of the panelists talked about increasing coastal risk from rising seas. The investment sector in coastal US markets is really beginning to sound the alarm and take a harder look at the 10-, 20- and 30-year time horizon with regard to the risk and resilience of locations. We’re in the mode now of resilience thinking versus prevention. For example, in Miami it’s not about trying to stop sea level rise, but rather adapting to changing conditions. This includes having walkways at the second level and having entries that may be on the ground level but that are built with materials that can withstand the water. And in order to ensure that there isn’t a cataclysmic level of warming and flooding, it’s critical to address greenhouse gas emissions through building sector choices. Going to net zero can help keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius from now until 2050.

GlobeSt.com: What are the biggest CRE challenges to meeting and exceeding net zero carbon standards?

Cohen: We need to address everything from operational energy and the materials we choose, to how people travel and where we decide to build. We need our cities and governments to set goals in their cities and then take concrete steps to achieve them. We need investment from the private sector to assist with the gap in resilient design and high-performance measures, because the returns on these investments take time. And we need our cities to create densified zoning to encourage green development. We need all parties involved in development to design for zero carbon starting now and as desig
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Steven Bingler is a New Orleans-based architect and planner and founder of Common Edge Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that advocates planning and design engagement with the public. Martin C. Pedersen is executive director of the organization.

Hundred-year floods. Record-breaking Antarctic heat. Wildfires and drought. The stories appear with numbing regularity. And though the details differ, they all point to the same grim conclusion. We’re failing to address climate change. With carbon emissions continuing to rise, what were once dismissed as worst-case scenarios now look like the best we can hope for.

If Plan A was to prevent, or at least mitigate, the most serious impacts of climate change, what’s Plan B?

In our Plan-A world, architecture and planning has become focused on the idea of “resilient” design. But continuing to talk about “resilience” in the face of ever-worsening projections is its own form of climate denial. It’s time for planners to begin replacing the R-word of the moment with a now not-so-unthinkable one.

Retreat.

According to a recent paper in the scientific journal Nature Communications, some of the earlier projections of population displacement from sea-level rise are probably way too low. Around the world, instead of some 50 million people being forced to move to higher ground over the next 30 years, the oceans will likely rise higher than predicted, with a coastal diaspora at least three times larger; by 2100, the number of climate refugees could surpass 300 million. Indeed, sea-level rise looks likely to be measured in yards and meters, not inches or feet.

Where will all of these displaced people go? Can they be accommodated in existing cities, towns and villages? Which cities will we defend? Which will we surrender? Who will decide? These are unprecedented design and planning challenges that our society hasn’t begun to think about, let alone plan for. Given the increasingly dire outlook, we believe it is time to start.

In recent years, we’ve seen countless climate-resiliency schemes featuring bioswales, rain gardens, retention ponds, earth berms, levees, sea-wall barriers, even oyster beds. All of these strategies are useful, but they come with a big “if.” They will help protect our coastal cities if we also cut our carbon emissions in time to mitigate even worse impacts of climate change.

Both of us live in New Orleans, a city that is below sea level but that is not at all inclined to give up. But for the sake of future generations, we need to honestly assess the threats ahead and plan accordingly. Planners are expected to operate within multiple time frames, and the challenge today is even trickier. We must continue to wage the political fight to rein in and eventually eliminate fossil fuels, while at the same time remaining clear-eyed about what needs to happen should our best efforts fail. Doing both is the only responsible course of action.

It is not overly alarmist to start thinking about exit strategies that work under the most severe scenarios. Moving existing cities, retrofitting old ones for explosive growth, creating new settlements and mitigating thousands of miles of polluted shorelines will be expensive and complicated. Even if properly planned, this will be a messy and even brutal process; if unplanned and ad hoc, in all likelihood, it will descend into a chaos straight out of science fiction.

Steven’s firm, Concordia, led the politically and emotionally charged planning process in post-Katrina New Orleans, a city with a pre-storm population of 485,000. (Today, that number stands at about 390,000.) That was certainly a difficult and unprecedented effort, but it was nothing compared to the simultaneous challenges facing coastal towns and cities in the decades ahead. And our problems don’t stop at the water’s edge. Many places inland will see water become increasingly scarce, putting immense stress on settlement patterns and agriculture. Mass migrations will inevitably become a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.

Sadly, few of our politicians will “go there” yet, because their planning for the future extends precisely as far as the next election. It’s time for architects and planners to sound the alarm. Time, in other words, to get real.

The irony is that as we dawdle, energy and insurance companies, along with
JESCE WALZ, PERKINS AND WILL
It has been a banner year for Kate Simonen and her burgeoning band of embodied carbon busters, bent on reducing the negative environmental impacts of building production. On Nov. 19, Simonen and her EC-reduction champions debuted the first free-to-use digital tool to calculate EC in materials. The same day, Marin County, Calif., approved the nation’s first low-carbon concrete building code. And after a slow start in 2017, the free-to-join Embodied Carbon Network finally gained traction.

As founding director of the decade-old Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) at the University of Washington, Simonen has been stirring all three pots. “Kate is our figurehead,” says Wil V. Srubar, a professor of engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and an ECN co-chair with Simonen and Erin McDade, senior program director of Architecture 2030. “It’s been a wild ride the last 12 months, and Kate has been a great driver,” he adds.

EC, the sum total of greenhouse gases emitted from material extraction to the jobsite, “is an entry point to acknowledge that we need to completely decarbonize” the buildings sector—not just operational carbon, says engineer-architect-researcher Simonen, also a professor in the university’s department of architecture.

Perhaps Simonen’s biggest EC-reduction coup is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. “EC3 is transformative,” says Ari Frankel, assistant vice president at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, one of six developers piloting EC3.

CLF incubated EC3 through a $713,000 grant from the Charles Pankow Foundation and other sponsors. Simonen is lead investigator, with teammates Phil Northcott, Change Labs CEO; Stacy Smedley, a director of sustainability for Skanska USA; and Don Davies, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates.

While incubating EC3, Simonen also helped create Marin County’s low-carbon concrete code—spearheaded by Top 25 Newsmaker Bruce King—by leading its steering committee. She was “instrumental” in creating consensus among diverse stakeholders, says Alice Zanmiller, a planner for Marin County’s sustainability team.

In 2017, CLF created ECN to scale up the movement. A global and virtual communication platform for practitioners, educators, government officials and material producers, ECN is driving grass-roots change, including local policy initiatives.

Last year, the group grew from 600 to 1,800 members, located in 166 cities in 22 nations. Local chapters that hold in-person workshops sprang up in Seattle, the Bay Area, New York City, Boston and Vancouver, B.C. Chapter discussions are underway in Austin, Atlanta, Toronto and the Denver-Boulder area.

A native of Livermore, Calif., Simonen studied architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and then received two master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley—one in structural engineering and the mechanics of materials in 1991, and the other in architecture the following year.

While in practice, Simonen learned about using fly ash to lower concrete’s cement content. Later, she tried calculating the carbon footprint of green prefab homes imported from China. Eventually, she realized she was interested in research. In 2009, she landed at the university. Soon she had mastered environmental-impact life-cycle analyses for buildings.

Funded by its 42 member firms, CLF is “informing, inspiring and enabling” buildings professionals to reduce and ultimately eliminate EC. Currently, CLF is rallying green-building groups to collaborate and reduce duplicate efforts.

Even with EC-reduction progress, Simonen doesn’t expect to see any meaningful impact on the environment for at least 10 years. Still, she soldiers on, saying, “we have to try to make a difference.”
Manim8/Blendswap, TheStranger/Blendswap
And no amount of data or complex modeling will rectify the building industry’s staggering impact on the environment. Design culture itself needs to change.

For the past eight years, I’ve spent every day of my professional life enabling an industry that is responsible for nearly 40% of global climate emissions. I don’t work for an oil or gas company. I don’t work for an airline. I’m an architect.

The environmental impacts of the built environment are staggering. Although it’s become mainstream to discuss energy efficiency and advocate for minimizing those impacts, architects, engineers, and planners have yet to truly reckon with the magnitude and consequences of everyday design decisions. Not only do we burn fossil fuels to heat and cool most buildings, but construction itself is responsible for plenty of global emissions. Construction requires massive amounts of concrete, steel, aluminum, and glass—all of which are carbon-intensive materials. Their emissions extend up and down the supply chain, crossing property boundaries, economic sectors, and markets. While architects are not fully responsible for steel manufacturing or concrete production per se, there is a direct line from the material specifications that architects write to the steel mills of China, the coal mines of Appalachia, the brick kilns of India, or clear-cut forests in the Pacific Northwest or the Amazon.

It is time for the design community to come to terms with carbon and climate change—both the reality of our shared climate emergency and the very personal implications of the building industry’s role in perpetuating it. Only then can we do the hard work of connecting our climate concern with our day-to-day actions, transforming guilt into collective change.

FOCUS ON CARBON
Broadly speaking, there are two ways of measuring the emissions caused by buildings: operational carbon (the emissions associated with energy used to operate a building) and embodied carbon (the emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole life cycle of a building).

Programs such as LEED, Passive House, and the Living Building Challenge focus on decreasing the former—operational carbon. This is a laudable goal; after all, building operations account for 28% of global carbon emissions, and improving the energy efficiency of buildings through widespread electrification and through decarbonization of the energy grid is essential.

However, we’ve come to recognize that it is not enough for architects and engineers to focus solely on operational carbon. For decades, we have been ignoring the role of embodied emissions in global carbon budgets.

Embodied carbon from building materials and construction currently represents at least 11% of global carbon emissions, much of which can be attributed to just three materials: concrete, iron, and steel. However, that seemingly small slice of the full carbon pie can be misleading. Global construction is proceeding at an incredible pace—with roughly 6.13 billion square feet of construction each year and global building stock expected to double in the next 30 years. When we look at new buildings anticipated to be built between now and 2050, embodied carbon, also known as “upfront carbon” because it is released before a building is even occupied, is projected to account for nearly half of total new construction emissions. For practicing architects, engineers, policymakers, and anyone who cares about climate strategy, this should give us pause.

In 2018, a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, asked two pressing questions: How can the global community reach the 1.5ºC target laid out by the Paris Agreement, and what happens if we fail? The report has two major takeaways. First, it is still possible to meet our climate targets, but only with immediate and unprecedented action. Second, the world presented if we fail to meet this target, by even a modest-sounding half-degree, are bleak—widespread ecosystem destruction, financial instability, growing social inequity, conflict and unrest, the disappearance of landmasses and nations. The scenarios are so clearly articulated, the models so robust, and the science so well documented, that they have ignited new urgency to find pathways across all sectors to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and accelerate our progress towards a 1.5ºC pathway. Unfortunately, we are nowhere near meeting these targets. Last week, the UN Environment Program issued its annual
Climate Reality
o its great credit, the American Institute of Architects recently denounced the Trump administration’s decision to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. This may put the professional organization on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely to sway any hardened hearts and minds in Washington. Obviously, the executive branch is worse than useless on this issue: not just an impediment to change, but a malevolent force for willful inaction. It’s hard to see it as anything less than an enemy of the climate.

Until this odious cast of characters in changes, climate activists must turn their attention elsewhere. Fortunately there’s an under-the-radar lobbying effort underway in California, by the AIA’s state chapter, that holds the potential to totally transform the building sector. In July, the organization’s Committee on the Environment, in collaboration with Edward Mazria of Architecture 2030, persuaded the California’s AIA’s governing board to support the adoption of a statewide Zero Code as soon as possible. The organization sent a letter to the governor in September, co-signed by leading firms, virtually all of the local chapters, as well as the cities of Berkeley, Santa Monica, Fremont, San Luis Obispo, and Culver City.

Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings. Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

If enacted, a Zero Code would essentially mandate emissions-free new buildings almost immediately. (Architecture 2030 defines a Zero Net Carbon building as “a highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.”) Green buildings in California would no longer be about rewarding good intentions or being less bad, no longer be about commemorative plaques or LEED ratings.

Emissions-free buildings would be required by law.

Before we go any further, though, the logical question to ask is the obvious one: Is this even possible? Is it politically feasible? For all of the well-meaning rhetoric swirling around the idea of a Green New Deal, none of it can even begin to happen without fundamental changes in policy, primarily at the state and local level. In California, the adoption of a Zero Code is largely dependent on the strong support of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has not weighed in on the issue.

Mazria initially approached the California AIA with a bolder approach, pushing the idea of an immediate Zero Code adoption via executive order, presumably the fastest route possible. As it turns out, this isn’t an option in California, where energy codes for buildings must be vetted and approved by the California Energy Commission. (The next overhaul will occur in 2022.) The governor, however, exerts a fair amount of control over that body. In two years, Governor Newsom will have either appointed or reappointed a majority of the commissioners on the five-member governing board. If he truly wanted to kick start the Green New Deal, putting his political muscle behind adoption of the Zero Code would be a monumental first step.

In the meantime, AIA California is working on several fronts, pushing and pulling at three different levers of power. “We’re organizing opportunities to enlist Governor Newsom’s active support,” says San Francisco architect William Leddy, who with Mazria helped convince the chapter to support adoption of the clean code. “Thanks to Michael Malinowski, the AIA’s government liaison, we’ve also discovered that there’s an avenue that might be much easier to attempt right now. And that’s to introduce the Zero Code immediately as a ‘reach code’ within CALGreen, which is the California Green Building Standard. We believe this approach doesn’t require the energy commission process. It would give cities around the state the option to adopt the Zero Code now, while we continue to pursue formal statewide adoption through the lengthy code-revision process.”

The reason these considerations are even possible is why Mazria approached the California AIA in the first place. Despite the apocalyptic fires, the rolling blackouts, the somewhat predictable this-is-the-end-of-California-as-we-know-it pronouncements, the state is well under way in its eventual transitio
ENR
There was no formal agenda on Feb. 12, 2018, when Bruce King and William Kelley met for lunch at the Lotus Cafe in San Rafael, Calif. But building regulation is a favorite topic of King’s, a structural engineer devoted to reducing carbon emissions related to buildings. So it was no surprise to Kelley, Marin County’s deputy director for building and safety, that King suggested it would “be nice” to craft a low-carbon concrete building code “to rein in the profligate overuse” of carbon-intensive cement in concrete.

Kelley liked the idea of regulating concrete’s embodied carbon (EC)—the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted during production. But funding was needed to support the writing of a code for low-EC concrete.

Two weeks later, King happened to be at a meeting of an ad hoc group trying to rebuild sustainably after California’s devastating 2017 wine-country fires. There, he heard an announcement that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would soon offer grants for novel methods of addressing GHGs. He alerted Kelley. Soon, Marin County applied for a BAAQMD grant, which it received on Oct. 4, 2018.

The funds, a maximum of $206,456, set the wheels in motion for developing the model Bay Area Low-Carbon Concrete Code. If approved by Marin County’s board of supervisors on Nov. 19, the code, unprecedented in the U.S. because it would limit EC in private—not just public—projects, would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Kelley likes the Bay Area model code because it is simple to use for customers, plan checkers and enforcers. The document, only four pages long, has two sets of compliance pathways for plain and reinforced concrete: 1) limit cement in either the mix or the project; or 2) limit the global warming potential (GWP) either of a concrete mix—based on an approved environmental product declaration (EPD)—or a project, taking into account all the mix designs.

If adopted, the code would apply only to unincorporated Marin County, population 60,000. That doesn’t bother King. “We hope it will be the code heard around the world,” says the founder of the 20-year-old Ecological Building Network (EBNet).

Kelley agrees, saying, “If we can do this here, the code could serve as a template for other places.” Several other Bay Area counties are likely to follow suit if Marin County adopts it, he adds.

King is setting even wider sights on the regulation of EC—the GHG emissions associated with raw material supply, manufacturing, transport, construction, maintenance, decommissioning and recycling of a material, a building or infrastructure. He wants the Bay Area code to serve as a model for other nations, especially India and China. He also wants EC codes for other high-EC products, such as most refrigerants.

EC, formerly called embodied energy, is not exactly a household term in construction. The main focus in green building codes and certification programs—such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge—has been on reducing the operational carbon (OC) emitted by buildings.

EC plus OC make up the carbon footprint of a building. Initial or up-front EC, which accounts for most of a material’s or a product’s carbon, refers to GHG emissions from the cradle to the site gate.

“Many construction materials can be made to very similar performance standards with 50% or more carbon savings,” because manufacturing process, mix composition, recycled content and electricity or energy source have a dramatic effect on carbon emitted during manufacture, according to the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum. CLF is a nonprofit coalition of 40 construction industry sponsors, founded in 2009 by its director, Kate Simonen, also a professor at the College of the Built Environments.

“Carbon-aware specification and procurement policies, backed by a contractual requirement to deliver verified EPDs for materials delivered to sites, can drive change,” asserts CLF.

Reducing initial EC is no easy task. It has been fraught with problems—from a lack of product and material data to data too complex to evaluate. “It’s an incredibly daunting and new challenge to address in a design process,” says Victoria Burrows, director of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council.

A net-zero EC building is one that has minimal up-front carbon, with all remaining
MVRDV
MVRDV has unveiled designs for the Green Villa, a striking mixed-use building draped in greenery for the Dutch village of Sint-Michielsgestel. Created in collaboration with Van Boven Architecten, the four-story Green Villa will be located on the town’s southern edge and will use a grid “rack” system to host a wide variety of potted plants, bushes and trees, including the likes of forsythia, jasmine, pine and birch. The project will be a landmark project for the village and will promote sustainability with improved biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

Located on a corner lot next to the Dommel River, the 1,400-square-meter Green Villa will house a new ground-floor office space for real estate developer and client, Stein, as well as five apartments on the three floors above in addition to underground parking. The building shape relates to the existing urban fabric with its adoption of the mansard roof shape used on the neighboring buildings. A new architectural typology is also put forth with the use of a strikingly lush facade that will help the structure blend in with the nearby river, fields and trees.

“This design is a continuation of our research into ‘facade-less’ buildings and radical greening,” explained Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “The idea from the nineties of city parks as an oasis in the city is too limited. We need a radical ‘green dip’: as will be shown soon in a book by The Why Factory with the same title, we should also cover roofs and high-rise facades with greenery. Plants and trees can help us to offset CO2 emissions, cool our cities and promote biodiversity.”

“This design is a continuation of our research into ‘facade-less’ buildings and radical greening,” explained Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “The idea from the nineties of city parks as an oasis in the city is too limited. We need a radical ‘green dip’: as will be shown soon in a book by The Why Factory with the same title, we should also cover roofs and high-rise facades with greenery. Plants and trees can help us to offset CO2 emissions, cool our cities and promote biodiversity.”

The Green Villa will be defined by a square grid four bays wide and three bays deep, in which modules for bedrooms and living spaces will slot inside. The facade will be made up of a “rack” of shelves of varying depths to support a “three-dimensional arboretum,” and each plant will have its own nameplate with additional information. The plants will be watered year-round with a sensor-controlled irrigation system that uses recycled rainwater. Construction is scheduled to start in 2020.

PAD Studio
The Lane End House by PAD studio incorporates natural building material and sustainable solutions to increase energy-efficiency. The resulting design creates a passive home with a smaller environmental footprint and a focus on sustainability.

The exterior of the house contains balcony areas that act as solar shading for the property, complete with thoughtfully-placed openings to create a greater distribution of natural ventilation to rid the home of intense heat during the hot Summer months.

Landscape-wise, the clients wanted to incorporate a natural feel as often as possible, with large windows to connect the inhabitants with the outdoors and a functioning herb garden located on the first floor balcony. The placement of the grand windows creates natural sunlight to light the home during the day while incorporating more profound landscape views.

According to the client, “we wanted a house that was big enough to comfortably accommodate the two of us and our lifestyle – and no bigger. For us that meant carefully considered, flexible, multipurpose spaces that created a sense of space whilst retaining a modest footprint.”

High quality, insulated timber wood used to create the frame both reduces the need for artificial cooling and heating in the home, and provides an eco-friendly alternative to traditional (and heavy carbon emission-inducing) building materials. Additionally, the timber is locally-produced from renewable sources and the brick used to make the fireplace is hand-made by local vendors. On the ground floor, concrete was inserted to make the structure even more air-tight and regulate interior temperatures even further.

The builders installed a MVHR system designed to recycle heat produced from the kitchen and bathroom and mix it with clean air circulated through the ventilation and naturally colder areas of the house.

In addition to completing the standard methods such as SAP calculations and EPS ratings, the impressive home was also built to Passive House ideology.



Sidewalk Toronto
North America is on the cusp of a mass timber revolution, and Sidewalk Labs' Waterfront Toronto project is leading the way. But the smart material faces major obstacles.

A building made primarily of wood conjures public fear of fire, but for a growing number of developers, it evokes opportunity. From constructing towering wooden condominiums, to timber college dormitories, to an entire neighborhood built from trees, experts in "mass timber" are creating buildings of the future.

Sidewalk Labs' master plan for a futuristic smart city on the waterfront in Toronto includes an entire neighborhood made of wood, called Quayside, with 10 mixed-use building up to 35 stories.

The plan is audacious, considering that in the U.S., there are only 221 mass timber buildings in the works or fully built, according to the American Wood Council​'s Kenneth Bland.

In most U.S. cities, mass timber buildings, and specifically tall mass timber buildings, are a rarity, if they exist at all.

But architects, city officials and timber advocates across North America are pushing conventional building codes and public perception because of the drastic impact these structures can have on reducing CO2 through carbon sequestration, compared to traditional concrete and steel.

"I think it's a big opportunity for a lot of cities out there ... The impact on reducing carbon emissions on earth could be dramatic," Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, told Smart Cities Dive. "And that gets me excited."

What is mass timber?

One of the biggest obstacles for city officials is understanding the material. They are more than buildings made of wood — they're defined by their structure. Steel or concrete buildings with wood accents don't count, according to Andrew Tsay Jacobs from architecture firm Perkins and Will.

Mass timber buildings use solid wood panels to frame a building's walls, floors and roofs, creating structures that can reach at least 18 stories, as is the case with the tallest mass timber building in the world in Norway. But these buildings aren't just pure wood. Mass timber construction utilizes engineered wood, or panels glued together, and there are several types: cross-laminated (CLT), glue-laminated and dowel-laminated timber, with CLT being the most common.

While shorter wood buildings have existed for centuries, CLT panel technology is relatively new. It was developed in Europe in the 1990s, the material was only added to the international building code in 2015. Even then, all-wood buildings were capped at six stories, though that will change to allow taller structures in 2021.

Why use mass timber?

A main argument for the use of mass timber is its power to mitigate climate change. The structures can have a lifespan of hundreds of years, and contain the unique ability of effectively sequestering or removing carbon from the atmosphere, which can reverse climate change effects at a large scale.

"Now more than ever, the lens through which we view and imagine ways to redesign and build physical infrastructure, has to be based around sustainability," said Portland, OR Mayor Ted Wheeler during a speech at the International Mass Timber Conference in March.
Alamy Stock Photo
The California city on Tuesday voted to ban natural gas hook-ups in new buildings, in a historic move

Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings.

The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support.

Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.

Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.

Landmark move
Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.

The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, the gas will have to go.

For decades, gas was considered among the preferred energy sources for buildings and embraced as a bridge from dirtier fossil fuels to a green energy future.

“There’s been a lingering perception that burning gas was cleaner than electricity, which might have been true 20 years ago when electricity came from burning coal,” said Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council . “When we look at electrification policies, we need to think about what the grid will look like in 10 or 20 years, not what it looked like yesterday.”

A state energy commission report released in early 2019 concluded that building electrification was “a key strategy” for reducing the state’s climate impacts, one that “offers the most promising path to achieving [greenhouse gas] reduction targets in the least costly manner”.

Roughly 3% of all natural gas extracted by industry is leaked into the atmosphere, where methane is a far more potent, if shorter lived, greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Berkeley was also motivated to reduce health and safety risks endemic to gas appliances, which release significant emissions and pollutants indoors.

And then there’s the matter of running large amounts of flammable fuel around a state known for large earthquakes. A Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline explosion in 2010 turned a Northern California neighborhood into a smoking crater.

“We really believe we have the underpinnings of good legislation with economic, health and safety and climate impacts,” said the Berkeley councilmember Kate Harrison. “We can do this and we’ll end up a lot healthier and cleaner for it.”

As goes Berkeley, so goes California
Further decarbonizing the grid and electrifying buildings will be key to helping California meet its ambitious climate goals. In 2018, the state passed a law requiring it to derive 100% of its power from zero-carbon energy sources by 2045, and to pursue a “bold path” to get there.

Cities’ individual choices will be crucial in reaching that target. Energy is regulated at the state level, but municipalities control much of their own building codes.

“Climate-minded cities are all pulling their hair out, like, we have a climate emergency, and the national government doesn’t care. But this issue is squarely in their wheelhouse – they’ve just got to think about it in new and creative ways,” said Bruce Nilles, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. “We’re dealing with an existential crisis. We’ve got to dust off all the different ways that different actors can do good, progressive, climate-minded things.”

More than 50 cities and counties in California are now considering similar policies to Berkeley’s, either banning or limiting gas and incentivizing full electrification in new buildings.

Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, points to this summer as a transformative one: in order to have new ordinances in place by 1 January, municipalities will have until September to pass electrification measures. “Not all 50 are going to make it. I’m thinking a c
ricky jones, courtesy of matthew barnett howland
this house in berkshire, designed by matthew barnett howland with dido milne and oliver wilton with monolithic walls and corbelled roofs, is built almost entirely from solid load-bearing cork. currently on the shortlist for the 2019 RIBA stirling prize, the project is an attempt to make solid walls and roofs from a single bio-renewable material.

matthew barnett howland, dido milne and oliver wilton developed the house as a radically simple form, providing an innovative self-build construction kit designed for disassembly, which is carbon-negative at completion and has exceptionally low whole life carbon. with a focus on simplicity and sustainability, the project provides an inventive solution to the complexities and conventions of modern house construction, built almost entirely from a single bio-renewable material instead of an array of materials, products and specialist sub-systems. designed, tested and developed in partnership with the bartlett school of architecture UCL, the house incorporates a dry-jointed construction system, so that all 1,268 blocks of cork can be reclaimed at end-of-building-life for re-use, recycling, or returning to the biosphere.

the house is conceived as a kit-of-parts, with prefabricated components off-site and assembled by hand on-site without mortar or glue. its structural form reimagines the simple construction principles of ancient stone structures such as celtic beehive houses, while the exposed solid cork creates a sensory environment where walls are gentle to the touch, smell good, and provide soft and calm acoustic conditions.

COBE
Danish architectural firm COBE has unveiled designs for a new science museum in the Swedish university city of Lund that will be powered not only with rooftop solar energy but also with pedal power. Museum visitors will be invited to help generate electricity for the carbon-neutral museum by riding “energy bikes” on its concave roof. Constructed primarily from prefabricated cross-laminated timber, the eco-friendly building will be a sustainable landmark and help cement Lund’s position as a science city on the international stage.

Winner of an international competition, COBE’s proposal for the science museum will be located in the heart of the city’s new urban district, Science Villa Scandinavia. The museum will be sandwiched between the high-tech institutions ESS (European Spallation Source) and MAX IV, which are currently under construction and slated to become the world’s most powerful and advanced research facilities within neutron and X-ray research. The science museum’s purpose is to make the institutions’ groundbreaking research more accessible and inviting to both children and adults and to promote general interest in natural science and research.

Spanning a total floor space of 3,500 square meters, the two-story science museum will comprise exhibition halls, a gallery, a reception area, workshops, a museum shop, a restaurant, offices and an auditorium. A viewing platform and patio will top the concave 1,600-square-meter roof as will energy bikes and a solar array large enough to meet the museum’s electricity needs. A large, nature-filled atrium will sit at the heart of the museum to help absorb carbon dioxide, boost biodiversity and serve as a water reservoir and overflow canal in case of extreme rainfall. Excess heat from ESS will be used to heat the museum through an ectogrid system. The timber building is expected to reach completion by 2024.

“Ambitions for the design of the museum have been sky-high, and we feel that we have succeeded in designing a unique and inviting building, whose open atrium and concave roof lend it a dramatic and elegant profile that stands out and offers novel and innovative ways of using a museum,” said Dan Stubbergaard, architect and founder of COBE. “Moreover, we have made climate, environment and sustainability integral aspects of the process from the outset. By choosing wood as the main construction material, incorporating solar cells, using excess heat and creating an atrium with a rich biodiversity and a rainwater reservoir, among other features, we have achieved our goal and succeeded in creating a CO2-neutral building, if the design is realized as intended. Our hope, as architects, is that we can continue to increase the focus on and improve our ability to create sustainable architecture and construction for the benefit of future generations and the condition of the planet.”




Paul Bardagiy
ant to save the planet? Quit using language like “save the planet” and talk about individual health instead. That’s the gist of the recently issued Living Standard report commissioned by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Twenty-five years after the birth of LEED green building standards, the USGBC hired ClearPath Strategies, a global public opinion research company, to measure how the public sees green building. The resulting report shows a public relations problem: Even though building construction and operations account for nearly 40 percent of final global energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, most people don’t make the link between buildings and their environmental impact. This disconnect could be seen as bad news both for the design profession and for the planet. It could also be seen as an invitation to the building industry to take on a much bigger role in building a sustainable future — even if that’s not a word we use to describe it.

The Living Standard report illustrates how survey respondents ranked different concerns (health care and immigration, high; environment, middle) and potential solutions (recycling and water conservation, high; green building, way low). That survey also measured what kind of language made people feel more willing to take action. In the words of the report, “There is a real gap between the conceptual enormity of the problem and how people seek to address it in their daily lives.” Planetary health? Far too big a concept. Individual health? That’s something everyone can get behind.

The USGBC has long been concerned with public perception of green building, and rightly so. Before LEED (the now-standard acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), there were few resources for people who were curious about the energy consumption, materials sourcing, or health impacts of buildings. Gail Vittori, a founding member of the USGBC and current member of the GBCI, describes how LEED and similar programs helped to develop not just a vocabulary but a way of thinking. “The value of a tool like LEED is that, as it started to have market penetration, you literally had hundreds if not thousands of teams of people sitting around a table saying, ‘What’s the VOC content in the paint?’ We take it for granted now, but in the beginning, you’d have to carve out two hours of time to get on the phone with Sherwin Williams to find someone who could begin to answer your question. How is it today that I can go into Home Depot and every single can of paint will not only tell me what the VOC content is, but most of them will be compliant with a very low VOC content? That’s market transformation.” As co-founder, with Pliny Fisk III, of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (CMPBS), Vittori works with clients to integrate sustainable strategies into large-scale building projects. She notes that she and Fisk now rarely use the words “sustainable” and “green.” “Cleaning up the jargon is what this is about. The point is that you can talk about concepts in a way that doesn’t immediately create this chasm of, ‘Oh, you’re on the inside of that topic,’ or ‘You’re on the outside of that topic.’ We all have buildings as part of our lives.”

Market transformation, while necessary, tends to be slow. Meanwhile, research suggests that we have a six-to-10-year window to make changes to avoid irreversible environmental damage. Within that time frame, the U.S. and other wealthy countries will need to get their emissions down to zero, and for that to happen, whatever we design and build now has to be a part of that reduction. In the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg, “Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.”

So where to start? LEED provides a metric for building performance, as do local building programs like the Austin Energy Green Building Program. The 2030 Palette from the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which calls for buildings and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030, offers “swatches” of possible design strategies and materials. A few miles down the road from CMPBS, architect Lauren Stanley, AIA, is developing a materials palette for a new house that she and husband Lars Stanley, FAIA, plan to build following the guidelines of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Like LEED, LBC provides a metric for building performance, but while LEED
David Maurice Smith/The New York Times/Redux
Australia approves Adani coal mine, endangering the Great Barrier Reef and, well, civilization

Thanks to President Trump and his transparent and perverse desire to enrich his golfing buddies in the fossil fuel industry and to accelerate the climate crisis, the U.S. is the most notorious climate criminal in the world right now. But the Aussies are giving us a run for our money.

Exhibit A: the decision this week by the Queensland State government to allow a big coal mine in northeastern Australia to move forward. The project, known as the Carmichael mine, is controlled by the Adani Group, an Indian corporate behemoth headed by billionaire Gautam Adani. If it ever opens, the Carmichael mine would not be the biggest coal mine in the world, or even the biggest coal mine in Australia. But it may be the most insane energy project on the planet, and one that shows just how far supposedly civilized nations (and people) are from grasping what’s at stake in the climate crisis.

The site for the Carmichael mine is in the Galilee Basin, an unspoiled region of Queensland that Adani has been itching to get his hands on for at least a decade. The battle over the mine has been the usual sordid tale of fossil fuel industry development, in which a rich, powerful, politically connected corporation gets its way with weak and corrupt politicians.

But of course there are a lot of stupid and destructive energy projects in the world right now. What makes Adani worse than the others?

Let’s start with the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Marine Conservation Society called the approval of the mine “bad news” for the reef. That’s an almost criminal understatement.

The approval of the Adani project is an aggressive attack on the 1,600-mile-long reef in two deadly ways. First, by condoning the mining and burning of coal, which is heating up and acidifiying the oceans and killing coral reefs, Australian politicians are essentially saying they are willing to sacrifice one of the great wonders of the world for a few jobs for their pals and some extra cash in their pockets. In fact, a key part of the Adani project is a new coal terminal on the Queensland coast, which is right at the edge of the Barrier Reef. That means more industrialization in the area, more water pollution, more coal barges floating over the reef, more risk of disasters that would dump dirty black rocks on one of nature’s crown jewels.

I spent a few days diving on the Barrier Reef last year, and I can tell you, there are few sights more surreal to anyone who cares about the fate of the planet than watching a ship loaded with coal heading out over the Great Barrier Reef. Healthy coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean, teeming with life and vital to the underwater ecosystem. I saw stretches of brightly colored coral crowded with sharks, starfish, urchins and even a Manta-ray. But I also saw vast expanses of bleached coral that looked like underwater deserts. A 2018 Nature study described the reef on the verge of collapse. “We thought the Barrier Reef was too big to fail,” one researcher said, “but it’s not.”

The mine is insane on another level, too. The coal will be exported to India, a nation that is hugely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and is struggling to make the transition to clean energy. Last week, at the same moment that Queensland politicians were approving the Adani project, northern India was sweltering under a 120-degree F heat wave so brutal that people were advised not to venture outdoors after 11 a.m. and a 33-year-old man was beaten to death in a dispute over water.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

By itself, the Adani project is not huge. It’s expected to produce about ten million tons of coal a year at first (that’s about the size of a big mine in the Wyoming’s Powder River Basin). But the project includes a 200-mile long railroad to the coal terminal on the Queensland coast, which could potentially open the remote Galilee Basin to further development.

The biggest myth associated with the Adani mine may be that continuing to mine and export coal is somehow vital to the Australian economy. It is not. As James Bradley points out, although coal accounts for almost 15 per cent of Australia’s exports, it contributes less than 1 percent of the Commonwealth government’s total revenue. And it’s not like the industry creates a lot of jobs, either. In 2018, it employed slightly fewer than 50,000 people. That’s less than 0.4 per
EETJ
In response to concerns that Luonnonmaa, an island on the Finnish West archipelago coast, could succumb to the destructive effects of climate change, Helsinki-based architectural firm Emmi Keskisarja & Janne Teräsvirta & Company Architects has unveiled a sustainable vision for the island in the year 2070. Named “Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070,” the futuristic vision calls for a utopian scheme where people and nature live in harmony within a sustainable community tapping into renewable energy sources, eco tourism and reforestation.

Luonnonmaa makes up the majority of the land area for the city of Naantali; however, the island itself is sparsely populated. Traditionally used for farming, the island is renowned for its clean and idyllic Nordic landscapes.

“The way of life on Luonnonmaa is challenged by climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss, just as it is in more population-concentrated locations on the planet,” the architects said. “The island is seemingly empty — or full of immaculate space — but a closer inspection reveals that most of the island area is defined by human activity and its ripple effects. A growing population on the island will need to provide more opportunity for nature, while they develop their way of life, means of transportation, work, as well as food and energy production.”

The architects worked together with the City of Naantali’s public, politicians and planners as well as with a multidisciplinary group of local specialists and the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Turku to produce a creative solution to these challenges. The Emerald Envisioning for Luonnonmaa 2070 addresses such questions as “Can the future be both sustainable and desirable?” and “Could we build more to accommodate human needs, while (counter-intuitively) producing more opportunities for nature around us?”

The scheme also considers the future of farming for the island. Because the traditional farming industry is in decline, the proposal suggests more carbon-neutral methods of food production such as seaweed hubs and communal gardening. Meanwhile, the reduction of farmland will allow for the expansion and unification of forest areas to support the island’s unique biodiversity. To future-proof against sea level rise, housing will be built on pylons to mitigate flood concerns while social activity and communal development will be planned around waterways. A network of small-scale glamping units would also be installed to boost the island’s economy.




Canadian Architect
The World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC) 10th annual World Green Building Week will focus on end-to-end carbon emissions created across the building and construction industry.

From September 23 to September 29, World Green Building Week is highlighting the need for sustainable production, design, build, deconstruction and reuse of buildings and their materials.

“This year’s focus for World Green Building Week on the full lifecycle of buildings is key to promote innovation and accelerate the abatement of emissions from buildings, which stand at 39 per cent of total emissions worldwide,” said Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council. “Only by having an end to end understanding can our green building movement truly help contribute to the decarbonization of the built environment.”

The World Green Building Week’s September 2019 campaign will also incorporate the issue of air pollution.

According to WorldGBC, modern day buildings and construction together account for 36 per cent of global final energy use, and 39 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.

The organization suggests that the energy used in material manufacturing, construction and operation of buildings must come from clean, renewable sources rather than burning carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

WorldGBC will seek its global network of green building and construction industry experts to act as ambassadors throughout the week to promote action on total emissions and the life cycle of buildings.

Multiplex Executive Director, Stephen Smith, addresses the need for evidence-backed actions from all stakeholders in the construction industry to generate sustainable outcomes for our communities and our environment.

“Embedded sustainability efforts clearly result in a positive impact on business performance and Multiplex is very proud to be leading the way. World Green Building Week is a great opportunity for us to explore and hopefully enable sustainability solutions with our business partners and peers,” said Smith.

The issue of addressing embodied carbon emissions is becoming increasingly important to the building and construction industry, according to WorldGBC.

In a detailed report, slated for a September 2019 release by WorldGBC, the council outlines the pressing issues around embodied carbon in the industry and presents a vision for a net zero carbon construction.

WorldGBC calls for urgent action in the report, while recommending specific steps that business, government and civil society can take to help shape a net zero carbon future.

With a global network of nearly 70 national Green Building Councils, WorldGBC has confidence that green buildings can help combat climate change, as well as achieve numerous social, economic and environmental benefits.
Seattle Times
The Bullitt Foundation, an agenda-setting funder of the Northwest environmental movement, plans to wind down a quarter-century of grant-giving that has pumped more than $200 million into efforts ranging from restoration projects on the Green River to climate activism, as it pushed the region toward a greener future.

The foundation, which traces its roots to a storied Seattle family, will give away most of what’s left of its endowment during the next five years.

“The board decided, right from the start, that we did not want to be here in perpetuity,” said Denis Hayes, the Bullitt Foundation’s executive director, who also said the foundation was nearing the point when “we must pass the torch to the next generation of environmental philanthropists.”

Once the grant-giving ends in 2024, the foundation plans to continue to award its annual prize for environmental leadership, and also lease office space at its Seattle headquarters – the six-story Bullitt Center – that has gained international recognition for its ecological design.

Bullitt, which had less than $82 million in net assets in 2017, is a relatively small foundation yet has has played an outsized role in shaping the regional environmental agenda.

Much of that is due to Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day and led a solar-research institute in President Jimmy Carter’s administration. At the Bullitt Foundation, he has helped bring Northwest environmental leaders together to discuss where the movement should go, how to get there and how to diversify its ranks to include more communities of color.

“They’ve really challenged organizations to think about racial equity and racial justice,” said Joan Crooks, CEO of the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.

The foundation’s grants typically range from $40,000 to $120,000, often seed money for groups that, once they passed muster with the Bullitt Foundation, had an easier time persuading other donors to chip in.

“It’s like Warren Buffett buying stock; if they support an effort, it tends to move other money,” said Alan Durning, the founder of Sightline Institute, which received a start-up grant of $20,000 from the foundation in 1993 when he was working out of his Seattle bedroom. Today, Sightline, an environmental policy group, continues to receive Bullitt Foundation support, but that money is a now a small part of a $2.2 million budget for an organization that has grown to employ 20 people in three cities.

Early focus was conservation
Through the years, the Bullitt Foundation has spread dollars across a broad swath of the region ranging from Alaska to Oregon and east to Idaho and Montana. Since 2016, the foundation has focused more narrowly on what Hayes calls the “emerald corridor” that stretches from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland. It is a region that he hopes could become a global model for equitable, sustainable urban development – a vision that still seems far away as the Northwest grapples with an epidemic of homelessness.

Some Bullitt Foundation money has gone to groups testing new ideas in housing, energy and agriculture. In the early years there was more of a focus on conserving lands, including grants to groups campaigning for preservation of what became the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument.

Many of the grants have helped to fuel efforts by groups that organize protests, file lawsuits or lobby for legislation.

“I would say 90%-plus of our grants have been designed to influence policy,” Hayes said. “As a nonprofit, we cannot make a grant to hire a lobbyist or influence legislation … but all the policy development is fair game to us.”

Pixabay
Finland's new government has promised to reduce the country's fossil-fuel consumption and invest in renewable energy sources, after 80 per cent of Finns called for urgent action on climate change.

Following elections earlier this year, a new left-leaning government has promised to make Finland carbon neutral by 2035, with the target to be written into Finnish law.

"We are determined to tackle the challenge of climate change. But it needs to be done in a socially fair way," prime minister Antti Rinne, who was sworn in yesterday, said at the cabinet's first news conference.

In a recent government poll, 80 per cent of Finnish people surveyed said they felt that urgent action was required on climate change. A third of the country's land is in the Arctic Circle and rising temperatures will melt its permafrost and cause sea levels to rise in the Baltic.

"Building the world's first sustainable society"

To become carbon neutral in 15 years time, Finland will cut back on logging investments and try to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and peat. It will also invest in renewable energy, including wind, solar and bioenergy, and heating and transport will be electrified.

Currently Finland operates one of the largest peat-fired power plants in the world, Toppila Power Station in the city of Oulu.

"Building the world's first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper, but we're determined to make it happen," Sini Harkki, a representative of Greenpeace in Finland, told the Guardian.

Instead of buying credits for carbon capture projects in other countries Finland plans to achieve the goal through reducing its own carbon emissions, although this policy will be reviewed in 2025.

Climate change and welfare made a priority

Finland's incumbent government aims to raise €730 million (£650 million) through taxes, including those on fossil fuels and selling off state assets. This money will be used for the carbon programme and improvements to the country's welfare system.

Finland's Social Democratic Party, the Green League and the Left Alliance all made gains in the April 2019 elections, despite the populist Finns Party warning, as reported in the New York Times, that the left's climate goals would "take the sausage from the mouths of labourers".

The town of Li in northern Finland has already been setting its own ambitious targets to help tackle climate change. The town will cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2020 and is aiming to become the country's first zero-waste community.

The picture on climate change is not as rosy elsewhere in Europe.

Recent elections in Spain have seen the country's government move to the right, with officials from Partido Popular pledging to scrap Madrid's low emissions zone, despite recent improvements in air quality.

Main image, showing the peat-fired Toppila Power Station in Oulu, is from Pixabay.
C40 Cities
The Reinventing Cities competition asked architects to find new uses for vacant and abandoned spaces in cities around the world. The results are an extraordinary example of what future cities could look like.

As the world moves to a zero-carbon future, cities will be key places to transform–particularly buildings, which account for more than half of emissions in most cities. Reinventing Cities, a competition launched two years ago by C40 Cities, a network of mayors focused on finding solutions to climate change, asked architects to reimagine new uses for vacant and abandoned spaces in six cities: Chicago, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Oslo, and Reykjavík. These are the winning proposals; the winning teams now have the chance to buy or lease each site to develop the projects.

GARFIELD GREEN
On two vacant lots in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, a new net-zero carbon housing development is designed to run on renewable energy, grow food on the roof, and process stormwater onsite. The ultra-efficient buildings, designed to “passive house” standards, would be built in a local modular factory.

MERCADO HABITADO II
An unused market building in Madrid would be renovated with recycled materials and certified wood and would produce its own power through solar panels on the roof and walls. Inside the market, the community would have access to local, organic produce and workshops about climate change.

TERCER SONIDO
On vacant land in a part of Madrid sandwiched between an industrial and residential area, a new development would include student housing, rehearsal spaces and an auditorium for musicians, an organic store, and space for urban farming. Nearly half of the surface area would be devoted to green space.

CAMPUS FOR LIVING CITIES
A new zero-emissions student hub at the Polytechnic University of Madrid–with housing, sport and art facilities, and a lab for sustainability research projects–would use a passive design to shrink energy use. Outside, the walls would be covered in holes to create habitats for plants and animals.

URBAN BATTERY
A new factory in Madrid would manufacture biodegradable zinc-air batteries and run on energy from a solar farm on the property, creating more than 100 local jobs. Regenerative agriculture techniques would rehabilitate the soil, and an onsite “Compostlab” would produce compost from local waste.

L’INNESTO
At a former freight terminal site in Milan, a new social housing project would be the first in Italy to be carbon neutral. The design limits space for personal cars and has extra space for bike parking, charging stations for electric cars, and a neighborhood car-sharing scheme. The buildings would be powered by onsite renewable energy and connected to district heating.

Building Enclosure
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), creators of the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) green building program, announced a new $500,000 grant from Bank of America. The funding supports the LEED certification of 15 U.S. cities and communities. The grant provides financial assistance, educational resources and technical support throughout the certification process. USGBC and Bank of America launched the LEED for Cities and Communities grant program with six U.S. cities in 2018.

“To realize a sustainable future for all, today’s cities and communities must strive to be green, resilient, inclusive and smart,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC. “The LEED for Cities and Communities certification programs give leaders a framework for planning, designing, measuring and managing the social, economic and environmental performance of the places where they live, work, learn and play. With support from Bank of America, we will empower these grant recipients to deliver a higher living standard for their residents.”

LEED is the world’s most widely used green building rating system, and earlier this year, USGBC released the newest version of the program, LEED v4.1. The U.S. cities and communities that will benefit from the 2019 grants are the first to pursue LEED v4.1 certification and include:
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Baltimore, Md.
  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Bloomington, Ind.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Greensboro, N.C.
  • Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Miami, Fla.
  • Orange County, N.Y.
  • Orlando, Fla.
  • Pueblo County, Colo.
  • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
  • Royal Oak, Mich.
  • Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Shaker Heights, Ohio
LEED helps local governments develop and track plans for a wide variety of factors, including green infrastructure, public health, energy, social equity, transportation and more. More than 90 cities and communities globally have already been certified through the LEED for Cities and Communities programs.

Bank of America is a longtime member of USGBC and has pursued LEED certification for its own operations. Presently, the company has 19 million square feet of LEED-certified workspace, including more than 200 LEED-certified financial centers.

“USGBC is a leader in creating more environmentally sustainable buildings, cities and communities,” said Alex Liftman, Global Environmental executive at Bank of America. “Our deployment of capital is helping to create thriving communities for the future that are resilient and more sustainable places to work and live.”

The bank previously supported USGBC’s Affordable Green Neighborhoods Program, which provided assistance to eligible nonprofit and public-sector developers of affordable housing to ensure that every new unit of affordable housing meets the highest standards of sustainability and offers residents the healthiest communities possible. In total, Bank of America has provided $2.5 million in grants to USGBC since 2011.

The work with USGBC is part of Bank of America’s broader commitment to environmental sustainability. The company has committed to carbon neutrality and purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. In addition, it has committed to reduce location-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent, energy use by 40 percent, and water use by 45 percent by 2020. Bank of America has also deployed more than $126 billion over the past 12 years in support of environmental business efforts, and it recently announced it will mobilize an additional $300 billion in capital starting next year to support more sustainable business activities. This is its third environmental business commitment as part of its broader Environmental Business Initiative. The bank will meet its current commitment of $125 billion by the end of 2019, six years ahead of schedule.
DesignIntelligence
The design profession, in its many guises, is resolutely optimistic. For a designer, no challenge is so large that he or she can’t develop a solution that will both overcome it and enhance the human experience.

Yet, given the recent onslaught of disheartening news regarding climate change, maintaining such optimism becomes something of a daily test. First, in August of last year, there was the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article titled “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.” Penned by 16 climate scientists, the article warns that we’re much closer than previously thought to achieving the “hothouse” trajectory—i.e., a warming of 4 or 5 degrees Celsius—which poses “serious challenges for the viability of human societies.” That was followed in October by the much-publicized United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stating that at our current rate of warming we could potentially be just 12 years away from hitting the tipping point—1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—that would trigger the most horrific aspects of climate change. Now, thanks to a January 8, 2019 New York Times article titled “U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed,” we can add to the litany of bad news this fact: “America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years.”

It would now seem that the alchemy required to turn our dire situation into a golden outcome has grown substantially more complicated. Yet the big leaps on a number of fronts regarding climate change enable us to maintain at least some optimism.

For example, as reported in a December 18, 2018 Forbes article titled “6 Renewable Energy Trends to Watch In 2019,” more than 100 cities across the globe get at least 70 percent of their energy from renewables, and more than 40 operate on 100 percent renewable electricity. Scores more cities are working toward similar goals. At the building scale, techno-logical and legislative developments have made on-site electrical generation easier and cleaner, not to mention more efficient and affordable.

Furthermore, cities are slowly shifting their views on their relationship to nature and choosing to see themselves as part of a larger ecological system rather than as separate from—and, in some instances, bulwarks against—the natural world. This has resulted in forays into biophilic design in places such as Oslo, Portland, and, in particular, Singapore.

As more cities shoulder the responsibility of addressing climate change, architects, designers, and urban planners will have an abundance of opportunities to work alongside them in tackling the unprecedented global challenge that we now face. And the array of actionable measures that our industry can take runs the gamut from common-sense design that reduces humanity’s environmental impact to the adoption of the most cutting-edge tools, materials, and processes that are currently being brought to market.

For an example of the former, look no further than the return to classic urban planning principles that we’ve seen in recent years as a means of lessening our collective carbon footprint. Factors such as walkability and mixed uses, combined with a focus on transit-oriented design, make a car-free lifestyle not only attainable but also desirable: a 2016 study by real estate website redfin.com found that for every one-point increase in a home’s walk score (when that home is compared to similar properties in less-walkable neighborhoods), there is a corresponding increase in home price by nearly one percent. Clearly, there is a demand for mobility options beyond just the automobile.

At the building scale, there are design processes that we can explore to create components that dramatically reduce energy consumption. It’s a well-established fact that forty percent of the energy produced in the United States is consumed in residential and commercial buildings. A significant component of a building that heavily influences energy consumption and is under direct control of architects is its façade. However, we now see a need for façades that are capable of adjusting to the moment-to-moment shifts in the natural environment.

One of the challenges in creating high-performance façades lies in utilizing an alternative-rich design process that is affordable yet easy enough to allow designers of all abilities to use it. That’s why our firm, Gensler, initiated a research effort focused on creating a simulation tool that enables the efficient design of more responsive and energy-e
Amazon
Now you can add a tiny home or cabin kit to your cart.

You can buy just about anything on Amazon these days, from mundane household necessities to garish novelty items—and now, there are even DIY kits to help you construct your own tiny guest house, shed, office, or lounge. Take a look at the prefabricated units Amazon has to offer below, and get ready to upgrade your backyard.

Allwood Arlanda XXL
Ideal as a detached office, garden shed, or yoga studio, this 273-square-foot kit unit from Allwood will run you $10,695. The structure has large windows, a small porch, and a simple, clean design.

The Arlanda XXL from Allwood is available on Amazon for $10,695.

Ecohousemart Laminated Log House Kit
Made out of glulam—an engineered wood product made out of glued, laminated timber—this house kit has a gross area of 1,290 square feet. The home is designed to have three bedrooms and one bathroom, but note that additional materials not included in the kit are required.

Allwood Solvalla
This studio cabin kit from Allwood provides 172 square feet of outdoor and indoor space. The indoor space is well-lit from large windows on two sides, while the partially enclosed portion is covered with a shed roof and has vertical battens on one side to provide shade. The kit sells for $7,250.

Weizhengheng Expandable Container House
Geared toward those with an interest in sustainable design and lowering their carbon footprint, this expandable container house is made out of a galvanized, light steel frame and runs on a solar power system. The home is made in Germany and is available for $24,800.

Timber Frame House Lounge Kit by Ecohousemart
This prefabricated, cabin-like building is made out of a glulam and clad in northern spruce wood. The 1,000-square-foot structure can be customized depending on the type of foundation, windows and doors, or other requirements you might have, but does not come with these items: the kit mainly includes framing elements.

Allwood Getaway Cabin Kit by Lillevilla
Priced at $18,800, this cabin kit features 292 square feet of space, including a sleeping loft in the taller portion of the gable roof. Because the home has minimal insulation, it would ideally serve as a summer house, home office, or even a stand-alone retail building, but could easily be used as a residence or in colder climates with utility hookups and extra insulation.

Sunray by Allwood
This 162-square-foot cabin kit is available for $8,690 and is typically available to ship within three to five weeks. The kit is ideal for a lake or beach house, with large windows and shading on a deep front porch.
The Turett Collaborative
After three years of research and development, architect Wayne Turett of New York City-based architectural firm The Turett Collaborative has designed and built his long-awaited Passive House in the village of Greenport, New York. Built to the rigorous standards of the Passive House Institute, the airtight dwelling combines cutting-edge technologies with passive solar principles to minimize its energy footprint and meet Turett’s aspirations for a carbon-neutral design.

Held as an example of energy-efficient construction that doesn’t compromise on appearance, the Greenport Passive House was designed to match the aesthetic of the surrounding vernacular with a contemporary twist. The two-story home features a historical barn exterior with ship-lapped gray cedar and cement, while the roof is made from aluminum. Inside, the modern house features clean lines and a light and neutral color palette. The open-plan layout and tall ceilings bring an urban, loft-like feel to the home.

The three key aspects of the Greenport Passive House were an airtight envelope; superior insulation that includes triple-glazed windows to lock in heat and protect against cold drafts; and additions that block unwanted solar heat gain, such as roof overhangs. The all-electric home is heated and cooled with a duct mini-split system and is also equipped with an energy recovery ventilation system. By Passive House Standards, a Passive House, like Turett’s seeks to consumes approximately 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings and 75 percent less energy than average new construction, according to his project’s press release.

Turett added, “Greenport is more than just an oasis for my family; it is a living model for clients and meant to inspire others, that despite costing a little more to build, the results of living in a Passive Home will more than pay for itself in energy savings and helping the environment.”



Shutterstock
On Thursday, the city of Amsterdam announced its plan to replace all gasoline and diesel-powered cars and motorcycles with electric vehicles by 2030. The plan is an attempt to address unhealthy and alarming rates of air pollution in the city due to high traffic.

Currently, toxic air pollution in Amsterdam exceeds European Union standards. In 2018, the Dutch health council called on the government to develop a plan to address toxic amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particle matter, specifically in the congested cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

“Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam,” said Sharon Dijksma, the city’s traffic councilor. According to Dijksma, Amsterdam residents lose an average of one year off their life expectancy due to air pollution.

The Dutch government’s goal is to replace all polluting cars, buses, boats and motorcycles with electric vehicles or hydrogen powered vehicles. The plan will be rolled out in phases over the next decade, including:

By 2020:
All cars built before 2005 will be banned from the city.

By 2022:
All polluting public buses and taxis will be banned.

By 2025:
All polluting boats and mopeds will also be banned. The city will also increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in order to reach a total of at least 23,000.

Although climate activists are mostly supportive of the initiative, some groups fear that this car ban will unfairly affect poor families who cannot afford electric vehicles. The loudest voice of dissent comes from the Rai Association, an automotive industry lobbying group, which argues that the ban will shut low income families out of the city.

However, supporters argue that electric vehicles have become increasingly less expensive and that the price is expected to steadily decline over the next 11 years.

The government also plans to use subsidies and parking permits to incentivize drivers to switch to cleaner cars.
Edward Williams Architects
The zero-carbon emitting office allows for versatility in layout while retaining its intimate domestic atmosphere

Edward Williams Architects has refurbished a house within a picturesque mixed-use mews in London’s Bayswater & Paddington Conservation Area, transforming it into a sustainable office for an investment company focused on sustainable agriculture. The existing building consisted of a brick shell with an internal steel and timber frame structure.

Externally, the architects have responded sensitively to the existing building features with roofing and windows matching the rest of the mews. New structural elements were designed to be fabricated offsite and then bolted together on site to maximise efficiency, reduce installation period and reduce construction waste and noise.

The office layout responds to the client’s brief for a modern aesthetic with in-built flexibility, with spaces ranging from an informal gathering area for the whole team, smaller spaces for private working and large meeting rooms. The architect has planned the spaces to allow for versatility without detracting from an intimate atmosphere of the former mews house – future proofing with the use of moveable office partitions but retaining a high level of acoustic privacy.

The mews entrance opens straight into a ground-floor reception which also doubles up as a conference room and dining room for employees. A set of folding, garage-style doors allows natural light to flood into the interior, while also creating a connection to the mews outside.

Inspired by exposed brickwork of the existing building, oak panels line the walls inside with exposed oak joists creating a sculptural element to the interior. A bespoke oak staircase connects the ground floor to the first. Cellular offices are divided by moveable glass partitions, allowing different internal configurations. The timber has been pressure-impregnated to achieve a Class 0 fire rating, while negating the need for intrusive fire systems.

The annual predicted carbon emissions for the building are zero as the whole building relies on electricity that the client has committed to source from a sustainable electricity supplier. The scheme incorporates an electric boiler for underfloor heating, no mechanical cooling and natural daylighting on top of other passive sustainable design interventions.

Architect’s view

When we saw the existing neglected shell among a picturesque mews terrace, we jumped at the chance to rekindle the building’s charm and give it a new lease of life for our sustainability-conscious client.

The challenge was to redevelop the existing double-fronted mews building without losing any of its character, but adding additional character where possible. Our design draws out the warm red hues of the existing Victorian brickwork and uses it as a counterpoint to the new structural frame of grey-painted steel supports and solid oak beams, also echoed in wall panelling throughout the scheme.

We restored the building’s characteristic dormer windows and installed glass partition walls, creating an additional storey of bright, useable, flexible office space. For the ground floor spaces, a wood-heavy interior gives an intimate, homely atmosphere to the open plan space which can be used for all occasions – from team lunches to board meetings.

Edward Williams, founding director, Edward Williams Architects
Marijus/Blendswap
Air conditioning is a huge source of climate emissions–which is only expected to grow as the planet heats up. But scientists now think air conditioners could remove carbon from the air instead of putting it in.

The air conditioners and ventilation systems on apartment complexes or office towers aren’t typically a tool for fighting climate change. Air conditioning, alone, may use so much electricity by the middle of the century that it could push up the average global temperature by half a degree. But what if instead of contributing to climate change, HVAC systems could instead remove carbon from the air as they kept us cool.

The idea behind carbon capture is that machines suck carbon dioxide from the air–an example of “negative emissions.” This requires moving around large volumes of air, and the machines typically do that by running fans, a process that itself uses a lot of energy. A new study suggests that HVAC fans on buildings could help do some of the work. “If you think of the amount of air which [already flows through] all these air conditioning, ventilation, and heating systems, it’s a huge amount,” says Roland Dittmeyer, a chemical engineer at the Germany-based Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the paper. “And you already pay for the electricity to contact this air.”

The system would be fairly simple: Modular attachments to air conditioners could pull air inside and through filters that capture CO2. Then a combination of renewable energy and waste heat could be used to convert it into a carbon-neutral liquid fuel that could be used to replace, say, jet fuel.

Companies in the burgeoning “direct air capture” space are already working on making this synthetic fuel. Though it’s more expensive than other fuels, there are already subsidies in place to help create a market for it. In California, for example, a state program gives producers of “low-carbon” fuels credits that could make it affordable for an airline to buy synthetic jet fuel. In cities that are beginning to set emissions limits for buildings, the technology could potentially help building owners offset emissions.

Early plants that capture carbon from the atmosphere are just beginning to come online, and will typically be large, stand-alone facilities. But because CO2 is everywhere in the air, the equipment used to capture it could also theoretically be anywhere. The concept of working with buildings to combine the technology with HVAC takes the idea of distributed production even further.

In the paper, the researchers calculated that one large office tower in Frankfurt, Germany could capture enough CO2 to produce more than 600,000 gallons of fuel in a year. Office buildings throughout the city could produce more than 120 million gallons. Large grocery chains in Germany could potentially capture 350 metric tons of CO2 per store each year. The same process could happen on buildings everywhere.

There are some logistical challenges; first, Dittmeyer says, engineers will have to ensure that the process is safe, and that it can run autonomously without needing direct management. Big manufacturing plants are typically cheaper to run, but if the equipment is mass produced, he says, smaller plants could be feasible, and other chemical engineering plants are beginning to take a similar approach.

The research institute already works with Climeworks and other companies in the industry, and is now beginning to talk with air conditioning and ventilation businesses about setting up a first pilot. If the idea happens, Dittmeyer argues that it would have a second advantage: making it easier for people to get directly involved in tackling climate change. To meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, we’ll need not only to shift to a zero-carbon economy filled with electric vehicles and renewable energy–we’ll also need some strategy for removing the extra CO2 already in the atmosphere.

“With such a decentralized scheme, you have the opportunity to reach a large amount of individuals that might be willing to do something,” Dittmeyer says. “This is enabling the crowd to do something, rather than waiting for big companies to solve the problem. This is an approach that might be helpful to speed up the whole thing. That also happened in the solar business…and in that way, the whole field got momentum. And maybe we can achieve that with this more complex technology as well.”
TREDJE NATUR
Danish architecture firms Lendager Group and TREDJE NATUR want to prove that building tall doesn’t need to come at the cost of the environment or human comfort. That’s why the two firms teamed up to design CPH Common House, a proposal for the world’s first upcycled high-rise in the Ørestad area of Copenhagen. Draped in greenery, the stepped building would be built from upcycled materials “to an unprecedented extent” for an estimated 1,174 tons of carbon emission savings in the building phase.

Designed to raise the bar for sustainable high-rises in the future, the CPH Common House is a proposal commissioned by SOLSTRA Development – Bellakvarter A/S, but it was not chosen for construction. The conceptual project serves as a springboard for eco-friendly developments in the future. “With CPH Common House, we propose the world’s first upcycled high-rise building,” the architects explained. “We show how to build high and dense without losing the connection to the history, context and human scale. Strategies on sustainability and circularity are incorporated in the project from the first sketch.”

To create connection with the existing urban fabric, the CPH Common House draws elements from the traditional perimeter block and activates the streetscape with 30,000 square meters of commercial space located at the building’s base. The landscaped terraces and the expansive courtyard near the base of the building create communal meeting spaces for the community, while residents would also enjoy access to private roof terraces from their apartments. Rainwater would be harvested and reused for irrigation.



Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a sweeping plan for a more sustainable Los Angeles on Monday, calling for dramatic changes to the car culture, buildings and air quality of America’s second-largest city.

The mayor’s sustainability plan imagines a city where, by the mid-2030s, 80% of the cars run on electricity or zero-emission fuel, 80% of the electricity comes from renewable sources and Angelenos drive 2,000 fewer miles each year than they do now. It’s a far cry from today’s L.A., where gridlock, tailpipe pollution and smoggy air have come to define a way of life.

Garcetti cited the “existential threat” of climate change, which scientists say is fueling bigger and deadlier heat waves, wildfires and floods in California and around the world. He said he worries that if Los Angeles doesn’t take aggressive action now, in 50 years the city will have little time for priorities other than survival.

“Los Angeles needs to lead, but the whole world needs to act. This plan gives us a fighting chance,” Garcetti said in an interview. “It’s sort of a ‘greenprint’ for every other city in the country and the world, hopefully.”

Garcetti is pitching the plan as L.A.’s version of a Green New Deal, the set of climate change and economic justice policies popularized by progressive activists and championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

City Hall may have limited control over whether L.A. meets many of the targets in the plan, which updates a previous sustainability road map from 2015 and has been in the works for several years, before the phrase “Green New Deal” entered the national lexicon.

At times, the plan simply reiterates existing commitments on climate and clean energy, and details for how many of the goals will be achieved are yet to be determined.

But in at least two areas, the plan sets ambitious new targets and lays a foundation for how they might be met: transportation and buildings, which account for three-quarters of the city’s planet-warming emissions.

On the transportation front, the mayor’s office hopes to reduce the amount of time Angelenos spend driving, from an average of 15 miles a day now to 13 miles by 2025, and 9 miles by 2035. More significantly from a climate change emissions standpoint, the sustainability plan calls for increasing the percentage of electric or zero-emission vehicles in the city from 1.4% last year to 25% by 2025, 80% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.

The city’s built environment would see big changes, too. Garcetti’s plan says all new buildings should be “net-zero carbon” by 2030, with the entire building stock converted to zero-emission technologies by 2050.

Even with the falling costs of renewable energy and electric cars, Garcetti said he expects meeting the targets to be “messy and difficult” politically.

The labor union that represents workers at the Department of Water and Power, for instance, recently protested his decision not to rebuild the three coastal gas plants. Union workers protested again Monday outside Garcetti’s house, saying his plan would kill jobs and raise electricity rates.

ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart
Blaine Brownell reviews recent applications of carbon fiber technology and assesses its utility in environmentally conscious construction.

To market the design for his Dymaxion prototype, Buckminster Fuller famously asked: “How much does your house weigh?” Composed of a lightweight sheet metal aluminum skin held in tension by a single, central mast, the Dymaxion weighed only about 1.5 tons—about 10 percent the weight of an average house.

Fuller's emphasis on weight is even more critical today, given the ever-increasing environmental impact of shipping raw and processed materials around the planet. The automotive and aerospace industries have made significant advances in the strategy known as "lightweighting" by employing new and lighter materials and reducing the weight of components. Such an approach enabled U.S. airlines to significantly increase fuel efficiency by 125 percent between 1978 and 2017.

Carbon fiber is increasingly employed in the fabrication of many ultralight structures, from Formula One car bodies to bicycle components. Made from carbon filaments that are typically woven together into a cloth, carbon fiber is often coated with resin or thermoplastics to create composites with a very high strength-to-weight ratio. The result is a material about five times stronger and five times lighter than steel—and twice as stiff—that can readily tolerate heat and corrosion, making it ideal for extreme environments.

Despite the relatively high cost of carbon fiber, architects and engineers have started using it to construct buildings and infrastructural projects. For example, researchers at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) utilized carbon fiber as a prominent construction material in their latest work: the 2019 BUGA Fiber Pavilion at Bundesgartenschau Heilbronn in Germany, a dome made of glass- and carbon-fiber ribs clad in a transparent ETFE membrane. The team programmed a robot to deliver more than 492,000 feet of fibrous filaments in a spatial arrangement whereby fiber type and density could be varied based on structural loads. Designed to mimic biological systems, the carbon fibers surround the transparent glass fibers to form bundled structure members resembling flexed muscle tissues. According to the team, a single fibrous component can support “around 25 tons or the weight of more than 15 cars.” The dome, which has a free span of around 75 feet and shelters a floor area of 4,305 square feet, is composed of 60 of these components, each of which weighs only 16.8 pounds per square meter.

Although the ICD/ITKE work assumes the form of bespoke demonstrations, another research team has been deploying carbon fiber broadly in public infrastructure. The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has developed a composite arch bridge system made of carbon fiber–reinforced concrete. Designed for single-span bridges up to 65 feet, the system consists of a series of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) tubes that are filled with concrete on-site and then topped with steel-reinforced concrete decking. Similar to inflatable rafts, the CFRP tubes are transported to the site in a compact, folded state—hence the nickname “Bridge-in-a-Backpack.” According to the center’s website, “The arches are easily transportable, rapidly deployable, and do not require the heavy equipment or large crews needed to handle the weight of traditional construction materials.” In addition to their lightness, the CFRP tubes serve as the concrete formwork, thus eliminating the need for additional materials. They also function as noncorrosive concrete reinforcing, a clear advantage over rust-prone steel. Based on these many benefits, the system has been used to build 23 bridges to date.

These examples demonstrate how lightness—among other material attributes—gives carbon fiber an advantage in construction. But how does this lightness perform when a project also calls for enhanced sustainability?

In a December 2019 Industry Week article, Ray Boeman, director of the Scale-Up Research Facility at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tenn., explains, “Carbon fiber has the best potential for lightweighting, but takes a lot of energy.” According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a typical CFRP composite requires 800 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) of p
Denys Nevozhai/Unsplash
Some of New York’s tallest towers are doing the most harm to the environment. Although buildings larger than 25,000 square feet only represent two percent of the city’s stock, according to the Urban Green Council that minority is responsible for up to half of all building emissions.

Now the New York City Council is finally cracking down on the worst offenders, and New York will soon become the first city in the world to constrain large building emissions through hard limits. Yesterday the council passed the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act, a legislative package that some are comparing to a New Green Deal for New York.

The Climate Mobilization Act, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign, would set increasingly harsh limits on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet beginning in 2024. According to the Urban Green Council, New York City produces 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and buildings account for approximately 67 percent of that—meaning buildings over 25,000 square feet produce 35 percent, or about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, a year.

The legislation covering the affected 50,000 buildings will roll out in phases. This year, an Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance and an advisory board will be created at the Department of Buildings to both regulate and enforce the new standards. When the law fully takes effect in 2024, emissions from qualifying buildings will need to be reduced 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Climate Mobilization Act then takes things one step further and requires that these same buildings slash their emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Why are large buildings such energy hogs? Lighting, heating, cooling, and tech requirements, combined with inefficient equipment, all constrained within leaky envelopes, have combined to create a perfect storm of waste.

Retrofitting these massive buildings to use or waste less energy is projected to potentially create thousands of jobs for architects, energy modelers, engineers, and construction workers, as everything from inefficient windows to HVAC systems will need to be replaced. For those structures that can’t be brought up to code on schedule, their owners can offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits. If an owner still isn’t in compliance, they can be hit with an ongoing fine based on their actual emissions versus the cap.

The real estate industry had been a vocal opponent of the measure, arguing that it would place an undue burden on both it and tenants.

“The overall effect is going to be that an owner is going to think twice before she rents out any space: ‘Is the next tenant I’m renting to going to be an energy hog or not?’” Carl Hum, general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), told the New York Times. “There’s a clear business case to be made that having a storage facility is a lot better than having a building that’s bustling with businesses and workers and economic activity.”

Still, those fears appear unwarranted. Part of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance’s job will be to work with landlords and tenants and issue variances for buildings with higher energy requirements.
BILLY H.C. KWOK FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK
BYD, which built the battery in your ’90s cellphone, now produces more EVs than anyone—and it wants to sell them to you, soon.

On the floor of a cavernous factory in southern China, dozens of unfinished cars, freshly painted in cherry red or dark silver, dangled 6 feet above a spotless concrete floor. Their engines had been installed a few moments earlier, but they were still skeletal, more the promise of vehicles than the real thing. As they drifted down the line, a sledlike robot scooted into position beneath each chassis, slowing to match its speed.

The robot carried a crucial payload: a battery about the size and shape of a double mattress, wrapped in a gray plastic casing. Suddenly, an accordion lift extended upward from the sled and inserted the battery into the car’s undercarriage. Workers in blue jumpsuits and white cotton gloves moved swiftly to the battery’s edges, carrying rivet guns connected by curling red cables to a supply of compressed air. Once the battery was rattled into place, the accordion retracted, sending its robot host scurrying off in search of fresh cargo.

Americans associate electric cars with the luxury of Tesla, the unrivaled conveyance of choice for the Sand Hill Road set. But these newly assembled vehicles, part of a family of SUVs called the Tang that retails from about 240,000 yuan ($35,700), are aimed squarely at middle-class drivers in the world’s largest electric vehicle market, China. Their manufacturer, BYD Co., is in turn the No. 1 producer of plug-in vehicles globally, attracting a tiny fraction of the attention of Elon Musk’s company while powering, to a significant extent, a transition to electrified mobility that’s moving faster in China than in any other country. Founded in Shenzhen in the mid-1990s as a manufacturer of batteries for brick-size cellphones and digital cameras, BYD now has about a quarter-million employees and sells as many as 30,000 pure EVs or plug-in hybrids in China every month, most of them anything but status symbols. Its cheapest model, the e1, starts at 60,000 yuan ($8,950) after subsidies.

BYD’s cars and other vehicles—a Tonka set of electric buses, forklifts, utility vans, street sweepers, and garbage trucks—run exclusively on batteries the company manufactures itself. Its sprawling Chinese facilities can produce almost 30 gigawatt-hours of power annually, more than enough to run every iPhone ever made. Last year, BYD opened one of the world’s largest battery plants, a 10 million-square-foot facility in Qinghai province, and in February it broke ground on another of similar size. This empire has made a billionaire of its founder and chairman, a former government chemist named Wang Chuanfu. It’s also been a boon for another high-net-worth individual, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. bought a 10 percent stake in BYD a decade ago.

Even for a nation of superlatives, China has adopted EVs at a stunning pace. Thanks to generous government subsidies and municipal regulations that make owning an internal combustion vehicle in many cities inconvenient, expensive, or both, China accounts for more than half the world’s purchases of electric cars. More EVs were sold in Shanghai last year than in Germany, France, or the U.K.; the city of Hangzhou, smallish by Chinese standards, had higher sales than all of Japan. Virtually all of Shenzhen’s 20,000 taxis are electric BYDs, compared with fewer than 20 of any make in New York. More than 500,000 electric buses ply Chinese roads, compared with fewer than 1,000 in the U.S.
Vincent Callebaut Architectures
The defunct National Baths of Aix-les-Bains will receive a vibrant and sustainably minded revival in the hands of the Paris-based practice Vincent Callebaut Architectures. Selected as the winner of a competition following the popular vote, the firm’s proposal — dubbed “The Foam of Waves” — will not only restore the ancient thermal baths, but also introduce a sustainable, energy-producing paradigm that follows the carbon-neutral guidelines as recommended by COP 21. The project will adopt a mixed-use program that incorporates residential, commercial, tourist, educational and urban agriculture spaces.

The Foam of Waves focuses on the renovation of the Pellegrini, Revel and Princes buildings while staying respectful of the existing Roman remains. To inject new energy into the space, the architects have created a mixed-use program designed to attract locals, tourists and business investment. The scope includes a tourist office, a Center of Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage, a wellness center, a teaching space for the Peyrefitte School, a wellness-focused shopping center with restaurants, coworking spaces, 185 “green apartments” and parking. An urban educational farm integrating permaculture and aquaponics will be located on the green roof.

“The whole architectural project is the carrier of the new paradigms of our society,” the architects said. “It offers future residents and visitors the opportunity to adopt new lifestyles that respect the environment, health and urban well-being in order to simply live better. It is a resilient architecture, innervated by nature. It is an ode to biodiversity, renewable energies and the circular economy that advocates the construction of post-carbon, post-fossil, post-nuclear and even post-insecticidal cities.”

In addition to an expansive green roof, the buildings will feature updated wave-like facades with balconies large enough to accommodate trees and private garden spaces for residents. The building envelopes will be also be optimized for airtightness, insulation and passive solar conditions. The project aims to produce more energy than it consumes and will include a solar photovoltaic and thermal roof, a mini-biomass plant on-site and a co-generation system with rapeseed oil. Rainwater harvesting systems and gray water recycling will also be implemented.


Anti Hamar
Mass timber construction is on the rise, with advocates saying it could revolutionize the building industry and be part of a climate change solution. But some are questioning whether the logging and manufacturing required to produce the new material outweigh any benefits.

The eight-story Carbon 12 building in Portland, Oregon is the tallest commercial structure in the United States to be built from something called mass timber.

If the many fervent boosters of this new construction material are right, however, it is only one of the first mass timber buildings among many, the beginning of a construction revolution. “The design community in Portland is enthralled with the material,” said Emily Dawson, an architect at Kaiser + Path, the locally-based firm that designed Carbon 12.

The move to mass timber is even farther along in Europe. That’s because mass timber – large structural panels, posts, and beams glued under pressure or nailed together in layers, with the wood’s grain stacked perpendicular for extra strength – is not only prized as an innovative building material, superior to concrete and steel in many ways, it is also hoped it will come into its own as a significant part of a climate change solution.

Among architects, manufacturers, and environmentalists, many want nothing less than to turn the coming decades of global commercial construction from a giant source of carbon emissions into a giant carbon sink by replacing concrete and steel construction with mass timber. That, they say, would avoid the CO2 generated in the production of those building materials and sequester massive amounts of carbon by tying up the wood in buildings for decades or even longer, perhaps in perpetuity.

There are new mass timber buildings in London, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, and an 80-story high-rise is proposed for Chicago.

“Say the typical steel and concrete building has an emissions profile of 2,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Andrew Ruff, of Connecticut-based Gray Organschi Architecture, a leading proponent of the laminated wood revolution. “With mass timber you can easily invert so you are sequestering 2,000 tons of CO2. Instead of adding to climate change you are mitigating climate change. That’s the goal.”

And it is taking off. Mass timber has a two-decade track record in Europe. The 18-story Mjösa Tower just opened last month in Norway. An 18-story mass timber building was recently built in Vancouver as well, and an 80-story high-rise is proposed for Chicago. There are new commercial mass timber buildings in London, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. Some 21 timber buildings over 50 meters (164 feet) tall will be completed in Europe by the end of the year, according to one report.

But there are big questions being asked about just how sustainable the new building material is –especially about how forests that produce mass timber are managed, and how much CO2 would be emitted in the logging, manufacture, and transport of the wood products used in the construction. So far, critics say, there aren’t good answers to these questions.
Lloyd Alter
What matters is what is being emitted now, and it has to be measured to be managed.

We talk a lot about embodied carbon or embodied energy, which I have defined as "the carbon emitted in the making of building products." I have also written that "embodied energy is a difficult concept but we have to start wrestling with it every day."

It is a difficult concept because everyone has been relating it to life cycle analyses, trying to determine if, say, adding insulation saves more carbon over the life of a building than is created by making the insulation. But it is not necessarily so complicated; Geoff Milne wrote for an Australian guide to sustainability back in 2013:

"Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport and product delivery. Embodied energy does not include the operation and disposal of the building material, which would be considered in a life cycle approach. Embodied energy is the ‘upstream’ or ‘front-end’ component of the life cycle impact of a home."

A few months ago I began to question the way we discuss embodied carbon, writing Forget about Life-Cycle Analyses, we don't have time.

"We don't have a life-cycle to analyze, we don't have a long term; The IPCC laid it out when they said We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. That means we have the here and now to stop putting CO2 into the atmosphere...That is our life-cycle, and in that length of time the embodied carbon in our materials becomes very important indeed."

Then this weekend I was in a long twitter exchange, discussing the carbon "burp" of making stuff when Elrond Burrell picked up the theme:

"All important, but the emissions burp/vomit/spike for product manufacture & construction literally happens when a building is built, not over the lifetime. It's not "embodied" it's *already* emitted. So it's critical in terms of keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere this decade."

And it hit me: Embodied carbon is not a difficult concept at all, it is just a misleading term, because as Elrond notes, it isn't embodied, it is in the atmosphere now.

And Jorge Chapa of the Green Building Council Australia nailed it I think with his suggestion of Upfront Emissions. Because that is exactly what we should be measuring. Through the course of writing this, I have concluded that it should be Upfront Carbon Emissions, or UCE.

The Architects' Journal
The AJ asked leaders in the sustainability field what immediate steps architects could take towards achieving a zero-carbon built environment in the near future

1) The default position should always be to retrofit existing buildings

Jonathan Tuckey, director, Jonathan Tuckey Design

The best way to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings is not to build them at all.

As an industry we must minimise demolition wherever possible and maximise reuse of existing structures. Radically transforming a building creates inspiring and joyful spaces which are full of both history and future promise.

As a profession, we must take it for granted that such retrofit schemes should be well insulated, well lit, airtight and sustainably heated.

This approach could be encouraged with across-the-board incentives. Remodelling an existing building is currently accompanied by 20 per cent VAT while it’s zero for new-build projects.

This should be reversed and the government could further subsidise the upgrading of a building’s thermal performance. It could introduce a carbon tax on materials or a carbon credit on recycled buildings, which might encourage people to recycle as much as possible. When you take a building apart in Switzerland you must separate out materials so they can be recycled. This is a very time-consuming process but the decision to demolish is taken with this in mind.

With some relatively straightforward changes to legislation we can prioritise and celebrate the reuse of existing buildings and make the process more profitable. Local communities would prefer to see their much-loved streets preserved; while making buildings more energy-efficient is better for the environment while reducing costs as fuel prices soar.

2) Reduce the use of concrete by three quarters immediately

Piers Taylor, founder, Invisible Studio

Concrete is the least understood commonly used building material. We know, of course, that concrete is the most widely used material on the planet. What is less known is that it is a relatively low impact material in CO2 terms.

If concrete is replaced by almost any other material, it would have a bigger carbon footprint. For example, using steel as a substitute for concrete is less efficient in CO2 terms, while most brick manufacturing processes produce more CO2 than cement production, including low-tech production methods still predominant in the developing world.

Although there are wider environmental implications, the main reason concrete has a big carbon footprint is because of the huge quantities used. But also, optimising concrete designed for construction is an inexact science. It’s almost impossible to determine the optimal concrete for many applications, meaning too much cement is used, and limestone-based cement requires huge amounts of energy to produce.

While ultra-strong concrete is being developed, allowing a more efficient use of material, ultimately we solve little through direct material substitution in any case.

If the construction industry is to make the necessary radical reduction in CO2 emissions, we need to change the way we design. This means designing leaner buildings that are planned in dense medium-rise communities where we can use timber for the bulk of superstructure. While it is difficult to use materials other than concrete for foundations, at the heart of our problem is the construction industry’s lazy use of concrete – using too much concrete with too little thought on structures that are badly designed, such as buildings that lack the resilience to adapt or are designed with little thought of how they might be adapted in the future and are pulled down after less than 40 years.

At a stroke, we could reduce the amount of concrete we use by up to 75 per cent if we were more strategic and only used it for ess
Philip Kamrass/New York Power Authority
On the heels of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement on Tuesday that he would devote his efforts and resources to shuttering every remaining coal plant in the U.S. by 2030, New York State revealed on Wednesday its “Buildings of Excellence” initiative to advance the design, construction, and operation of low- or zero-carbon emitting buildings on the way to a fossil fuel-free future.

The competition, which will include three rounds over the course of three years, each providing up to $10 million for projects featuring innovative, energy efficiency solutions, is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's goal to transform New York's entire building stock as part of his Green New Deal, and will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The first round is focused on multi-family buildings, which make up 40 percent of the 100 million square feet of new construction in the state each year. Applications are being accepted through June 4, 2019. Awards to eligible developers are expected by late summer 2019.

Eligible projects that will be awarded must be in one of the following four phases:
  • Early Design - Projects in the schematic design or design development phase; eligible for an award of up to $1,000,000.
  • Late Design - Design development is complete, and the construction documents are being developed, but the building permit has not yet been issued; eligible for an award of up to $750,000.
  • Under Construction - If the building permit has been issued, but the first Certificate of Occupancy, whether temporary or permanent, has not been issued; eligible for an award of up to $500,000.
  • Post-Completion Performance Optimization - Projects must show how additional proposed enhancements and/or optimizations demonstrate replicability and improve the living environment; eligible for an award of up to $250,000.
Speaking at a press conference in New York City, NYSERDA president and CEO Alicia Barton said, “Launching the Buildings of Excellence competition is setting a new bar for buildings throughout the state, and providing the support needed to recognize and advance solutions that will help building owners achieve a low-carbon or net-zero status that delivers environmental and health benefits, reduces energy costs, and provides safe, comfortable spaces for all residents and users.”
zhongguo/Getty
A new report reveals the extent of the problem.

Fossil fuel companies have polluted the groundwater of communities across the country with poisonous chemicals. According to a new comprehensive study by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, the groundwater beneath 91 percent of coal plants has been contaminated with coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal. The study’s conclusion? Coal-burning is not only contributing to climate change, it’s also doing widespread damage to the country’s water, and the Trump administration is making the problem worse.

“We’re facing a water crisis nationwide, caused by coal ash and perpetuated by the Trump administration,” Lisa Evans, senior counsel at Earthjustice, said on a national press call about the report. The report also found that the groundwater at 52 percent of coal plants had unsafe levels of arsenic, a neurotoxin that can lead to brain development issues in children. More than one-third of people in the United States rely on groundwater for drinking.

The country is producing “enough ash to fill train cars from New York City to Melbourne, Australia,” Evans explained. Each year, coal plants around the country produce 100 million tons of coal ash—which can contain a long list of pollutants detrimental to human health. For decades, companies dumped coal ash into unlined ponds and landfills, leaving the groundwater vulnerable to leaks and raising the risk of contaminating the drinking water.

The largest coal ash disaster to date occurred in 2008, when a retaining wall around the the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee collapsed, releasing more than 1 billion gallons of the toxic material into two rivers. Seven years later, the Obama administration implemented a new rule that required groundwater testing near coal ash ponds, created standards for their construction, and required companies to clean up leaking coal ash ponds by the end of 2018.

This all changed with the Trump administration’s commitment to the revival of the coal industry and the appointment of coal lobbyists in key environmental agency roles. The first major rule signed by Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist and Scott Pruitt’s successor at the Environmental Protection Agency, was to roll back Obama’s coal ash regulation. “Wheeler is doing the bidding of dirty industry,” Evans said. Now, the coal industry can suspend groundwater monitoring at certain sites if the plant can prove it’s not contaminating it, and the deadline for cleaning up leaking ponds has been extended to 2020.

With more relaxed enforcement has come increasing pollution by coal companies. Near San Antonio, Texas, the San Miguel Power Plant is contaminating the groundwater with cadmium (a chemical classified by the EPA as a “probable” carcinogen) and lithium, a metal that can cause nerve damage. According to the report, the Peeler family, who owns a nearby cattle ranch, are worried about the pollutants seeping into their soil or the nearby river, which provides drinking water for several small towns. “We’re fighting San Miguel to clean up the mess they’ve made,” said Jason Peeler, a family member who spoke on the press call. In response, the company has attempted to use eminent domain to acquire the land. “Instead of cleaning up,” Peeler said, “they’re trying to just take away what my family has built for five generations.”

Researchers point out that even though it’s more difficult to determine exactly how coal ash contamination has affected the drinking water in nearby communities, there have been several instances. In 2004, the EPA declared Town of Pines, Indiana, a Superfund site after NIPSCO, a utility company, dumped coal ash into an unlined landfill and used the waste in roadway construction. The company provided clean drinking water to residents and removed pollutants from the town. In 2008, in Gambrills, Maryland, Constellation Energy was fined $1 million by the state, paid $45 million to the residents of this Baltimore-area small town, and provided an alternative drinking water source after it dumped coal waste into an old sand and gravel mine and contaminated their drinking water. More recently, Duke Energy, a North Carolina power company, agreed to pay $3 million after it spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. The waste polluted residential wells and the company handed out bottled water to dozens of families who live near the plant.

The report
IACC
The construction industry is responsible for a large percentage of carbon emissions. From sourcing to design to material manufacturing to building construction, the carbon dioxide output from projects around the world has a significant environmental impact. This has led to sustainable construction innovations that not only reduce the production of carbon dioxide, but also improve a building’s longevity, reduce energy bills and increase the use of natural light. Here is a list of some innovative construction materials and ideas that could revolutionize the industry and help us build a more sustainable future.

Transparent wood

Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic.

When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable.

Transparent wood

Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic.

When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable.

Hydrogel

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona is leading the way in reducing the use of air conditioning by using hydrogel to create walls that can cool themselves. The architects are placing hydrogel bubbles in between ceramic panels that can be installed into existing walls.

Inspired by the human body’s ability to cool itself, the hydrogel can absorb water when the air around it gets hot and starts to evaporate. This can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, so you don’t have to keep the A/C cranking non-stop during the summer.

Super-hydrophobic cement

Recently, scientists have found a way to alter cement’s microstructure in a way that makes it absorb and reflect light. This finding has led to the creation of super-hydrophobic cement, or luminescent cement, which could replace traditional street lights and the energy they consume.
IRENA Renewable Cost Database and Auction Database
A roadmap for a viable Green New Deal

The Green New Deal has burst onto the American stage, spurring more conversation about – and aspiration for – ambitious climate policy than at any point in at least a decade.

I’m glad to see it. Suddenly, climate is on the agenda, and ambitions for climate policy are higher than perhaps at any point in US history.

The Green New Deal is a resolution right now. It’s a statement of intent. It hasn’t yet progressed to the point of detailed policy proposals or legislation, which means now is the time to help craft its details.

For the last decade I’ve written about and publicly spoken about innovation in clean technology and ways to address climate change. I’ve helped to lead a climate-fighting citizen ballot initiative in my home state of Washington, invested in clean energy startups, and advised on climate and clean energy policies of other nations.

In that time, my views on what sort of climate policies have the most impact and have the greatest chances of winning over voters have changed. Policies that I thought were foolish a decade ago have revealed themselves to have been farsighted and effective. Policies I thought were powerful and elegant have, on closer inspection, revealed themselves to be far less effective than I believed. And the history of climate and energy legislation and attitudes in the US has demonstrated a path to getting new and more ambitious policies passed.

What I’ve learned over time is that good climate policy has 3 key traits:
  1. It has a large, meaningful impact on carbon emissions and climate change.
  2. It specifically tackles the problems that aren’t already being tackled by the market.
  3. It actually gets passed into law.