At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries committed to capping global temperature increase to under 2 degrees Celsius, with the goal of maxing at 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, in the first, legally-binding global climate deal. While the historic agreement was signed by nations, it is cities, the contributors of an estimated 75 percent of global greenhouse emissions, that are really the sites of carbon reduction. From Queens to Jakarta, cities are also well aware that climate change is already in effect, that we are already at risk of extreme weather. As we invent and implement technologies to become carbon-neutral and energy efficient, we have to adapt our current structures to become more resilient. As Maxwell Young, vice president of 100 Resilient Cities, asserted, “We weren’t there to talk about climate change, we were there to talk about resilience. The world is going to spend $200 billion on climate change by 2020. While we’re going to spend this massive amount of money, how do we fix all the other things that are wrong with our cities?” Hosted by the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction and Planning and Urban Design Committees, along with the UN Consortium for Sustainable Urbanism/CSU, leaders from the fields of sustainable urbanism and architecture convened at the Center for Architecture on 01.25.16 with reports from COP21, and guidelines for building strategically towards 2050.
For architects and engineers working in New York, the greatest challenge is retrofitting our current building stock. Citing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2010 report, NYC Greener, Greater Buildings, Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blogger at The New York Times, and Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University, noted that 75% of New York City’s greenhouse gases are produced by buildings, and 85% of the city’s one million buildings that will be in use in 2030 exist today. Jeffrey Raven, FAIA, principal of Raven A+U, director of the Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Design at NYIT, and co-chair of the AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee, presented the work of the Urban Climate Lab. It has used microclimate analysis to identify the hottest and coolest urban areas, as well as day- and night-time temperature patterns, to propose site-specific projects and retrofits. For Place de l’Europe-Batignolles District, a hot spot during the 2003 Paris Heat Wave, the lab has proposed a park to cover the heat-radiant, uncovered rails connected to La Gare St. Lazare. Combining heat-mitigation with resiliency measures, the park’s heat-resistant construction materials, self-shading structures, and vegetative cover will provide a cooler space for the neighborhood to gather, in addition to reducing radiant heat.
“It’s not just infrastructure that saves lives in a heat wave, it’s community structure,” asserted Revkin. “Knowing where the old people are, the poor people are, is as vital as those things [such as air conditioning]…communicative community is a climate resilient strategy.” Dan Zarrilli, senior director of Climate Policy and Programs at the NYC Office of the Mayor and Office of Recovery and Resiliency, pointed to One City: Built to Last, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $20 billion, long-term climate adaptation plan as solidly linking climate change with an equity agenda. “It is incumbent on us,” Zarilli contended, “to not just build a flood wall, but to do so in a way that continues to enhance and protect the city’s social and economic resiliency measures as well.” Waterfront parks mitigate storm surges and reduce radiant heat while also strengthening local community, the social network of the city.
Many of the speakers brought the conversation back to the importance of global community, and the need to work with the most vulnerable cities as well as informal communities, most often in the global south. Laura Jay, network manager, Sustainable Urban Development, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, pointed to the Compact of Mayors, now signed by 451 cities. She also called out the Clean Bus Declaration, signed by 26 cities, which promises that 40,000 low- and zero-emission buses will be purchased globally by 2020, reducing carbon emission by 2.28 billion tons per year. Through both agreements, cities in the global north and south are communicating and supporting each other. Jay maintained that “so much at the core [of C40] is providing the space for cities to build relationships, so you are more likely to pick up the phone – ‘we’re trying to develop this plan, have you done this’ – breaking through cultural barriers, trusting people at the other end of the phone.” Exchanging best practices across cities and borders is indispensable to building a carbon-neutral future. As Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA, founding co-chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee, opened the program, saying: “Nature does not respect political boundaries.”
Event: A Critical Climate Change Debrief: COP21, Paris
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.25.16
Speakers: Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, Co-Chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee’ Carol Loewenson, FAIA, 2016 AIANY President; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, DPACSA, Founding Co-Chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee; Tom Vonier, FAIA, 2017 AIA National President-Elect; Tom Dallessio, AICP, PP, FRSA, President, CEO, and Publisher, NextCity; Laura Jay, Network Manager/Sustainable Urban Development, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; Jeffrey Raven, FAIA, Principal, Raven A+U; Director, Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Design, NYIT; Co-Chair, AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee; Andrew Revkin, Writer, Dot Earth Blog, New York Times; Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding, Pace University; Maxwell Young, Vice-President,100 Resilient Cities; Dan Zarrilli, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, NYC Office of the Mayor and Office of Recovery and Resiliency; and Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, Center for Architecture/AIANY
Organized by: AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee, AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee, and the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanism