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Conversations around resiliency today seem to imply that planners and designers might be capable of—might even be expected to—save every building and public space at risk. The sad truth is, however, that we cannot, and perhaps we should not. Climate change and its attendant sea level rise will radically redraw urban edges, forcing us to make difficult decisions. Even if we had the vast sums of money required to protect the precarious status quo, that might not be enough to stave off the inevitable.

So, then: What are our priorities? How do we choose what to save? How do we responsibly chart this uncertain future? I believe the answers to these and similar questions should begin with an honest assessment of three essential considerations:

(1) Consider the useful life of buildings, structures, and public spaces. When thinking about how to apportion funds for resiliency and risk assessment, the “useful life” of a facility should be a key determinant in what is saved (note that I do not say “protect,” a potentially more accessible goal). Every structure and public space is designed to have a “useful life”: an anticipated life span based on design and construction. This is usually determined by clients, but it should be a significant consideration for designers, too. For example, hospitals are designed for, at minimum, a 100-year existence, even if internal mechanical systems require upgrading to keep pace with technological advances.

Sadly, housing—particularly standalone and attached residences—typically falls far below this threshold. One of the major challenges for this sector is that we largely construct these buildings with concrete, which is also true for infrastructure. Exposed-concrete structures, such as bridges and tunnels, have an approximate 50-to-60-year life span. In other words, New York’s Robert Moses-era infrastructure has now reached the end of its viability. Steel structures are also limited, if they are not regularly inspected and monitored for rust and deterioration. As a result, in the future, hospitals located near or in flood zones might warrant saving, but at-risk housing and infrastructure might not.

(2) Evaluate their worth to society. Every structure and space should be considered in terms of the value to people of its ability to withstand the impacts of a physically disruptive occurrence—i.e., the ability to recover from a traumatic event—and supported accordingly. Critical facilities include hospitals, food storage and delivery systems, and infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and telecommunications that provide evacuation and emergency response opportunities. Among these, facilities considered highly critical should be evaluated based on their capacity to integrate redundant systems that will enable them to function immediately following a catastrophic event. For example, following Hurricane Sandy, a number of major facilities along New York’s Upper East Side “Hospital Row” lacking in-built redundancy had their mechanical systems overwhelmed by flooding, which resulted in weeks of disruption to crucial medical care.

Considering public spaces, one might ask whether parks, for example, are “critical infrastructure.” Clearly, they are not vital to one’s ability to recover or survive a catastrophic event, but are they critical in terms of daily life? I would argue that they are. So what level of risk are we willing to accept for parkland? And if this parkland—125 of New York City’s 525-mile-long coastline, for example—is within a zone of vulnerability from storms and sea level rise, then will we slowly see the disappearance of it as seas rise and storm frequency accelerates? Should we be planning to replace that parkland elsewhere? Should we relocate (“retreat”) people from coastal communities so that we can build replacement parks at a higher elevation (a highly unlikely option)? Or do we simply accept this “taking” of parkland by natural forces? On the other hand, when is a “floodable park” no longer usable? When it floods monthly, or weekly, or diurnally with the tide? All of these elements come into consideration when evaluating the investment value of resiliency interventions in these spaces.

(3) Officially categorize structures and spaces and take action based on risk management and climate change considerations. The NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy an
Keith Negley
Over the last 50 years, a once-nascent conversation about sustainability has evolved into a full-scale priority for the profession.

Passive design—or design that takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range—has been used to heat and cool living spaces throughout human history, but the practice saw a strong groundswell among architects in the United States in the 1970s.

The 1973 oil embargo, sweeping policy overhauls like the Clean Water Act, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency all contributed to the conviction of a small group of passionate and environmentally conscious architects that they needed to design differently. These architects saw it as an essential task to revive practices that could heat and cool buildings without relying on the energy-intensive mechanical systems introduced in the decades prior. In the process, much of the sustainability discourse present in the architectural profession today began to take shape.

With climate change conversations becoming increasingly urgent, sustainability has shifted from a nascent movement to a major focus. We talked to four architects—two who started their careers working on passive residential projects in the 1970s, and two leading sustainability initiatives at larger firms today—about how they use passive design techniques, how a drive for designing lowenergy buildings informs their practice, and what sustainability means to them.

David Wright, Owner, David Wright, Architect, Grass Valley, Calif.

David Wright is a pioneer in the field of passive solar design, a practice he still continues today. He is also the author of The Passive Solar Primer: Sustainable Architecture (Schiffer Publishing, 2008).,

I graduated from CalPoly [California State Polytechnic University] in 1964, and there was not a lot of concern for energy conservation in the early ’60s. I joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Tunisia, and one of the projects I worked on was a 60-unit affordable housing design for police, schoolteachers, and nurses—people who couldn’t necessarily afford “good” housing. I had learned several things about some of the traditional architecture in North Africa, which used natural conditioning features—orienting the buildings properly to let in sunlight in the wintertime, and allowing breezes off the Mediterranean to cool them in the summertime. Lo and behold, the buildings worked to naturally heat and cool themselves.

I finished my stint there and was reassigned to Guinea, in tropical West Africa. My job was to design and build an agricultural junior college, 300 kilometers up in the jungle. There, I was designing for a whole different climate. I looked at traditional ways of keeping the rainfall out, making sure the breeze could blow through, and generally adapting the buildings to the climate zone.

When I came back to the U.S. and became licensed, I moved to New Mexico because I was enamored with the idea of using natural materials like adobe. I analyzed the performance characteristics of traditional adobes in conjunction with more modern materials, and with—by then—a very strong understanding of physics and the laws of nature, started developing what became known as passive solar techniques.

It was fascinating to evolve new ways of space-conditioning buildings, and when the 1973 oil crisis occurred, we went from what I call the “lunatic fringe”—people out there in New Mexico trying to figure stuff out—to what I call “lunatic center.” All of the magazines, all of the newspapers, and all of the people writing books showed up to check out what was going on.

From then on, everything we did was an evolution. I got away from adobe and into super-insulated and earth-integrated buildings, especially in Oklahoma and Minnesota—but with heavy insulation and thermal mass, using all of the principals of passive solar. At the time, my staff and I all thought, “We’re going to revolutionize architecture here because we’re going to create buildings that are functionally formed in response to the climate, and that will become a methodology for architects all over the world to start developing their own microclimate regional-style buildings.”

It’s still totally fascinating to me as an [older] architect. I’m amazed at how the code [has] changed and how, today, the things that I and a couple of other guys [were talking about] in the 1970s are actually in the code now, especially in California—you have to pay atten
P. Ravikumar/Reuters
A new WRI report on 15 cities across the Global South reveals that access to safe drinking water is often underestimated—and the challenge will only get worse.

The United Nations has long made access to safe drinking water a global priority. First, the UN began tracking each country’s progress as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—a set of eight targets aimed at improving the quality of life for the world’s poorest. Later, water access became part of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which replaced the MDGs when they expired in 2015. While some nations have reported improvements over the last few decades, a report published Tuesday by the World Resource Institute finds that such national-level measurements underestimate the reality of water access inside cities.

“The issues of continuous service, affordability, and how people move water in the urban built environment are not apparent from just looking at progress on SDGs,” says Victoria Beard, a fellow at the WRI Ross Center For Sustainable Cities who co-authored the report. “You need to go beyond it.” Just saying that a nation provides piped water, for example, doesn’t tell you how reliable the service is, or how safe the water is. If the population depends on privatized water sources, like local water vendors or tanker trucks, the costs may not be accounted for—especially among those living in informal settlements.

So researchers at WRI took a deeper dive into the urban water crisis by analyzing water access in 15 “emerging” or “struggling” cities across Latin America, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa—regions often referred to as the Global South. They looked particularly at informal settlements, which may not always be included in the data. “A lot of times informal settlements are not represented in public city data because they are considered illegal or they’re outside formal planning or regulatory frameworks,” Beard says. Yet in sprawling megacities like Lagos, Nairobi, or Karachi, more than half of households are inside informal settlements, according to the report.

The good news: Nearly two-third of households, on average, across all 15 of the Global South cities studied have access to piped water, according to the report. A deeper dive into each city, though, reveals that availability is uneven. In Mumbai, more than 80 percent of households get piped water, but water is available for only seven hours each day. Similarly, water is available only three hours a day for roughly 70 percent of households in nearby Bangalore, and only for three days a week. The authors also report that in 12 cities, the government struggled to provide continuous water service—often a result of water and energy shortages, infrastructure failures, or “municipal rationing.” That, in turn, affects quality and safety, as water is more likely to be contaminated when water pressure is low.

Access to piped water is even more infrequent and inconsistent for those living in informal settlements. Of the nine cities that reported medium to high piped-water access, five also reported intermittent water supply.

When piped water is absent or unreliable, residents turn to privatized water delivery services, which are not uncommon. State agencies turned to private companies in the 1980s after struggling to provide basic services to lower-income households. In the 2000s, when private companies also struggled to make a profit, cities began corporatizing water utilities, operating on an incentives model. As a result, Beard says, affordability often gets ignored.
New York State - Office of the Governor
Seven years after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City and coastal New Jersey, government officials are gearing up to build a long-awaited seawall system that will help protect the south shore of Staten Island, the borough that sits in New York Harbor, south of Manhattan.

Sandy made this area of Staten Island particularly vulnerable to future storms, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In February, lawmakers announced that the state of New York and the Corps had agreed on the terms of a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA), making it possible to move forward on the $615 million seawall construction. Finalization of the agreement means that New York City has been able to transfer $215 million to the Corps so work on the project can begin.

The PPA identified the funding and work execution responsibilities for the Corps and its non-federal-government partners. The agreement also cleared the way for a federal contribution of $400 million. New York City has set aside $65 million for the seawall project and New York state will contribute $151 million.

Seawall system specs
The Staten Island seawall system construction is scheduled to begin in 2020. Also referred to as a multi-use elevated promenade, the system will stretch approximately 5.3 miles from Oakwood Beach to Fort Wadsworth. It will include:
  • 4.5 miles of buried seawall
  • 0.6 mile levee gate
  • 0.35 miles of floodwalls
  • 180 acres of ponding areas
  • 46 acres of tidal wetlands
  • 300 acres of natural water storage
Intended to make Staten Island's low-lying, flood-prone areas more resilient to future storms, the system also was designed to protect vital infrastructure, including a wastewater plant, Staten Island University Hospital, police and fire stations, schools and community senior centers. During Sandy, 80% of structures in the future seawall's protected area sustained damage as floodwaters of more than 10 feet deep — 4 feet higher than the prior record — contributed to 43 fatalities in New York City, 24 on Staten Island alone.

During the hurricane, water depth peaked at 12.5 feet above sea level; the Corps plan will put maximum protection of the buried seawall at 19.4 feet above sea level. With the addition of the planned boardwalk on top of the levee, that rises to 21.4 feet.
The city is taking the threat of climate change seriously, but it may not be enough to keep the waters at bay.

Oh, Miami, America’s tropical fever dream. The city along Biscayne Bay has been half a fantasy since at least the 1950s, a raffish, pastel-colored, Art Deco, bikini-clad vision of escape. Miami Beach, the smaller island city floating just across the bay, sits at the heart of this illusion, a stroll along South Beach promising a chance to briefly escape the harder edges of daily life.

Yet these two communities built on dreams are coming to grips with a reality some of the nation continues to deny: the impact of global climate change. On a spring day so perfect it seemed like it was conjured up by the tourist bureau, Reinaldo Borges, AIA, one of the region’s earliest and most fervent advocates of the need to respond to rising sea levels, took me around downtown Miami Beach to see how the city is adapting to the new reality. We strolled down streets and sidewalks that have been raised as much as 31 inches in recent years to deal with the “sunny day” flooding that had been coming with the highest tides, water rising up through the porous limestone that forms the bedrock in Miami Beach and the larger city across the bay. “This used to be the elevation of the sidewalk,” Borges says, pointing to what is now a sunken storefront operating out of a shallow half-basement. “This building needs to be replaced,” he adds bluntly. A block or so farther down, he points approvingly to a newer Publix grocery store, which has gracefully incorporated a rise in elevation that lifts it above flood levels. “This is a good adaptation.”

Adaptation. Resiliency. Evolution. I heard these words over and over again as I met with architects, urban planners, and city officials. One thing I did not hear is denial. “Those days of denial are over, at least here in Miami Beach,” Susanne Torriente, chief resilience officer for Miami Beach, tells me.

“The debate now is not if we should do something, but what we should do,” says Elizabeth Camargo, AIA, who heads the Resilience Recovery Task Force at AIA Miami, one of two different groups the local chapter has set up to deal with climate change.

Can Miami stand its ground, and what will it look like if it does? How will the city and its built environment evolve? The answers I heard involved solutions as mundane as better storm drains and as futuristic as a platform city.

If the debate is over, it’s because the impact of climate change has already arrived in South Florida: increasingly severe storms, sunny day flooding, and rising sea levels—the ocean here has risen 8 inches since 1950, according to the nonprofit group SeaLevelRise.org. The worst lies ahead. By the end of this century, the seas breaking along the shore in Miami and Miami Beach could be as much as 81 inches higher, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even more modest estimates predict an increase of 3 to 5 feet by 2100.

The average elevation of Miami Beach is only 4.4 feet and parts of the city are as little as 2 feet above sea level. Most of Miami has an elevation of 6 feet, but several neighborhoods have elevations of 3 feet or less. And the Miami River, of course, runs through the heart of the city all the way to the Everglades. So you have a low-lying metropolitan area of 6 million-plus people on porous soil with a major waterway tying it to an ocean that is rising more quickly every decade.

And yet people keep building and buying here. Breathtaking modernist mansions dot the water’s edge. Construction cranes hang in the downtown sky in Miami only blocks from the ocean. A word I did not hear during my visit, unless I brought it up first, was retreat. Neither Miami nor Miami Beach has zoned its low-lying or oceanside areas to prevent new construction.

Can Miami stand its ground, and what will it look like if it does? How will the city and its built environment evolve? The answers I heard involved solutions as mundane as better storm drains and as futuristic as a platform city.

“Learning to Live in a Water World”
In August 1992, after Hurricane Andrew ravaged Miami, causing billions in damage and leaving a quarter-million people homeless in Miami-Dade County alone, cities and counties in South Florida adopted some of the toughest building codes in the nation. They require buildings to be able to withstand winds up to 175 miles an hour, use shatterproof glass, and be built with
Lauren Nassef
As flooding increases across the country, architects and policymakers are strategizing ways to contain the deluge.

Flooding, long dismissed as a problem that happens to someone else, has risen in our national consciousness over the past 15 years thanks to such names as Katrina, Rita, Sandy, and Harvey—a set of the worst houseguests you could ever imagine. Recent flooding has been driven by a variety of causes: hurricanes whose landfall wasn’t in perennially threatened areas, as well as intense rains and snowmelt—manifestations of climate change and malign coincidence.

One linked fact is that flooding has afflicted far more than the usual geographic suspects, with New England and the Gulf Coast experiencing intense onslaughts. The impact has been highly destructive, and the only silver lining might be a greater awareness among architects and experts—and the public—of the need to take action.

Resilience, which until recently was represented by academics or the occasional forward-minded planner, is in the process of vaulting into mainstream consciousness as a result.

Illya Azaroff, AIA, founding principal at +LAB Architect PLLCs and a professor at New York City College of Technology (City University of New York), notes, “Before Hurricane Sandy, every time there was a resilience meeting, we all knew each other. Since then, I’m in meetings all of the time, and I don’t know a majority of the people. That’s a great thing.” (Azaroff ’s #HurricaneStrong home in Breezy Point, Queens, is the subject of the 2019 AIA Film Challenge seed film.)

Among architects and policymakers, a more acute awareness of the risks of flooding is developing—not only because of its increased geographic dispersal, but also because flooding has started to serially outstrip the bounds of outdated flood maps in surges of Neptunian irredentism. While this is an obvious shock to anyone whose home or business has been deluged, it is often chased by a second one: the fact that no one will pay for the damages.

FEMA flood maps, which classify sites into different levels of risks, have been irregularly funded, and many homes and businesses within their current boundaries lack insurance anyway. Prospective changes to FEMA flood insurance policies could prompt considerable changes in the nature of future construction and repairs in vulnerable areas. Assessments to date have been based on comparatively broad classifications of risk; FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 update, set to be implemented in 2020, will apply a finer-grained set of evaluations to individual properties, including the elevation of ground on the property, the elevation of a structure’s first-floor distance to water, and potential rebuilding costs.

“If property ownership costs are going to dramatically increase, that will have an affect on architects and the kinds of buildings they design,” says Rachel Minnery, FAIA, the senior director of resilience, adaptation, and disaster assistance at AIA. “Design is not the leader here, economic loss is.”

When it comes to the work of influencing and guiding where to build, how to build, how to protect what’s built, and how to reduce overall flood risks, architects have a vital role to play.

David Waggonner, FAIA, a principal at Waggonner & Ball who has been active with New Orleans flood planning, notes that architects are often merely responding to client specifications and may not have ultimately persuasive capacities, but that it is becoming necessary to take a stronger stance. “Architects are needed,” he says. “If we stay out of this, God help us.”

Storm-Related Ocean Flooding in Boston

There is no single way to foil flooding, and understanding the geographic variables is key. Some parts of New England, unexpectedly ravaged during Hurricane Sandy, feature safe land close to where any building is sited—even next to the ocean.

“The geologic structure of Connecticut is like the fingers of your hand; some of the geological ridges stretch out into the sea. You don’t have to retreat out of the area; you just have to retreat upland to the ridges,” says Donald Watson, FAIA, principal at EarthRise Design in Trumbull, Conn. This means that flood-vulnerable neighborhoods can migrate to higher ground nearby, possibly within the same town.

“Greenwich has done this [by allowing] developers to increase densities in safe zones and decrease densities in unsafe zones,” he says. New housing is permitted in the flood plain if
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.

Stephan Savoia/AP
Internal communications shed new light on the Rockefeller Foundation’s decision to stop funding the global climate nonprofit, and hint at what might come next.

In late April, at a town-hall meeting in New York City, Raj Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, addressed the staff of 100 Resilient Cities. The nonprofit, launched by the philanthropy in 2013, has helped cities around the world plan for natural disasters and social shocks, especially the ravages of climate change.

Earlier that month, the foundation had abruptly announced plans to shutter the program. Now Shah was explaining why.

“This is not about whether 100 Resilient Cities works,” Shah said. “It’s a shift in the foundation’s focus to delivering measurable results for vulnerable people ... with a budget framework that works.”

While the nonprofit was best known for climate adaptation plans, its work encompassed much more. For example, in Boston, leaders defined resilience as breaking down structural racism. In Panama City, it was about improving mobility. A city became “resilient” by identifying virtually any social and infrastructural fault line that a shock might expose. Change was measured on a long-term basis. In contrast to other nonprofits that give grants for specific projects, the 100RC model was unusually flexible.

But in April, the Rockefeller Foundation suddenly announced that it would discontinue its funding for 100RC, which had amounted to $164 million to date. Leaders said that they planned to “transition” the nonprofit’s work by setting up a new office at the foundation focused on economic resilience, and by funding the resilience efforts of the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Little explanation was given publicly, but foundation leaders later offered staff a two-part rationale: As it existed, 100RC had grown too costly, and its model no longer aligned with Rockefeller’s goals.

That shift was partly due to new leadership. Shah started as president of Rockefeller in 2017, after serving as the chief administrator of the federal U.S. Agency for International Development. It was his predecessor at Rockefeller, Judith Rodin, who helped design the resiliency program and spun it off as a grantee of the foundation. At the meeting in April, Shah told 100RC staff that he had promised the foundation’s board that he would focus on quantifying the impact of Rockefeller’s investments at the level of individual lives.

For example, he said, one of the foundation’s new goals was to save 6 million lives by improving maternal and children’s health through the use of predictive analytics, especially in developing counties. Another target was to bring renewable power and solutions to 200 million people who live in “energy poverty.”

“That was a big pivot for the Rockefeller Foundation, which had been focused on new ways of thinking about finance and resilience and inclusive economies in a more conceptual way,” Shah said. “That is great, but this is a different direction.”

Indeed, 100RC’s open-ended model was at times a weakness, said Carlos Martín, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, who authored a series of evaluations of the program. “The value and benefit is that it’s up to the city to decide what the most critical shocks are,” he said in an interview with CityLab in April. “The negative is that you have a gazillion things going on.”

And while academic research supports the theory of building urban resilience through institutional change, it was challenging to measure short-term results directed by the program, Martín found. Emails sent among 100RC staff in February that were viewed by CityLab pointed to the pressure that the nonprofit was under from the Rockefeller Foundation to identify “marketable evidence” of their impact.

But 100RC achieved many points of positive impact, according to Martín’s report, and it defined the “urban resilience” movement to date. Many member cities continued to employ a chief resilience officer after their original grant to do so ran out. Leaders described a shift in their way of thinking after engaging with 100 Resilient Cities; they were better able to connect ongoing social challenges to pressing infrastructure needs, the evaluation found. Nearly 80 “resilience strategies” that outline ideas for public-works projects and economic-development strategies reflect this, and more are still being released.

Resilience office
Alicia Tatone
Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?

The floor beneath Sally Tennant’s feet was thumping, as if it had a heartbeat—an irregular one, with each thud getting louder and more violent. When she looked out the window of her store, she discovered why: A river of muddy water was gushing down the street, and it was sending tree branches, rocks, pieces of fencing—anything the water swept up—crashing into the side of the building.

It’s happening again.

Tennant opened the front door of her craft and jewelry store, Discoveries, and did what safety officials say you should never do during a flash flood: She went into the water. It was nearly knee deep, flowing down Main Street and rising quickly. The rain was unrelenting: a ferocious, sustained downpour.

But the water in the street had not reached the Forget-Me-Not Factory yet. The gift shop across the street occupied a four-story building faced in sturdy granite, and Tennant decided to head there rather than risk getting trapped in her two-story brick and wood structure.

The refuge Tennant found in her neighbors’ shop didn’t last long. Soon, owners Barry and Nancy Gibson were trying to stop water from rushing in through both the front and back of their store. Runoff from the steep hillside behind the building poured into multiple floors at once. And as the water levels rose, those trapped inside realized that their best escape route was to climb up the hill.

The Gibsons led the group, including one shop employee, up the muddy hillside. The rain was so intense that Tennant couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of her. Sheets of water cascaded down the hill. With each labored step, she felt herself sink deeper into the mud. It ate her shoes, but she kept climbing. “I thought I was going to die of a damn heart attack,” Tennant recalls.

Beneath her, lower Main Street had become a raging river that engulfed the first floor of most buildings. About 50 people inside Tea on the Tiber, a Victorian tea house that sits over a branch of the stream that courses beneath the town, now huddled on the second floor, listening to the river tear the dining room apart beneath them. A woman named Jane called 911 on her cellphone.

“Are we going to die?” she asked the dispatcher.


The Memorial Day weekend downpour that struck Ellicott City, Maryland, on May 27, 2018 was a “1,000-year storm”—a rain event so intense that, in any given year, it has a 1-in-1,000 (or 0.1 percent) chance of happening. On that day, back-to-back thunderstorms dumped more than eight inches of rain in just three hours, overwhelming the three streams that converge on the town’s Main Street and sending water crashing down the hill. By evening, according to rain gauges to the north, as much as 15 inches had fallen. The resulting flash flood devastated the historic downtown and killed Eddison “Eddie” Hermond, an Air Force veteran and Maryland Army National Guardsman who was swept away trying to rescue a woman trapped by the floodwaters.

Flooding in Ellicott City is hardly new—the mill town has had at least 18 major floods since it started recording them in 1789. This one, however, was different: It was the second such 1,000-year storm in less than two years. On a Saturday night in July 2016, thunderstorms dropped six inches of rain on the city, triggering flash flooding that killed two people and caused an estimated $22 million in damages, plus $42 million in lost economic activity. In 2011, Tropical Storm Lee generated yet another serious flood. Collectively, the trio of disasters finally forced Ellicott City to take an anguished look at just what its future is likely to look like.
orn van Eck via Overtreders W
As the push toward sustainable lifestyles continues to spread from individual purchasing decisions to the overarching responsibility of big business, one restaurant is making a big statement by providing meals from a circular environment of zero food and material waste.

The Brasserie 2050 restaurant in the Netherlands temporarily opened its doors last fall as a restaurant and food storage pavilion designed by temporary-structure specialists Overtreders W for an event called the Lowlands Festival. The goal was to highlight the need for sustainable food production, and they achieved this goal by setting up a food barn made from recycled and borrowed materials that could be disassembled and moved at the end of the festival with no damage to the materials and no waste.

With forecasts estimating the world will have 10 billion people to feed by 2050, Brasserie 2050 is a testament to how we can achieve that goal. Not only is the design of the structure a sustainable model, but the catering company The Food Line Up created a zero-waste menu to feed the masses in attendance of the festival. Creative use of kitchen scraps culminated into baked bread from potato peelings, steak tartare with half the meat and pesto sourced from kitchen leftovers.

The food pavilion made use of the entire barn-shaped space by using standard pallet racks as the primary structural component. A corrugated plastic roof completed the gabled look. Even the tables were constructed from recycled plastic with the reuse and zero-waste cycle in mind.

The space was efficiently filled from top to bottom, with suspended herb boxes and wheat, corn, garlic and onions dangling from the ceiling above diner’s heads. Of course, this also provided natural decor for the restaurant. To keep the structure from blowing away, bags of grain weighed down the sides.

The structure and the menu served as a model of efficient and sustainable practices designed to lead us toward more eco-friendly food services for the future.

Alexander C. Kaufman/Huffpost
After Hurricane María plunged Vieques into darkness, Tesla’s arrival heralded the dawn of a microgrid future. But it wasn’t that easy.

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico ― It looks like something out a brochure advertising what renewable energy could offer a remote, storm-ravaged island.

Electrical lines still hang perilously from poles across the street, but inside the mint-green, one-story Ciudad Dorada senior center, fans blow cool air and refrigerators stocked with insulin and other medicines run cold even as the noon sun broils in a cloudless Caribbean sky. On its roof are a set of Tesla photovoltaic solar panels, attached via cable to a pair of Tesla batteries hitched to the wall beneath.

And yet, a diesel generator growls on full blast behind the center.

Workers from Tesla, billionaire Elon Musk’s electric car and solar energy giant, arrived on Vieques just weeks after hurricanes Irma and María crippled the aging electrical grid and severed the transmission cable that connected this island to the Puerto Rico mainland seven miles west. The company selected the senior center as one of 11 sites on the darkened island that it would equip with power-producing panels and batteries.

Constructing the system was simple. But when workers attached the panels and batteries to the old electrical wiring in the former schoolhouse, the batteries blew out.

“It doesn’t work,” a nurse at the senior center said in Spanish during a HuffPost visit in late February. “It never has.”

The circuitry issue proved ominous. Officials promised that Tesla’s effort heralded a brighter future on Vieques, one that would free the island from dependence on fossil fuels and make it a model for the rest of Puerto Rico. But apparent supply shortages, regulatory hurdles and a lack of long-term planning dashed those hopes. Today the island still depends on dirty power from the mainland, and some solar panels and batteries sit useless and broken with another hurricane season less than a month away.

“We’re back to square one,” said Edgar Oscar Ruiz, 34, a local activist pushing for renewable energy on Vieques. “Tesla came in with great intentions, but that’s not enough.”

Vieques’ experience shows what renewable energy experts say are the risks of relying on corporate goodwill to deliver transformative change and highlights the potential hurdles that Puerto Rico now faces as it seeks to convert the territory’s entire electricity system to renewable energy and sell off parts of its public utility.

“There’s a cautionary tale here,” said Andrea Luecke, president of the Solar Foundation, an industry nonprofit.

A Sunny Proposal

Tesla staffers arrived in Puerto Rico a week after Hurricane María made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, and before many relief workers. By November, the company sent an unsolicited proposal to the Puerto Rican government. The pitch included building solar power microgrids ― which would produce and distribute power autonomous of the territory’s main electrical grid ― on Vieques and Culebra, its smaller, more touristy neighbor. The content of the proposal, though never made public, is confirmed in a study released by the Puerto Rican government. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló touted the effort in December 2017.

“These projects are part of the measures we are taking to build a better Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane María and ensure a reliable service for the benefit of the citizens who reside here,” Rosselló told Radio Isla 1320 back then.

Around the same time, Tesla contacted the municipal government on Vieques to begin talks about buying public land on which to build a microgrid, according to Carlos Jirau, a development consultant working for the mayor.

“Tesla was asking for the possibility to acquire land from the municipality to develop a microgrid,” Jirau said. He said he requested a formal proposal but never heard back.

It’s easy to understand the opportunity Tesla saw. In 2016, the company had converted the entire electrical supply of Ta’u, a 600-resident island in American Samoa, to solar power and batteries. A year later, Tesla built a massive solar and battery farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Vieques represented not only another test case for its technology but a chance to do some good. The island ― dubbed “the colony of the colony” by some locals because of its history of human and environmental exploitation ― was languishing in what
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo is planning to relocate the nation's capital away from Jakarta, the world's fastest-sinking city.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, national development planning minister of Indonesia, revealed the president's plans to move the capital off the island of Java.

Speaking to Jakarta Globe after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Brodjonegoro said ministers have been told to suggest viable alternatives.

"We want to have a new city, which besides reflecting Indonesia's identity, is a modern, international-class city, or a smart, green and beautiful city," he told the news website.

Jakarta sunk 2.5 metres in 10 years

Jakarta, which is home to 10 million people, has been suffering from extreme land subsidence for decades. The northern part of the city has sunk by 2.5 metres in the past 10 years, and research shows some areas could be entirely submerged by 2050.

Almost half of the city is already below sea level and flooding is frequent, thanks to the 13 rivers that run through it. Jakarta also has the worst traffic congestion of any city on the planet.

The new capital will be close to the geographic centre of the country, according to Brodjonegoro. Cities that have been proposed in the past as possible new capitals include Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan and Makassar in South Sulawesi.

"It would be central from west to east or north to south," he told Jakarta Globe. "To represent justice and encourage development, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia."

Capital "should be near the coast"

The new capital's location will be chosen to reduce the potential risks from natural disasters said Brodjonegoro.

"We have to find a location that is really minimal in terms of disaster risks," he added. "Also, because Indonesia is a maritime nation, the new capital city should be located near the coast, but not necessarily by the sea."

The announcement comes shortly after Widodo, who has been president since 2014, claimed victory in the latest election. The official results are not due to be announced until May 22.
ASU/Manoochehr Shirzaei
Sea-Level Rise isn’t the Only Factor in Bay Area’s Future Flooding Risk

All coastal cities in the U.S. face some potential threat from sea-level rise, but areas around San Francisco Bay may be more vulnerable than previously thought according to a recent study by Arizona State University’s Manoochehr Shirzaei and UC Berkley’s Roland Bürgmann published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

The pair, using a satellite-imaging network that can measure small changes in the earth’s surface, found the problem of rising sea levels is exacerbated in the Bay Area at sites where the soil is sinking at a rate of 10 mm or more per year. The subsidence problem is in addition to sea levels rising a mean global average of 3.1 mm per year.

The researchers found previous projections for the Bay Area underestimate the risk of flooding by as much as 90 percent because they don’t take into account the rate of soil subsidence.

“The FEMA maps of the Bay Area need to be updated with the measurements of land subsidence and projection of sea level rise,” says Shirzaei. “By revising the maps, local authorities can make better flood resilience plans.”

Of particular concern are parts of the city built on landfill materials or ancient mud deposits. Subsidence is occurring at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Foster City and Union City five times the rate of areas built on more solid ground. The problem is most acute on Treasure Island, the site of a $1.5 billion redevelopment project, which is seeing subsidence rates of up 19 mm per year, according to Shirzaei.

“We are already noticing the effects, in particular at SFO where runways are continually cracking and are sometimes flooded,” Shirzaei says.

Doug Yakel, Public Information Officer for San Francisco International Airport, says the cracking and flooding are not necessarily evidence of subsidence.

“While part of SFO is built on landfill, most pavement failures here happen in areas where the largest amount of aircraft movement occurs,” he explains. “Water on runways and taxiways is typically the result of drainage issues following periods of rainfall.” However, the airport is addressing sea-level rise and over the past 30 years has installed earth berms, sheet-pile walls and concrete walls, installed along the airport’s eight miles of shoreline.

The answer to subsidence and sea level rise in learning to build differently for the coming era, says Kristina Hill, an associate professor of environmental planning at UC Berkley.

“There’s no way we can afford to build levees and walls to prevent future saltwater flooding,” Hill explains. “So we’re looking at things like dredging channels along the shore and using the soil to build up the land for taller buildings, or creating artificial ponds and putting prefabricated three to four-story structures onto shared floating decking.”
As flood waters inundated neighboring communities and states last month, the residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took some comfort in the barriers and measures put in place following the devastating floods of 2008 that would help protect them as waters surged. In March, the Cedar River rose to 18.1 ft, 6 ft above flood level, but nowhere near 2008’s record 31.12 crest. Since walls and levees are still being built, this year’s rising water required temporary barriers in the city to augment levees and pumps that have been installed since 2008. The biggest difference, however, was that the city was prepared.

“We had a scare, but we learned a tremendous amount since the 2008 floods, so we made physical investments, things such as levees and pumps and, in some areas, a flood wall” says Jeffrey Pomeranz, the city manager of Cedar Rapids. “We’ve also become much more educated on how to protect ourselves.”

Just as they did in 2016 when the river rose to 21.6 ft, emergency personnel put up temporary flood protections in March, including stackable HESCO sand-filled, wire-mesh and impermeable fabric barriers in low-lying areas to augment permanent protection, which includes new high-power pumps, stronger levees, and a flood wall along the east side of the river. Even as Cedar Rapids was flooding in 2008, Boston-based planning firm Sasaki was pitching a master plan to make the city more resilient. Two of Sasaki’s landscape architects were in Cedar Rapids when the 2008 flood hit.

Cedar Rapids’ two-fold approach to resilience involves strengthening at-risk areas while also integrating greenspace created by a post-2008 home- and business-buying program. The system will eventually include 7 miles of levees and flood plain along both the east and west banks of the Cedar River through downtown. The overall cost for the levees and land buyouts is estimated to be between $550 million and $750 million, depending on how quickly they are completed.

Some of the master plan, including the land buyback program and addition of greenspace along both sides of the river, has already been completed, but the modifications to Iowa’s second-largest city are ongoing.

The city is currently focused on improving its east bank. In June, Cedar Rapids was awarded $76 million in grants and $41 million as an optional low-interest loan through a federal emergency supplemental appropriation for flood protection measure. The Army Corps of Engineers also committed $117 million for river infrastructure improvements.

A $14.2-million floodwall near the Quaker Oats Campus and more pumps in the New Bohemia neighborhood helped in the most recent flooding event. HDR, Stanley Consultants and Anderson Bogert worked on the New Bohemia improvements.

More than 1,400 of the properties damaged by the 2008 flood were bought out by the city with money from a Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development block grant. Cedar Rapids paid $93.9 million to acquire the land between 2008 and 2010: $58.1 million for residential properties and $35.8 million for businesses. The payouts were 107% of the pre-flood assessed value of those properties. Even the flood-damaged National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library was moved to higher ground.

“I’ve been here almost 10 years. When I first got to Cedar Rapids every week there was a big cart of documents that I had to sign from all the acquisitions we were making. It was a lot of work by lots of people to get to that point,” says Pomeranz, who is Cedar Rapids’ first city manager and was charged with modernizing flood protection and response upon taking the job.

That purchased land is now greenspace, levees and resilient parks.

“We did a comprehensive system plan,” says Laura Marett, senior associate in Sasaki’s landscape practice. “Because the flood protection plan had more or less identified 220 acres of new flood plain greenspaces, the idea is that there’s this floodable ecological corridor that is also layered with programs and amenities that benefit everyone. I don’t think there was ever a desire to turn away from the river; it’s such a core of the community.”
Architecture firm BIG has designed a concept for a floating city of 10,000 people that could help populations threatened by extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

BIG founder Bjarke Ingels unveiled the scheme yesterday at a round-table discussion on floating cities at the United Nations's New York headquarters.

Called Oceanix City, the concept consists of buoyant islands clustered together in groups of six to form villages. These clusters would then be repeated in multiples of six to form a 12-hectare village for 1,650 residents, and then again to form an archipelago home to 10,000 citizens.

"We've based it on this modular idea of a hexagonal island," Ingels said in the presentation at the roundtable. "It has the omni-direction of a circle but it has the modularity and rationality of something manmade."

BIG developed the concept with MIT's Center for Ocean Engineering and Oceanix – a non-profit set up to innovate ways to build on water.

The scheme was unveiled at the First UN High-level Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities, which Oceanix co-convened with MIT, the Explorers Club and UN-Habitat, a UN offshoot mandated to work with city development.

Oceanix City is intended to provide a habitable, off-shore environment in the event of rising sea levels, which are expected to affect 90 per cent of the world's coastal cities by 2050.

Each of the modules would be built on land and then towed to sea, where they would be anchored in place. The miniature islands are also designed to survive a category-five hurricane.

Arrangements would be flexible so that the cities could be moved if water levels became too low.

BIG intends the buildings atop to be constructed from locally sourced "replenishable" materials such wood and fast-growing bamboo, which also offer " warmth and softness to touch".

A number of renewable energy resources, such as wind and water turbines and solar panels are also incorporated. Food production and farming would be integrated and follow a zero-waste policy.

"Every island has 3,000 square metres of outdoor agriculture that will also be designed so that it can be enjoyed as free space," said Ingels.

Structures populating the modules will be low-level – predicted to rise four to seven stories – in order to keep the centre of gravity. Renderings show that the buildings will taper out towards the top to provide shading and also extra roof space for solar panels.

Each mini-village will include a community framework for living, including water baths, markets, spiritual and cultural hubs, but BIG intends the Oceanix City to be adaptable to "any culture, any architecture".

Another major benefit of the floating city, according to Oceanix co-founder Marc Collins Chen, is that it is an example of an affordable development, which could offer a solution to displaced societies.
As many coastal cities struggle to come up with resiliency plans in the face of rising sea levels, Dutch architect Koen Olthuis with Waterstudio is creating sustainable, solar-powered floating residences that could offer the perfect solution. Already well-known for its high-end floating homes, Waterstudio and Miami-based Arkup are now teaming up with Artefacto, an environmentally friendly Brazilian furnishing brand, to create stylish floating houses that are not only resilient to storms and sea levels, but also represent the luxury style for which Miami is known.

Waterstudio has long been recognized for creating sustainable and attractive floating homes that can provide discerning homeowners with an “avant-garde life on water.” The residences are modern, cube-like structures that are completely self-sufficient, operating 100 percent off-grid thanks to solar power generation, eco-friendly waste management features, rainwater harvesting and water purification systems. Additionally, the homes are equipped with unique self-elevating systems that help the structures withstand high winds, floods and hurricanes.

In addition to the ultra sustainable and resilient features, the two-story floating homes boast interiors with a 775-square-foot living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining space, as well as an open-air rooftop lounge. Sliding glass doors, which almost make up the entirety of the front facade, lead out to a beautiful terrace.

Although the company has been working on its floating homes for some time, it recently announced a new partnership with Artefacto, a Brazilian furnishing company with a strong commitment to sustainability that is known for combining luxurious furniture made of raw materials with cutting-edge smart automation technologies. The floating residences will now be outfitted with eco-friendly furnishings, including high-end pieces made out of timber approved for use by the Brazilian Environment Department.

At a Think Tank panel discussion held at SmithGroup’s L.A. office, experts describes the challenges and rewards of integrating resiliency into projects.

Like its corollary “sustainability,” the term “resiliency” has become a handle for different constituents to grab onto. Architects use it, planners use it, community activists use it. This extensibility is one of the concept’s great strengths, argued a Think Tank panel discussion held at SmithGroup’s L.A. office in December 2018.

Resiliency can, of course, be defined any number of ways, but panelists deferred to the definition laid out by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative: “City resilience reflects the overall capacity of a city (individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems) to survive, adapt, and thrive no matter what kinds of chronic stresses or acute shocks they experience.”

From this basic understanding, speakers offered their own interpretations. “I would call it a people-based, human-centered infrastructure,” said Steven Baumgartner, principal and urban systems strategist at SmithGroup. “These issues hit multiple actors at multiple scales, such as campuses, districts, and cities themselves.”

Wendell Brase, associate chancellor for sustainability at the University of California, Irvine, underscored the importance of scalability. He illustrated this notion through the unit of the building, which “often [embodies] worst-case design thinking,” he said. Like laboratories, buildings “tend to be over-designed because they have so many systems and use so much energy”—in the case of UC Irvine, they represent two-thirds of the campus’s energy consumption and CO2 output. By using CO2 and light sensors, Brase and his team have been able to fine-tune energy use campus-wide.

The ultimate goal of such campus- or district-scale design—what Baumgartner characterized as resiliency at the “mesoscale”—is to create a flexible, comprehensive environment that incorporates technology, serves community needs, and withstands the test of time. SmithGroup’s City of Euclid Waterfront on the shores of Lake Erie, currently under construction, conforms to many of these ideals, as does the firm’s award-winning master plan for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The challenge for architects who are committed to this point of view is finding equally committed clients and partners willing to invest in the long, and not just short, term. “It’s something you don’t give up on,” said Martha Welborne, senior advisor, HR&A Advisors and project director for LA Aerial Rapid Transit. “With projects like the extension of the Metro Gold Line or Grand Avenue, you have to keep your eye on the prize, work with diverse stakeholders, and trust the process.” Given the reality of climate change, there couldn’t be more at stake, she said. “This is an issue of public safety and wellness, so leadership is key.”
Office of Governor Pete Ricketts
And Waters Keep On Rising

Midwestern floodwaters have topped or breached multiple levees, damaged bridges and roads, destroyed one dam and damaged another and inundated at least 42 wastewater treatment plants as historic flooding continues to hit Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. At least two people are reported dead.

Nine levees in total have been breached on both sides of the Missouri River, and “additional breaches are possible,” says Mike Glasch, deputy director of public affairs for the Army Corps’ Omaha District. “We are continuing to work with state and local agencies to monitor the levees,” he adds.

The Missouri River should crest within 24 hours between Omaha and Nebraska City and reach peak flows farther south later in the week, Glasch says. But those water levels will depend upon the weather, he adds, with an additional .5 in. of rain expected in the area this week.

“We are continuing to help supply agencies with whatever they need — sand, supersacks, Hescos and so on,” Glasch says.

Major and moderate flooding is expected to continue into next week, according to a March 18 Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing that also detailed the extent of known damage to infrastructure.

“We are still in a flood fight,” says James Camoriano, spokesman for HDR, based in Omaha, Neb. While Omaha is not flooded, several areas around the city are. Camoriano says HDR is working with clients to examine roads, treatment plants, railroads and other infrastructure, but comprehensive assessments can’t occur until floodwaters recede.

HDR has employees at one of the wastewater treatment plants that flooded when a nearby creek overtopped a levee. Several other employees live in the flooded areas, Camoriano says.

The flooding is unprecedented, with both the Missouri and Platte rivers and many of their tributaries flooding at the same time. “One will typically rise, but not both,” he says.

FEMA says heavy rainfall in early March in the Missouri and Mississippi river basins caused rapid snow melt, exacerbated by a “bomb cyclone,” an unusually strong blizzard that swept across seven western states last week. However, ice remained in the waterways, causing additional problems. The broken ice and high water caused the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River to fail March 14. The waters swept away part of U.S. 281, downstream from the dam.

At least 14 bridges are washed out, missing or have the approaches washed out out in Nebraska, according to Jeni Campana of the Nebraska Dept. of Transportation.

The Nebraska Public Power District was still operating its Cooper Nuclear Station along the Missouri River, though it has armed the plant with thousands of sandbags. The facility would have to shut down if the water level reaches 902 ft mean sea level. Currently, the level is 898.9 ft and dropping, according to the district.

On his Facebook page, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he visited Plattsmouth on the Missouri River on Monday morning. “Their water treatment plant is under water, with millions of dollars in damage. In 2011, it took 108 days for water to subside, and this year the water is 4-5 feet higher,” he wrote.
Fredy Builes/Reuters
Investing in cultural cohesion and preservation can help rebuild cities devastated by war or natural disasters, says a new World Bank report.

An oft-told urban success story is that of Medellín, Colombia. Under Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord that inspired the Netflix show Narcos, the city was one of the most violent places on earth in the 1980s and early 1990s. And then it became one of the most innovative—a “model city.” The reasons for that transformation are complicated. But one key driver was the local government’s focus on changing the socio-cultural narrative, which gave rise to the concept of cultura ciudadana or “citizen culture,” as a way foster a collective investment into the city’s future—especially among communities that were previously physically and socially excluded.

The city’s multi-pronged approach to planning in the decades since has centered culture: building libraries and parks, enabling art, and creating transportation access in the comunas in the hills above the city.

Culture, which includes “art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions, and beliefs,” is an overlooked element in rebuilding cities ravaged by disasters, war, and other forms of urban distress, according to a recent World Bank report.

“While culture is essential both as an asset and a tool for city reconstruction and recovery, it is often left out or given limited consideration as part of these efforts,” said Laura Tuck, vice-president for sustainable development at the World Bank, in a statement.

Investing in cultural institutions, spaces, and heritage can help build bridges between sparring communities in post-conflict urban areas and make disaster recovery quick, sustainable, and more effective. The authors argue that major cultural investments early in the reconstruction process will eventually pay off by making the city more attractive to investment and tourism, fueling economic growth.

The report also contains a roadmap for integrating culture into people-centric and place-centric policies in a way “that accounts for the needs, values and priorities of people.” That’s the approach that proved effective during the rebuilding of cities such as Seoul (after the Korean War), Mostar (after the Bosnian war), and Kathmandu, Nepal, which was heavily damaged by a 2015 earthquake.

Cities will need to master this process, for a few looming reasons. One, the world continues to urbanize at an incredible rate—by 2050, 70 percent of the planet will be living in cities. And second, the threats posed by climate-change-related disasters and related resource conflicts are serious, widespread, and rising.

According to the World Bank, cities that find themselves at the beginning of a rebuilding process first need to acknowledge that culture—whether it is tangible (monuments, religious spaces, and protected sites) or intangible (like art, traditional craft practices, or other types of local knowledge)—is crucial to their social fabric and self-image. Cities should start reconstruction of the sites that mean the most to locals. After the Bosnian War, for example, the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge was “symbolic of the healing of divisions between the city's Muslims and Croats,” according to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The key is to balance the basic needs—shelter, food, and healthcare—with the effort to promote artistic expression that helps urban communities process trauma and communicate and document their experiences. In Medellín, for example, art was encouraged: punk music, breakdancing, and mural art emerged parallel to the physical improvements in the city’s marginalized comunas—and later became draws for tourists.
The way people get around is undergoing a revolution—three revolutions, in fact: electrification, automation, and shared mobility. One of the far-reaching implications of this coming change is that a staid, stolid, and largely unloved building type, the multilevel parking garage, will require a radical rethink.

By 2040, more than half of the miles traveled in the U.S. could occur in shared autonomous vehicles (AVs), which would rarely need to park, according to a 2016 study by Deloitte, a financial and risk-management consultant. Dense urban areas in particular—likely to be well served by public transit, AV fleets, ride-sharing, and other transportation options—can expect to see demand for parking plummet while the need for new kinds of spaces, such as pickup and drop-off zones, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and AV hubs, emerges. The question for architects, says Amy Korte, a principal with Boston-based Arrowstreet, “is how quickly can we, as design professionals, run through the possible scenarios to help cities and municipalities plan for them?”

Prominent among these scenarios is the potential blight of surplus parking structures. “The prediction that garages aren’t going to exist anymore isn’t quite accurate,” says Korte. Some may transform into docking hubs where AVs can be charged, cleaned, and serviced. City planners typically advocate for locating these stations on the outskirts of the city. However, Korte says entrepreneurs exploring the business model want such garages located centrally. That way, travel time while empty is minimized, and the vehicles are able to return more quickly for servicing.

For garages that don’t find new life as transport hubs, the municipalities that are often the owners of these hulking, low-ceilinged, slope-floored structures may be hard-pressed to know what to do with them. Peckham Levels, a multistory, split-level, early 1980s garage located in a bustling area in southeast London, offers one promising example.

Winner of a 2018 New London Award for best “meanwhile” project (one intended for interim use, in this case 15 years, pending development of a long-term plan), “Peckham Levels has taken a disused carpark that, for decades, was a site of antisocial behavior and made it a popular town-center venue,” says Paul O’Brien, an associate at London-based Carl Turner Architects (CTA), designers of the project.

The transformation of 95,000 square feet of the garage’s midlevels (the upper levels are leased seasonally as a bar and patio, while the ground floor is a multiscreen cinema), completed in 2017, provides the neighborhood with much-needed community space and affordable workplaces. Public program elements include a play area, event and gallery space, food and drink outlets, and a yoga studio and hair salon, while the workspaces include various sizes of customizable shells, with shared service areas, that have enabled local artists, makers, and entrepreneurs to create their own jobs.

The design brings a light touch to the conversion. “There was no point trying to cover everything up and make it feel as though you weren’t in a carpark anymore,” says O’Brien. “That was the charm of it.” The approach also suited the budget, about $42 per square foot. Major interventions are limited to enclosing the open-sided building, with new windows and insulation, and installing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Concrete structure and services are exposed overhead. Parking spaces are still marked on the floors. Partitions of oriented strand board on wood studs separate the perimeter workspaces, and translucent polycarbonate panels admit daylight to the former drive aisles, which are now corridors.

The main difficulty of converting the garage revolved around the low ceiling height (7½ feet to the underside of beams) and floors sloped to drain. Locating partitions beneath beams, a
Cox Architecture
A New South Wales court has extended an injunction against the “hard demolition” of the Cox Architecture-designed Sydney Football Stadium (Allianz Stadium) until 8 March, when a final decision will be made on the fate of the 30-year-old building.

Justice Nicola Pain granted the extension in the NSW Land and Environment Court on 25 February in a win for the community action group that brought the case, Local Democracy Matters.

“We’re really pleased with this judgement,” the group’s spokesperson Chris Maltby told reporters outside court. “[This allows] enough time for the judge to consider her position and produce the final judgement on the case.”

The injunction means that the roof of the stadium will not be allowed to be removed as was planned. The demolition contractor Lendlease has already begun stripping seats.

Local Democracy Matters – which was formed to fight council amalgamations – is arguing that the planning approval given for the stadium’s demolition in December 2018 was invalid because Infrastructure NSW, the government agency responsible for the demolition, did not follow its own planning rules. It argues that that the demolition proposal was not exhibited for the required time and that design excellence was not appropriately considered.

The court also heard that the government suppressed information about contamination of the site, including the presence of potentially carcinogenic materials, The Guardian reported.

Supporting the community group in court is Waverly Council, which together with the City of Sydney and Randwick Council has been an outspoken critic of the stadium plan.

Waverley mayor John Wakefield said in January that there was a community expectation that a project of such significance would fully comply with the legislative requirements and processes.

“The legal advice we are in receipt of casts doubt of this having occurred,” he said.

“We believe that this potential non-compliance is egregious, with adverse impact on Waverley’s residents and businesses.”
$24-million restoration taps energy from warm springs for high-tech heating system

Ancient Romans in western England bathed in naturally warm spring water of the spa town of Aquae Sulis, now named Bath. Nearly 2,000 years later, the city’s 16th century abbey is now preparing to draw warmth from the still functioning Great Roman Drain to replace the former monastery’s dilapidated Victorian-era heating system.

As part of a $24-million refurbishment, new heating will include water filled pipes buried in the Abbey’s 800-sq-meter floor, which is being rebuilt. “Hundreds of burials over the years have created voids under the floor,” says the Abbey’s project director Alix Gilmer. Stablizing the floor provided “an opportunity to rethink the heating system,” she adds.

The Abbey’s project design firm, BuroHappold Consulting, explored options for tapping energy from warm water flowing along the roughly 250-m-long Roman Great Drain at about 36° C into the River Avon.

Running alongside the Abbey and about 7 m below ground, the drain carries most of 1,200 cu m a day of warm water that rises from springs and boreholes into the Roman bath area, according to Neil Francis, a BuroHappold associate director.

Because of the water’s corrosive nature, the designers ruled out flowing it directly through the heating pipes, says Edward Levien, commercial director of Isoenergy Ltd. The privately owned renewable energy designer/contractor provided early advice to BuroHappold and last May won a roughly $350,000 subcontract to supply and install the system.

“We introduced them to the energy blade idea…(and) helped them do some modeling. They worked out the final solution,” says Levien. The energy blade is basically a thin, stainless steel hollow panel filled with a water/glycol mix. When immersed, the glycol warms to the surrounding water temperature and is then stepped up by heat pumps. For the Abbey, 10 pairs of 3-m-long, 35-cm-deep energy blades will be fitted along an accessible 40 m stretch of the Roman drain. When in operation, they will provide enough water at 55° C to supply Abbey’s under floor heating, according to Francis. Conventional supplementary heating will boost temperatures when needed.

Isoenergy is now preparing technical proposals for installing the blades through a small roadway access hatch. “We worked out what length could be fitted and [BuroHappold] made up a wooden replica,” say Levien. Installation will take two to three weeks this fall with “rolling team” working 20-minute shifts in the hot, cramped drain, he adds.
Studio NAB
The Superfarm will go beyond what vertical farms typically produce.

Studio NAB’s new Superfarm project is a 110-foot-tall vertical farm prototype that sits on a 40-foot by 40-foot platform built on the water in an urban area. The prototype goes beyond what typical vertical farms offer by creating an entire ecosystem across its six stories.

The Superfarm will use a combination of soil and soilless cropping techniques and will forgo the use of pesticides. Each floor will have its own specific function, but will work harmoniously with all the other floors to create a vertical ecosystem.

The ground level and Level 1 will be set aside for administration purposes. The Ground Level will include the entrance, cold rooms, storage, order preparation, and space for sale and delivery. Level 1 will include offices bathrooms, and a break room.

Level 2 is where the growing of plants begins. It is an open platform that will include ginseng, klamath, spirulina, and aloe vera cultures. Level 3 is reserved for insect breeding. Beetles, chenilles, locusts, and grasshoppers will all have a dedicated space on this floor. Level 4 will be dedicated to algae cultures, including chlorella and spirulina. Level 5 will be the aquaponics floor and will include tilapia and trout breeding and young plant cultures. The aquaponics floor will also feed the greenhouse on Level 6. The greenhouse will include an apiary, açaí berry cultures, acerola cultures, goji berry cultures, and aloe vera cultures. Above the greenhouse will be a series of wind turbines and solar panels that will power the farm.

The goal of the Superfarm is to decrease the amount of land needed for agriculture while simultaneously feeding more people, and restore a social link between the produce and the consumer in the city, providing easier access to the products by allowing the consumer direct access to the farm.

will start with a confession: I was part of the fawning media swarm that lauded and applauded the accomplishments of Make It Right, Brad Pitt’s bold attempt to rebuild a portion of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The project was, it seemed once, one of the few post-Katrina success stories coming out of that flood-ravaged community.

I still believe the project played a role in helping the neighborhood. But along with everyone else, I was very dismayed by recent events: a class action suit by unhappy residents as well as total radio silence from an organization that once prided itself on community engagement. Late last week, Bloomberg published “When Brad Pitt Tried to Save New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward,” an excellent and even-handed account by journalist Rob Walker. (Full disclosure: Steven Bingler, co-founder of Common Edge, is quoted in the story. His firm, Concordia, designed 10 Make It Right homes. According to Walker, “The 10 homes his company designed—with a pitched roof and prominent, New Orleans-style front porch—have had only routine maintenance issues.”) Prior to that article’s publication I talked to Walker—author of the forthcoming book The Art of Noticing—about his Make It Right reporting and the lessons for social design that we can draw from the story.

MCP: Martin C. Pedersen
RW: Rob Walker

MCP: You live in the Lower Ninth and have watched Make It Right evolve. Tell me about your experience with it as a resident.

RW: I had seen early stages of it, before we moved back to New Orleans. And as a development, I thought it looked really strange. Then when we moved back four years ago to Holy Cross—another section of the Lower Ninth Ward that’s a short bike ride away from the Make It Right houses—I had a change of heart about it. It looked pretty good. But this was literally based on me riding my bike through the neighborhood.

MCP: That is research of a type. You managed to find a resident who had done a fairly detailed study on all of the homes. Talk about how that happened, and then we can talk about her findings.

RW: To set it up a little: The turning point that made me want to take a closer look at Make It Right was the news, over the summer, about a house that had become so blighted they had to demolish it. This was noteworthy, let’s say. There are an awful lot of blighted houses in New Orleans, especially in the Lower Ninth Ward. But this house was only eight years old. And the idea that it was in such bad shape that it had to be destroyed was a little eyebrow-raising.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) and a diverse group of philanthropic, non-profit, and community leaders to release Resilient Chicago, a roadmap for addressing the city’s most pressing challenges through the lens of urban resilience. As the first action in implementing Resilient Chicago, Mayor Emanuel also joined the Sierra Club to announce Chicago’s aim to transition to 100 percent renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035 and to an electric CTA bus fleet by 2040 with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign.

“Now, more than ever, it is up to local leaders to develop plans for a sustainable and resilient future, and Resilient Chicago creates a framework for us to build urban resilience into Chicago’s DNA,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Ready for 100 is a key first step in implementing the vision of Resilient Chicago and builds upon our pledge to use 100% clean energy for municipal facilities by expanding that goal to include all of Chicago.”

Developed by the City of Chicago in collaboration with 100RC, the city’s Resilience Strategy outlines 50 actionable initiatives which aim to reduce disparities between Chicago’s neighborhoods; address the root causes of crime and violence; ensure the provision of critical infrastructure; and promote engaged, prepared, and cohesive communities. The city’ Resilience Strategy can be found online at: Resilient.Chicago.Gov.

Resilient Chicago was developed over the course of two and a half years in partnership with local residents, civic and community leaders, and a Steering Committee of over 40 leaders from the public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors. Organized into three pillars – Strong Neighborhoods, Robust Infrastructure, and Prepared Communities – the strategy provides a blueprint of immediate and long-term actions to create a Chicago that is more connected and better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st Century. Resilient Chicago is the 50th Resilience Strategy to be published within 100RC’s global network.

“By focusing on not just the acute shocks, but also the chronic stresses that weaken the city’s fabric on a day-to-day basis, with Resilient Chicago the city is poised to bounce back and thrive when faced with unexpected challenges,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “It’s clear that resilience in Chicago is grounded in community, and this sets a global example for how a city can come together to build a vibrant future.”

As one of 50 actions found in Resilient Chicago, the Ready for 100 announcement represents immediate progress to advance Chicago’s first-ever Resilience Strategy. Chicago’s Ready for 100 commitment formally establishes the goals of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in buildings across the city by 2035 and transitioning to an electric CTA bus fleet by 2040. The City of Chicago will be the largest city to join the Sierra Club Ready for 100 campaign in committing to an equitable community-wide transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. By grounding the transition in values of equity and justice, the Ready for 100 Commitment seeks to enable strong community participation in strategy development and implementation of the community-wide energy transition.

“In order to make our city healthier, safer, more affordable, and more equitable, we need to make it more resilient. Transitioning away from polluting fossil fuels to 100 percent clean, renewable energy across the city will strengthen Chicago communities by creating a better energy system — one that will power Chicago forward for generations. The Sierra Club is proud to work with the City and all Chicagoans to build a stronger, more resilient Chicago for everyone,” said Kyra Woods, Ready for 100 Lead Organizer with the Sierra Club.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will introduce a reso
In August 2005, the board of directors of the Louisiana Children’s Museum approved a modest $2-million plan to expand outreach for parents by remodeling 1,500 sq ft of the museum’s existing 30,000 sq ft of space. A few weeks later, Hurricane Katrina hit. The building, located in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, was flooded and closed for 10 months for repairs.

Initially, the staff and board weren’t sure the museum would survive, let alone expand. “We thought, as a small children’s museum, it wasn’t realistic that we could make a difference,” says Julia Bland, the museum’s CEO. But within months, leaders realized that the city—torn apart by Katrina—needed an even larger museum and the resources that it could provide to reach more children and parents.

Thirteen years later, that vision is coming to life with a 56,400-sq-ft museum sited on a lagoon and 8.5 acres of land in New Orleans’ 1,300-acre City Park. The museum will highlight the importance of investing in young children. Its south wing will be open to the public free of charge and offer spaces for resources such as health and early childhood learning that the museum had planned to incorporate in its existing space before the storm hit.

The $47.5-million project has come to fruition through a close working relationship between the museum and the community as well as architect Mithun, contractor Roy Anderson Corp., structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti and mechanical and electrical engineer ARUP, among others.

“We are working very closely with the architect,” says Steven Moore, project manager for Roy Anderson Corp. (RAC). “We’ve turned it into a partnership.”

The two-story building with two wings joined by a fritted glass hallway was designed to be both sustainable and resilient, Bland says. Nestled among 26 mature live oaks, the project is seeking LEED Silver certification. It features the first radiant-cooling system in the region and outdoor play spaces that include a floating classroom on a barge. The building and its exhibits will “advance the understanding of being a good steward and living in a more sustainable way,” Bland says.

The exhibit wing, among other things, will feature a 100-ft table model of the Mississippi River, a sound studio and a life-size chess board with squares that makes the sounds of the city.

Bogged down by several weeks of rain, major construction is set to be complete b
Jakob Gate
Scandinavian design studio Native Narrative is raising the bar for after-school facilities in the rural Philippines with their recent completion of the Children’s Learning Center in the Island of Leyte’s Village Mas-in. The facility primarily serves as a child-friendly after-school space during weekdays and weekends, however, it has also been engineered to double as an emergency shelter in the event of a natural disaster. Created in close collaboration with local NGOs and the local government, the prototype project was constructed from locally available materials and local, relatively unskilled labor.

The Children’s Learning Center and emergency shelter was created in response to the newly approved Children’s Emergency Relief Protection Act in the Philippines, a law that calls for local and national agencies to establish child-friendly spaces for the improved protection and development of children. Created to serve ages 4 to 17, the 63-square-meter Village Mas-in facility offers a space to play, study and gather with the community. The building includes a library unit, study spaces, a reading area, two bathrooms and a performance area. The facility is one of four Native Narrative-designed after-school facilities built in 2018; five more site-specific buildings will be constructed in 2019.

“It has been important for us to create something that made sense in the local context both practically and in terms of character,” explains Jakob Gate, architect at Native Narrative, of the firm’s choice to use locally sourced materials and local labor. “The building is a collection of borrowed components from the predominant architectural language in the locality, although does not resemble any one particular building. The minimal colour pallet is reducing the environment to a backdrop where children, books and toys are standing out.” Local carpenters made all the furniture of plywood, while local weavers wove the seat covers from Pandan grass.

Due to the Philippines’ location on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire,’ the country is highly susceptible to natural disasters including typhoons, earthquakes and floods. To fortify the emergency shelter against these events, the architects designed a reinforced-concrete structure with a symmetrical column layout, hollow block walls and a lightweight metal roof. The building is also raised to protect against flooding.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have broken ground on Alárò City, a new masterplan development that will connect to Lagos in southwest Nigeria. The mixed-use model community will feature an international trade gateway with a new seaport and airport. Designed for the Lagos State Government and Africa’s largest urban developer Rendeavour, the project is made to boost foreign direct investment to create an economic and cultural hub for West Africa.

Alárò City will rise 60 kilometers east of Lagos, as the 2,000-hectare city plan is part of the wider 16,000-hectare Lekki Free Trade Zone. SOM designed a master plan that aims to protect a lush forest between two lagoons and enable long-term resiliency for the future city. The plan is structured around six greenways, aligned north-to-south with the prevailing winds and existing topography, and spaced 800 meters apart to bring all residents and workers within five-minute walk of open space. The greenways are also designed to convey stormwater into the lagoon to the north.

The project is designed as a mixed-income, city-scale development with offices, homes, schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, entertainment, and 150 hectares (370 acres) of parks and open spaces. SOM planned transport infrastructure to support local economic activity and to allow for higher density, mixed-use development. Central to the plan is a 14 hectare park that will be used to host community events. A main boulevard will connect the commercial, enterprise, and educational areas on the north with the industrial area to the south.

“Alárò City helps strengthen Lagos’ position as the economic and cultural hub for West Africa by creating a new mixed-use model sustainable community—a place for people to work, make, live, and learn, which aims to become an international trade gateway,” says Daniel Ringelstein, Director at SOM.

SOM stated that a number of multi-national companies are already building facilities on site, but no date of completion has been announced.
Ted Wood
Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends. Fourth in a series.

he Hohokam were an ancient people who lived in the arid Southwest, their empire now mostly buried beneath the sprawl of some 4.5 million people who inhabit modern-day Phoenix, Arizona and its suburbs. Hohokam civilization was characterized by farm fields irrigated by the Salt and Gila rivers with a sophisticated system of carefully calibrated canals, the only prehistoric culture in North America with so advanced a farming system.

Then in 1276, tree ring data shows, a withering drought descended on the Southwest, lasting more than two decades. It is believed to be a primary cause of the collapse of Hohokam society. The people who had mastered farming dispersed across the landscape.

The fate of the Hohokam holds lessons these days for Arizona, as the most severe drought since their time has gripped the region. But while the Hohokam succumbed to the mega-drought, the city of Phoenix and its neighbors are desperately scrambling to avoid a similar fate — no easy task in a desert that gets less than 8 inches of rain a year.

“We are fully prepared to go into Tier 1, 2, and 3 emergency,” said Kathryn Sorensen, Phoenix’s water services director, referring to federally mandated cutbacks of Colorado River water as the levels of Lake Mead, the source of some of the city’s water, continue to drop. And what of the dreaded “dead pool,” the point at which the level in the giant man-made lake falls so low that water can no longer be pumped out?

As Colorado River supplies dwindle, Kathryn Sorensen, director of Phoenix Water Services, is racing to find new ways to conserve and store water for the sprawling city of 1.6 million people.

“I can survive dead pool for generations,” says Sorensen, pointing to a host of conservation and water storage measures that have significantly brightened the city’s water outlook in an era of climate change and drought.

These days, Phoenix’s alternative water supplies are not dependent on the Colorado. But there’s a caveat. Phoenix may have enough water to secure its near-term future, but it still needs to build $500 million of infrastructure to pipe it to northern parts of the city that now rely on Colorado River water. And Phoenix may need the water sooner than it planned. “You could hit dead pool in four years,” Sorensen said. “That’s worst case.”

Many cities and towns in the Southwest — including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Albuquerque — are
Ted Wood
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.

From the air, the Grand Valley Water Users Association canal — 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep — tracks a serpentine 55-mile-long path across the mountain-ringed landscape of Mesa County, Colorado. It’s a line that separates parched, hard-baked desert and an agricultural nirvana of vast peach and apple orchards and swaying fields of alfalfa.

The future of this thin brown line that keeps the badlands of the Colorado desert at bay, however, is growing more uncertain by the day.

Since 2000, the snow that blankets the Colorado Rockies each winter — the source of most of the river’s water — has tapered off considerably. Last year it was less than half of normal. So far, the farmers here have gotten their share of water, but this year could bring the first emergency declaration by water administrators. That would mean that some “junior” water users — those whose allocations came later — may have to forego their share in favor of senior users.

The nearly two decades of low snowpack is being called a drought, and tree rings show it’s the most severe in over 1,200 years. The term drought, however, implies it will end someday. But there are serious questions about whether this is a drought or a permanent drying of the West due to a changing climate.

Few doubt that things are building toward crisis. Last year junior water users on the Yampa River, a tributary to the Colorado, were forced to face the new reality when officials ordered them to stop taking their allocated water and allow it to flow to senior users downstream. In places, the river channel was dry; fishing and float trips were also halted.

As things get tighter throughout the Colorado River Basin, irrigators, who control 80 percent of the water on the river, fully expect others to come looking for their water. One place that has been preparing a strategy to try and head off a raid on its water is in Mesa County in western Colorado.

“There is not an active attack on our water at this time,” said Mark Harris, general manger of the Grand Valley Water Users Association and a farmer himself, as we walked along a row of peaches in a sea of orchards near Palisade, Colorado. “But we do have a huge target on our back. The crisis will require draconian measures that will savage ag. If municipalities run out of sanitary water or fire water, those steps are going to have to be taken.”

The Grand Valley, a major agricultural zone
Michelstock via Adobe Stock
Contributor Blaine Brownell weighs the costs of unlimited tree harvesting for construction.

In The Overstory: A Novel (W. W. Norton & Co., 2018), author Richard Powers explores the problematic relationship between people and trees. Although humans generally appreciate trees—as material resources and natural ornamentation—we do not fully appreciate their value as part of complex forest ecosystems. This ignorance serves as the seemingly indomitable antagonist in Powers’ work, against which a collection of ill-fated characters fight to preserve the last few acres of virgin woodlands.

The character Patricia Westerford, a scientist who advances the knowledge of the sensory and communicative capacities of trees, takes a particularly heroic stand against this adversary. As a university student taking classes in forestry, Westerford quickly became disillusioned with the traditional model of silviculture, the science of forest management. Denouncing an approach that she believes has benefited resource extraction at the cost of ecological resilience, she questions why forests—which first appeared between 300 and 400 million years ago—would ever require the management of humans? For her, silviculture has facilitated the destruction, not sustenance, of forest ecosystems.

In one scene, Westerford gives testimony during a courtroom trial concerning lumber companies’ logging of old growth forests. After the scientist makes the case for the intrinsic worth of untouched woodlands, the judge inquires: “Young, straight, faster-growing trees aren’t better than older, rotting trees?” To which Westerfeld replies, “Better for us. Not for the forest. In fact, young, managed, homogeneous stands can’t really be called forests.”

In this stark reminder that tree plantations are not forests—sylvan communities that are vanishing at a rapid pace—Powers anticipates the growing environmental conflict concerning the use of wood in building construction. Encouraged by the knowledge that lumber produces lower carbon emissions than steel or concrete, many architects have embraced the pursuit of mass timber construction, which in turn has increased demand for harvested material. Yet this motivation to counter global warming could, if unchecked, result in a different ecological catastrophe.

Deforestation and deficient forest management are responsible for as much as 20 percent of climate change–related emissions according to Jonathan Jelen, old-growth campaign coordinator for Oregon Wild, in a 2009 Scientific American i
Ted Wood
With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water? Second in a series.

n the basement of the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, the fragrant smell of pine hangs in the air as researchers comb through the stacks of tree slabs to find a round, 2-inch-thick piece of Douglas fir.

They point out an anomaly in the slab — an unusually wide set of rings that represent the years 1905 to 1922. Those rings mean it was a pluvial period — precipitation was well above average — and so the trees grew far more than other years.

“In 1905, the gates opened and it was very wet and stayed very wet until the 1920s,” said David Meko, a hydrologist at the lab who studies past climate and stream flow based on tree rings. “It guided their planning and how much water they thought was available.”

The planning was that of the states that share the water of the Colorado River. Worried that a burgeoning California would take most of the water before it was fairly divvied up, representatives from the other Colorado River Basin states, presided over by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, came together in 1922 to develop an equitable apportionment. They looked at flow measurements and figured that the river contained an average of 15 million acre-feet. They divided the Colorado River states into two divisions – the upper basin and the lower basin, with the dividing line in northern Arizona near the Utah border. The upper basin states — Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico — agreed not to take more than a total of 7.5 million acre-feet and to allow the other half to flow south to the lower basin. The agreement they signed was called the 1922 Colorado River Compact, also known as the Law of the River.

Researcher Will Tintor examines a cross-section of a bristle cone pine tree at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, seeking clues about precipitation and climate trends during the tree’s lifetime.
Scientists at the University of Arizona are using tree rings to study centuries of drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin.

The 1922 compact, though, is based on a premise that the tree rings in the University of Arizona lab now show is false. The river’s long-term average flow is about 12 to 15 million acre-feet, in a good year. Meanwhile, the lower basin states — Arizona, California, and Nevada — use 7.5 million acre-feet, and in 1922 no one factored in evaporative losses from the desert sun at the yet-unbuilt Lake Mead res
The implications of such a plan—championed by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—extend well beyond the ecological

Newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got tongues wagging this month when she championed a plan for a Green New Deal, and drafted a proposal to kickstart the committee that would create it. While she’s not the first to suggest the idea, timing and the cultural climate are apt for a renewal of the discussion.

Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, which emphasizes decarbonization, job creation, and social and economic justice, is politically audacious—it aims for 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years—but in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s most recent warning that the world has about a decade to get climate change under control if we are to thwart its worst effects. With close to half of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment, architects and designers should feel welcome wading into the conversation.

In the past, buildings were designed to hold people and things and to receive energy along a one-way artery from a faraway grid. Under a Green New Deal, that way of building would be considered outdated and obsolete. Instead, buildings would be considered mini power plants that can not only produce enough energy to supply their own needs, but also fuel vehicles and send excess energy back to the grid.

“There’s a loosening of the boundaries around things that define energy—they’re not siloed anymore,” says Jacob Corvidae, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute's Buildings Practice. “Suddenly, a building is not just a building.”

Corvidae believes all new construction should already be held to such standards. “We should stop the bleeding now,” he explains. “If you don’t build it to zero-energy now, you run the risk of being obsolete in ten years.” In other words, any building not designed to meet net-zero-energy standards is already archaic.
A Green New Deal would inject capital, job training, and manufacturing incentives into the system, accelerating the pace of a green economy. Building green infrastructure would be a major source of employment, and would help establish better social and economic equity, too; reliable, multimodal transit infrastructure to and from working-class neighborhoods would provide access to more jobs, schools, grocery stores, and other essentials they may currently be isolated from.
Better infrastructure also builds resiliency for those communities—an important element in the face of ever more ex
tor even mathisen
for hikers journeying into the arctic circle, this small mountain cabin in norway provides much needed warmth and shelter. the project is the first of two warming huts designed to promote hiking in the town of hammerfest. the brief called for a small mountaintop structure that aligned with the existing landscape. the cabin includes a wood burning stove, simple seating, and views of the arctic terrain below.

the project was commissioned by the hammerfest chapter of the norwegian trekking association (DNT), who tasked norwegian firm SPINN arkitekter with designing the cabin. to translate their sketches of an organic wooden shell into reality, the architects at SPINN contacted FORMAT engineers to help them produce a structure that could be manufactured precisely enough to be built on top of a mountain by a group of local volunteers.

the site was mapped in 3D using a drone and photogrammetry software to give a detailed map of the surface, which was then used as a baseline for form-finding. the result was a wooden cross-laminated timber shell with 77 unique panels that fit together like a 3D puzzle. the design was then tested against simulated wind conditions to make sure that it would withstand winter arctic storms and extreme wind conditions, while remaining snow-free. 3D printing was used extensively to test out how the construction would fit together, and to test cladding options for the exterior.

as the design had a higher budget than the client expected, a visualization and animation were made as part of a crowdfunding effort to raise the money necessary to realize the project. local businesses volunteered materials and services, while kebony donated materials for the exterior cladding. according to the plan, the hiking association members would be responsible for raising the structure and transporting it to site.

Architect Magazine
The National Institute of Building Sciences’ “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report” calculates benefit–cost ratios of 4:1 up to 11:1 for investing in higher quality buildings that meet contemporary codes and standards.

Investing more upfront in hopes of securing a better return pays off when it comes to resilient design and infrastructure, according to a new report by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). During NIBS’ seventh annual Building Innovation conference last week, the nonprofit NGO released “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report,” which highlights the findings of its ongoing, multiyear study on the “significant savings that result from implementing mitigation strategies in terms of safety, and the prevention of property loss and disruption of day-to-day life,” according to its press release.

“Despite the widely publicized impacts of disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the funding for mitigation has declined over the years, even if the risks clearly have not,” writes NIBS past president (and recently retired) Henry Green, Hon. AIA, in the report’s foreword.

Perhaps the most dramatic finding of the report, which was researched and reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of more than 100 experts, is the potential 11:1 benefit–cost ratio (BCR) of buildings designed to meet the 2018 International Building Code (IBC), the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA's) National Flood Insurance Program requirements, as compared to a baseline building constructed to 1990s standards.

That is, for every $1 spent in added upfront construction cost and long-term maintenance costs to “improve existing facilities” by increasing their resiliency or build new, higher-quality construction projects, the nation as a whole experiences $11 in potential benefits, calculated as the present value of the savings in futures losses that the mitigation strategies prevent. (The report assumes a 2.2-percent discount rate.)

The 2018 report also reiterates NIBS’ earlier finding, published in the “2017 Interim Report,” that every $1 in government-funded mitigation grants can save the nation $6 in future disaster-related and recovery costs. This 6:1 BCR replaces the frequently cited 4:1 BCR from NIBS’ 2005 report “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities.” This latest report also echoes past findings that designing new construction to exceed select provisions in the 2015 IBC and the 2015 IRC, as well as to meet the 2015 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC
Japan Sport Council
Kengo Kuma’s $1.4 billion National Stadium is over 25 percent complete and should open in November 2019 for six months of testing before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics kickoff. The three-tiered stadium is expected to seat 68,000 during the games and 80,000 when it’s converted into a home field for the Japan National Football Team.

Utilizing a half-covered roof and an abundance of overflowing greenery, Kuma’s flat structure is a far cry from the yonic stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which was originally chosen in 2015. The distinct layers and open-air columns of Kuma’s stadium are references to the 1,300-year-old Gojunoto pagoda at Horyuji Temple in Ikaruga, the oldest timber building in the world.

Kuma has pledged that the stadium will source over 70,000 cubic feet of larch and cedar wood from nearly all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with an emphasis on areas hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The steel roof over the ovoid stadium will be supported by a lattice of exposed timber beams and joists. Kuma has rimmed the track and field building with open-air loggias and clad the edges in a screen of vertical wood, creating a breezy, naturalistic setting that’s perfect for the summer games. It’s not all smooth sailing for the Tokyo 2020 commission, however, as the U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network has accused the group of sourcing endangered tropical timber from Malaysia and Indonesia to build the 2020 stadiums. A Tokyo 2020 spokesman has denied the claims, but the commission is working to further tighten up its sourcing standards regardless.

Ted Wood
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off. First in a series.

The beginnings of the mighty Colorado River on the west slope of Rocky Mountain National Park are humble. A large marsh creates a small trickle of a stream at La Poudre Pass, and thus begins the long, labyrinthine 1,450-mile journey of one of America’s great waterways.

Several miles later, in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Kawuneeche Valley, the Colorado River Trail allows hikers to walk along its course and, during low water, even jump across it. This valley is where the nascent river falls prey to its first diversion — 30 percent of its water is taken before it reaches the stream to irrigate distant fields.

The Never Summer Mountains tower over the the valley to the west. Cut across the face of these glacier-etched peaks is the Grand Ditch, an incision visible just above the timber line. The ditch collects water as the snow melts and, because it is higher in elevation than La Poudre Pass, funnels it 14 miles back across the Continental Divide, where it empties it into the headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River, which flows on to alfalfa and row crop farmers in eastern Colorado. Hand dug in the late 19th century with shovels and picks by Japanese crews, it was the first trans-basin diversion of the Colorado.

The headwaters of the Colorado River are in a marshy meadow just inside the northern boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park at La Poudre Pass, Colorado.
The headwaters of the Colorado River are in a marshy meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Many more trans-basin diversions of water from the west side of the divide to the east would follow. That’s because 80 percent of the water that falls as snow in the Rockies here drains to the west, while 80 percent of the population resides on the east side of the divide.

The Colorado River gathers momentum in western Colorado, sea-green and picking up a good deal of steam in its confluence with the Fraser, Eagle, and Gunnison rivers. As it leaves Colorado and flows through Utah, it joins forces with the Green River, a major tributary, which has its origins in the dwindling glaciers atop Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, the second largest glacier field in the lower 48 states.

The now sediment-laden Colorado (“too thick to drink, too thin to plow” was the adage about such rivers) gets reddish here, and earns its name – Colorado means “reddish.” It heads in a southwestern direction through the slick rock of Utah and northern Arizon
Increasing Resiliency in the Built Environment

A massive report on climate change, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, published in November, emphasizes the threats posed by climate change and the impacts U.S. residents will see if no action is taken. The report, a collaborative effort of 13 federal agencies and more than 300 climate scientists, says that:
  • The impacts of climate change already being seen in communities across the country
  • Climate change is a public health crisis
  • The American infrastructure and property will face damages
  • The quality and quantity of water available for use by people across the country are being affected by climate change
  • Climate change is an economic crisis as it is unsustainably expensive

This is just scratching the surface as the assessment’s findings are numerous and the effects of global warming continue to keep growing in number. The effects of climate change are evident in every area of the country; devastating fires, flash floods, drought conditions, temperature extremes and rising sea levels. These type of weather events are predicted to increase in both frequency and severity.

The building, design and construction industry needs to adapt now to meet the challenges posed by our changing climate. The Fourth National Climate Assessment report states:

Incorporating climate projections into infrastructure design, investment and appraisal criteria, and model building codes is uncommon. Standardized methodologies do not exist, and the incorporation of climate projections is not required in the education or licensing of U.S. design, investment or appraisal professionals. Building codes and rating systems tend to be focused on current, short-term, extreme weather. Investment and design standards, professional education and licensing, building codes, and zoning that use forward-looking design can protect urban assets and limit investor risk exposure.

The 100 Resilient Cities initiative by The Rockefeller Foundation is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to physical, social and economic challenges. 100RC believes that resiliency not only includes effects like earthquakes, fires and floods, but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city. Examples of these stresses include high unemployment, an overtaxed or inefficient public transportation system, endemic violence or chronic shortages of food or water.