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.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.