Despite our awareness of natural disasters ripping across the nation and destroying entire communities in their paths, the devastation created historical roots and traumatic memories. With each cycle of storms, fires, floods, and erosions, the nation’s architects and builders developed new and innovative measures to minimize the damaging forces. Still, the impact of climate change has forced those working to make structures withstand disasters seek reliable and sustainable solutions, in real-time.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report recently on mitigating the effects of climate change. According to the report, as much as 72 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 came from cities. This means that redesigning our cities to be more sustainable must function as a key component to reducing emissions and halting the dangerous impact of climate change.

Particularly in places like the nation’s capital, where a development boom has literally clogged neighborhoods with new buildings – some fitted in narrow spaces against existing structures — new construction can play a critical role in carbon production. Buildings generate nearly 40 percent of annual global CO2 emissions.

For instance, buildings release carbon dioxide directly when they use equipment that relies on combustion, including boilers and furnaces used for space heating which consume fuels like natural gas and heating oil. Also, water heaters use fossil fuel combustion as a heat source, and Onsite power generation contributes to building emissions if the energy input is a fossil fuel like diesel generators or steam microturbines.

“Green spaces are disappearing across the country as more suburbanites return to urban spaces and push a demand for housing that seems to have no reasonable end,” agronomist and Ward 6 resident Carrie Pumans told the Informer. “When you see buildings springing up everywhere they must not only meet demands for housing, but must also provide strategic, forward-thinking designs that does not further tax the environment.”

According to Architecture 2030, achieving zero embodied emissions will require adopting the principles of: Reuse, including renovating existing buildings, using recycled materials, and designing for deconstruction; Reduce, including material optimization and the specification of low to zero carbon materials; and Sequester, including the design of carbon sequestering sites and the use of carbon sequestering materials.

“The world of the supertall is at once a victory of mankind soaring to new heights and a controversial marker of society’s inequity and climate change,” said Stefan Al, an architect and urban designer, who believes that understanding the technological innovations in supertall buildings is the first step in creating sustainable cities of the future. “The supertall is a barometer of our society’s highs and lows. It is a window into our future that may allow us to rethink our ways.”

It is also estimated that just three materials – concrete, steel, and aluminum – are responsible for 23 percent of total global emissions (most of this used in the built environment).

The Washington Informer wants you to be cognizant of the carbon footprint made through development, and the new and innovative technologies designing new structures to soften the impact of Mother Nature’s wrath. We offer you historical examinations of past destructions, emerging protocols and designs, and sound advice from professionals in the field, including iconic architect, Melvin Mitchell.

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Dr. Shantella

Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman

Dr. Shantella Sherman is a historian and journalist who serves as the Informer's Special Editions Editor. Dr. Sherman is the author of In Search of Purity: Eugenics & Racial Uplift Among New Negroes...

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