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World's Largest Green Roof to Sit on Top of Dying California Mall

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World's Largest Green Roof to Sit on Top of Dying California Mall

"It's not easy to be a shopping mall these days," Reed Moulds, managing director at Sand Hill, tells FastCo.Exist. "We've done some research and we haven't found a single shopping mall that's started construction since 2006. This is clearly a dying model. That's on display at Vallco."

Developers at Sand Hill plan to turn a run-down mall in Cupertino, California into an urban oasis. Photo credit: Sand Hill

Vallco is a shopping mall in Cupertino, California—a stone's throw from Apple headquarters in the middle of suburban Silicon Valley. And apparently, it has seen better days. "Half the stores are empty, the food court is abandoned and people leave Yelp reviews talking about their fear of zombie ambushes in the eerie corridors," says FastCo.Exist.

That's where Moulds comes in. He's the developer behind a $3 million project to turn the derelict building around. The mall and adjacent parking are set to be transformed into "a vibrant, sustainable, walkable and safe new neighborhood with a mix of retail, dining, entertainment, recreation, offices, housing, open space and public amenities," according to the company's website. And the entire space would be topped with a 30-acre green roof—the largest in the world.

If approved, the project would create the largest green roof in the world. Photo credit: Sand Hill

The proposed project is called The Hills at Vallco and if approved by the city of Cupertino in 2016, the new site would be truly remarkable. The whole site is designed to be walk- and bike-friendly with refreshing dense, mixed-use planning and town squares for farmers markets. Moulds plans to personally fund a shuttle service in the area since the rest of the city is so car-dependent. The green roof would include an impressive 3.8-mile trail network "for jogging and walking, vineyards, orchards and organic gardens, an amphitheater, children’s play areas and a refuge for native species of plants and birds," say the developers.

The green roof would contain an impressive 3.8-mile trail network for walking, jogging and biking. Photo credit: Sand Hill

As if the project could get any cooler, it's also aiming to be as ecologically sound as possible. The project is aiming for LEED Platinum certification, the highest LEED rating. Developers also plan to use recycled water for irrigation, heating and cooling, and recapture rainwater to reduce water consumption.

The design also contains plans for a vineyard, an orchard and an organic garden. Photo credit: Sand Hill

"The sustainable park will feature native, drought-tolerant and climate-responsive landscaping that thrives on little to no water," says Sand Hill. "The green roof, natural ventilation and smart technology will ensure energy efficiency—keeping buildings and surroundings cool in the summer and warm in the winter."

After receiving input and feedback from thousands of Cupertino residents, the developers came up with their design, which includes children's play areas.

"I think there's going to be a lot of opportunities to be very creative about how we reinvent our malls that aren't used the way that they've been used in the past," Moulds told Fast Co.Exist. "This was an organic approach, driven by community engagement, that at the end of the day resulted in the largest green roof in the world."

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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