Climate change is a phenomenon that is, in the same moment, both global and personal. Globally from the perspective that it affects every living creature worldwide. Personally, from the perspective that survival, shelter and transportation choices are impacted by where we happen to be in the world.
Cities are the de-facto mediators of location-specific climate change factors and the wants/needs of its inhabitants. Each municipality has the responsibility to create innovative ideas for surviving into the future, and in the case of our town– with a population vast in its diversity of values, education and income – leadership is mandatorily required to distill the impacts of climate to the largest threats that confront us all – and address them.
Whereas Bogota focused on urban transportation by replacing its diesel fleet with hybrid and electric, Copenhagen strives to become completely carbon neutral by 2025, cutting emissions to 400,000 tons. Mexico City successfully and significantly cleaned up its air quality and Munich is 37% of the way towards achieving its target of using 100% renewable energy by 2025. The core climate change strategy of these cities might be characterized as “clean renewable energy.” (1)
In the aftermath of the now infamous “Hurricane Sandy,” NYC, however, has chosen “resiliency” as its core climate change strategy. And for good reason.
Tall and skinny, Manhattan office buildings are extremely vulnerable to being battered by enormous, sheer forces of water, leaving few options for egress by building inhabitants. Almost every Manhattan commercial building is exposed to whatever happens at the seawall, given that the widest point of our island is a mere 2.3 mi – not to mention a mere 13.4 mi in length.3 Mathematically, any office building within 1.15 miles from the seawall is vulnerable, putting all 568 million s/f of Manhattan office space at risk.
“By 2050, NYC’s average temperature is expected to rise between 4.1 and 6.6°F, and annual precipitation is expected to increase between 4% and 13%. Dangerous waves are also now 20 times more likely to overwhelm the Manhattan seawall than they were 170 years ago, according to a recent study.
“The repercussions of future NYC flooding are the current starting point for identifying mission-critical resiliency objectives, including: community preparedness, emergency response, telecommunications, utilities, healthcare, transportation, costal/environmental protection and wastewater. Towards achieving those objectives, the mayor’s office recommends building design strategies for mitigating extreme heat, precipitation, flooding, and storm surges. It also links to an interactive map that shows which streets are in the danger zones for flooding from the 2020s to 2100 in all five boroughs.” (2, 4)
Additionally, there are emerging third-party rating systems for resiliency, two current ones being the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System, and USGBC’s LEED rating system. Envision addresses climate change resilience in its sustainable infrastructure rating system. LEED launched three resiliency pilot credits in November 2015, designed to ensure that a design team is aware of site vulnerabilities and addresses the most significant risks in the project design. (5)
And while survival is at the heart of resiliency strategy, there’s also opportunity for creativity with an eye towards generating wellness and new user experiences, and even if not directly applicable to a commercial office building, the inspiration is adaptable, as exemplified by:
The Brooklyn Yard-Scraper is a new mixed-use, super-sustainable redevelopment proposal set on replacing the Brooklyn Detention House and changing the urban landscape by building upwards. The proposal is an excellent example of how city-owned space that has since lost all relevant social and contextual value can be re-imagined into a sustainable new project ready to breathe a new life and perspective into its surroundings. (6)
Sun-control “fins” create an innovative, sustainable neighborhood icon for a new garage for NYC Department of Sanitation Manhattan District’s 1/2/5. (7)
The finalized design for Governors Island by an international team of architects and designers comes complete with flowering terraces, boardwalks, marshland, a hammock grove, mountainscapes and newly-found stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. (8)
Clean, renewable energy may be the right core strategy for our sister cities and indeed, it is an imperative that we too must reduce energy demand and leverage the value of renewables. This city’s leadership however, has chosen resiliency, and this writer feels it’s a most appropriate strategy for our home town.
3. Measurements of NYC Wikipedia https://www.google.com/search?q=width+of+manhattan+at+42+st&rlz=1C1CHBD_enUS730US730&oq=width+of+manhattan+at+42+st&aqs=chrome..69i57.12751j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
Nadine Cino LEED AP, is CEO and co-inventor of both TygaTrax and TygaBox, New York, N.Y.