7 Buildings Prepared for Climate Change
Ever hear the old aphorism, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" When it comes to natural disasters, this saying rings true: Every $1 spent mitigating potential hazards leads to an average of $4 in future benefits.
Even as we take action to stop
climate change, no one person can prevent a superstorm or a flood from impacting his or her home. That's why many architects and designers are planning ahead and anticipating the "new normal" of extreme weather due to climate change. And the best part—even if their buildings don't experience a natural disaster, the structure and its inhabitants still reap the benefits in safety and efficiency.
Here are seven completed buildings that are leading the way on climate-forward architecture: adapting to weather extremes, reducing energy costs and in some cases, fighting climate change while they're at it.
1. Taipei 101
Go big or go home! Taipei 101, in Taiwan, is notable in itself for its unique style and its one-time claim as the tallest building in the world. But did you know this megastructure contains a ginormous ball that helps it withstand typhoons?
When Typhoon Soudelor brought winds of around 100 mph, the enormous " tuned mass damper" inside helped the building stand tall. This mechanism also helps stabilize the structure in case of earthquakes. Amazing!
2. Pérez Art Museum
The typhoon's counterpart, the hurricane, is a formidable threat in the Western hemisphere and Florida is all too familiar with the powerful winds and surging waves brought on by strong storms. While
recent major hurricanes have not struck Florida to devastating results, the state is still subject to increasing flooding caused by sea-level rise.
At the Pérez Art Museum, millions of dollars' worth of art is on display in a beautiful oceanfront building flanked by hanging gardens and enormous windows. But look closer—those windows are actually hurricane-resistant. Should Miami get hit by a hurricane or superstorm, the priceless art will be protected.
Even as tides rise, the building is built up above sea level to prevent nuisance flooding. And here's the best part: The entire museum received a LEED Gold rating, meaning it's green from the feet up. Architects found practically every way to make the building more sustainable: reducing concrete, using recycled steel, collecting and recycling rainwater, and other energy efficiency strategies ensure the building maintains a small carbon footprint. That's what we call a masterpiece!
3. Governors Island
Moving up the East Coast to New York, we find a climate-friendly way to approach the design and layout of public parks.
Governors Island just got a makeover, transforming this green space into a climate bulwark.
In 2007, when designs were finalized for the new park, few would have imagined that the threats seen in An Inconvenient Truth would become reality so soon. But after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the decision to make Governors Island a sustainable destination was wiser than ever.
As part of the revamp, manmade hills were created out of debris from demolished buildings (the site was once a military base), 3,000 new trees were planted, resilient plants took root and large rocks were placed around the island to help dissipate strong waves. So, even if another superstorm strikes, the park will be resilient enough to withstand the waves. Now that's thinking green!
4. Italy Pavilion
Built for the 2015 Expo Milano, the Italy Pavilion is breathtaking—and it can help you breathe easier! That's because the forest-like structure around the building is
made from a material that absorbs smog. This special cement is photocatalytic—it can transform unhealthy particulate matter in the air into inert salts using the power of sunlight. Plus, the roof contains photovoltaic glass, generating solar energy for the building. With buildings like this, Milan is cleaning up its act.
5. Richardsville Elementary School
It's not just big buildings going green. Even schools can help cut carbon pollution by switching to
renewable energy. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, Richardsville Elementary School is believed to be America's first net-zero school—it consumes less energy than it uses by producing its own solar and geothermal energy. The school also reduced energy consumption (and increased healthy lunches) by removing its deep fryers, among other efficiency efforts. At the end of the year, the school gets back around $35,000 from the power company, thanks to its energy contributions to the power grid—and that's money they can reinvest back in the students and staff.
6. Bosco Verticale
You've probably heard of green roofs—when buildings are covered with plants to help absorb rainwater, increase insulation, improve air quality and reduce heating.
Bosco Verticale, also in Milan, takes the green roof idea and brings it to every resident of its two towers. The buildings are covered in more than 700 trees and 90 species of plants—the equivalent of nearly 2 acres of forests.
Inside, an irrigation system recycles the wastewater to sustain the plants. The plants help to regulate temperatures year-round by providing shade from the hot summer sun and allowing sunlight through to the apartments during the winter.
Bosco Verticale has inspired more designs around the world, with tree-covered buildings already planned in Switzerland and China. With that, we can only say: More trees, please!
7. Bullitt Center
Last and certainly not least, we can't discuss climate-friendly architecture without mentioning the "greenest office building in the world"—the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington.
When planning their new building, the Bullitt Foundation decided to shoot for the moon: a Living Building certification, signifying that the building meets at least 20 strict requirements, including achieving net-zero energy, supplying its own water, processing its own sewage and so on. In other words, if it saves water or energy, this building does it: solar panels on the roof, rainwater collection system, geothermal energy, energy-efficient lighting, composting toilets and more.
Less than two years after its completion,
the investment was already paying off. In 2014, tenants paid nothing for electricity. Plus, the cost to rent space in the building is comparable to other new office buildings around Seattle. It's clear that climate action make sense—and cents.
It Can Be Easy Being Green
You don't have to be an architect or designer to create a sustainable future. In fact, all it takes is someone who cares enough to make it a reality! For more ways to get involved in supporting climate action, sign up for email updates from Climate Reality.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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