Fairy Tales competition announces winners addressing climate change and sustainability

April 25, 2019 by  
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New York-based online platform Blank Space has announced the winners of the 2019 Fairy Tales competition — the largest annual architecture competition in the world. For its sixth year, the competition drew submissions from over 65 countries that were evaluated by a jury of more than 20 leading architects, designers and storytellers, including the likes of Moshe Safdie, Tatiana Bilbao, Jurgen Mayer, Julia Koerner, Mark Foster Gage and Jane Yolen. The 2019 competition challenged participants to create a text narrative along with images to explore the complex issues of immigration, pollution, climate change , sea level rise and the longevity of human impact. First prize in the 2019 Fairy Tales competition was awarded to Colombian architects Lorena Cano Acosta and Nicolás Mendoza Ramos for “The Fall,” a dystopian narrative inspired by the mass exodus currently taking place in Venezuela. In Acosta and Mendoza’s dystopian world, Earth has been ravaged by rising sea levels , which have flooded and destroyed entire countries. To protect citizens, governments built barriers and walls out of trash — “The Ecowall” — separating land from water. The second prize was given to Melbourne-based concept artist and illustrator Nick Stath for his story, “Monuments of the Past.” The narrative is structured as the diary of a father who recounts his day taking his son to see man-made recreations of natural landscapes destroyed by climate change. The images show a Martian landscape , where the father and son travel in astronaut-like suits visiting the Monuments, artificial landscapes erected on floating mega-structures. Related: Chilling light installation visualizes sea level rise caused by climate change Third prize went to Brooklyn-based designer Anthony D’Auria for “Kraken in an 80 Million Gallon Tank,” a look into an “uncanny future that is humid and sticky.” D’Auria added, “A future where things have been set in motion and no matter how big we build or how intricately we plan, they cannot be undone. How do we make sense of such a future? How do we live on the tenuous ground that past decisions have engendered? In the end, it all seems pretty hazy.” + 2019 Fairy Tales Competition Images via Blank Space

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Fairy Tales competition announces winners addressing climate change and sustainability

Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

April 25, 2019 by  
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Nearly one out of every 10 low-income housing projects is in a flood zone. In Houston , residents of a government-subsidized complex have sued the landlord, arguing that the subsidy system unfairly traps them in a cycle of devastation with no choice but to continuously return to where their lives are at risk and where they have lost everything — year after year. Half a million Americans live in government subsidized housing that is at direct risk for flooding. This number is modest, because the estimate is based on historical climate data and does not reflect rapidly increasing rainfall patterns. Related: National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage In 2016, a storm flooded the Arbor Court Apartments in Houston and residents like Sharobin White lost her car and everything in her apartment. Then in 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and again White lost her car and all her possessions. Like thousands of low-income families, Ms. White’s housing voucher is specific to her building and therefore returning to her apartment — despite the trauma and toxic mold — is her only option. Low-income residents take legal action According to an investigative article by the New York Times, the Arbor Court Apartments — like many low-income complexes — is a privately-owned building that has a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The landlord receives payment from the government in exchange for renting to low-income tenants. Despite the known risks and exorbitant recovery expenses after the flood in 2016, the government renewed its contract with Arbor Court. Given the housing crisis throughout the country, HUD argues that without these complexes, thousands of families would be homeless. In other words, the department believes providing vulnerable housing is more urgent and beneficial than sending half a million Americans out onto the street. Similarly, the landlord’s lawyer argues that this building is just as at risk as others in the area and that despite two back-to-back floods, such catastrophes are not the norm. Climate science, however, indicates that these “ freak storms ” are indeed becoming more frequent and therefore not something that the government can afford to ignore. Low-income communities require massive amounts of assistance and funding after disasters and are least capable of recovery. By taking the risk to continue to fund such inexpensive, but repeatedly vulnerable housing, the government is setting itself up for higher costs in the long run — including losses in infrastructure and lives. Still, the government and landlords are cutting corners on recovery efforts and forcing low-income residents to return home despite glaring health risks. “Arbor Court is not a close question,” Michael M. Daniel, a civil rights lawyer working on the case, told The New York Times. “How in the world it hasn’t flunked the ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ test — it’s beyond belief.” Discontinuing decades of discrimination and danger The connection between low-income housing and unsafe conditions is not new. Land in vulnerable areas is cheaper, and therefore readily available for government and low-income projects , just as low-income and minority residents have historically been segregated to undesirable housing near toxic sites. A major shift in planning, policy and budget priorities will be necessary to begin to reverse decades of discriminatory policies, but HUD could start by discontinuing contracts with buildings in vulnerable and damaged areas. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years In Houston, the Arbor Court landlord is currently constructing a new complex located 25 miles away but in a safer zone — at least in terms of flooding . Although the landlord plans to accept the same housing vouchers at that complex, residents argue that this option is still unacceptable. The new complex is located in a high-crime neighborhood, and the residents and their lawyers argue this is further perpetuating segregation. Arbor Court residents are calling for subsidized housing vouchers that could be accepted anywhere, giving the families the ability to choose where they want to live. However, the reality is that without specific state legislation, most landlords can legally refuse these vouchers and discriminate against those who have them. Safer housing solutions Some states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, passed legislation prohibiting landlords from refusing Section 8 housing vouchers, which is an important step in housing reform and justice. Other housing experts propose “climate vouchers,” which could give affected families the option to relocate somewhere safer, rather than being required to return to their unsafe homes in order to keep their benefit. Another possible solution would be to use disaster mitigation grant funding toward long-term relocation of housing projects and other infrastructure. Last year, HUD received $16 billion for disaster mitigation, which could be used toward building in safer zones or retrofitting buildings to be more resilient to expected storms. Once residents are relocated, flood zones should be re-converted into wetlands and open spaces, where green infrastructure like underground levees provide critical defenses that protect inland buildings from flooding. Properly designed open spaces can not only protect urban infrastructure, but also provide recreational spaces, beautify neighborhoods and raise property values. This long-term, equitable planning could ultimately save the government millions in recovery dollars after disasters hit. Via The New York Times Images via Revolution Messaging and SC National Guard

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Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

BIG unveils a sustainable floating city in response to rising sea levels

April 9, 2019 by  
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BIG and a coalition of partners have unveiled Oceanix City, a visionary proposal for the world’s first resilient and sustainable floating community for 10,000 people. Presented at the first UN high-level roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities, the conceptual design was created as a potential solution to the perceived threat of climate change and rising sea levels. Conceived as a “modular maritime metropolis,” Oceanix City is engineered for self-sufficiency with features from net-zero energy and zero-waste systems to a sharing culture. According to UN-Habitat, 90 percent of the world’s largest cities will be exposed to rising seas by 2050. As part of UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, BIG teamed up with MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, Mobility in Chain, Sherwood Design Engineers, Center for Zero Waste Design and other partners to propose Oceanix City. This is a 75-hectare floating city  that is meant to grow and adapt organically over time — from neighborhoods to cities — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely. To that end, Oceanix City uses a modular design with two-hectare modules serving mixed-use communities of up to 300 residents centered on communal farming. Larger 12-hectare villages comprise six neighborhood modules clustered around a protected central harbor accommodating social, recreational and commercial functions for up to 1,650 residents. For a city of 10,000 residents, six villages are connected around a larger protected harbor. Construction materials will be locally sourced whenever possible, and components would be prefabricated on shore and then towed to their final site to keep construction costs low and thus permit affordable housing. Related: How the world’s first floating city could restore the environment “The sea is our fate — it may also be our future,” Bjarke Ingels said. “The first sustainable and self-sustained floating community, Oceanix City, is designed as a human made ecosystem channeling circular flows of energy, water, food and waste. Oceanix City is a blueprint for a modular maritime metropolis anchored in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The additive architecture can grow, transform and adapt organically over time, evolving from a neighborhood of 300 residents to a city of 10,000 — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely to provide thriving nautical communities for people who care about each other and our planet.” + BIG Images via BIG

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Chilling light installation visualizes sea level rise caused by climate change

March 22, 2019 by  
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Ghostly white bands of light are illuminating the coastline in the Outer Hebrides to show the potential rise in sea levels that could become reality as a result of unchecked climate change . The collaborative and site-specific art piece, named Lines (57° 59 ?N, 7° 16 ?W), is the work of Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho . The environmental art installation is embedded with sensors that measure the rising tidal changes and activate three synchronized light lines during times of high tide. Hoping to draw attention to and spark a dialogue about climate change, artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho wanted to render visible the predicted impacts of rising sea levels in an area they believe will be among the hardest hit. Consequently, the artists chose the Uist, a low-lying island archipelago belonging to the Outer Hebrides island chain located off the west coast of mainland Scotland. The artwork has been installed at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, the main port of entry to North Uist, which the artists said “cannot develop on its existing site due to predicted storm surge sea levels.” Lines (57° 59 ?N, 7° 16 ?W) consists of bright white LED lights, float switches/sensors and timers. Two light lines wrap around the sides of a pair of gabled buildings while the third light line appears to hover above an empty field. The three lines light up in sync with the rising tide. Related: Climate change art illustrates sea level rise in Venice during COP 23 “The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long term effects,” the artists said in their project statement. “The work provokes a dialogue on how the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future. The work helps us to imagine the future sea level rise in undefined period of time, depending on our actions toward the climate warming.” Installed May 8, 2018, Lines will run until May 1, 2019. + Pekka Niittyvirta + Timo Aho Images via Pekka Niittyvirta

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Chilling light installation visualizes sea level rise caused by climate change

Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides

February 12, 2019 by  
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When the Hampshire County Council’s Property Services decided to build a new visitor center on the coastal area of Lepe Country Park on the England’s south coast, it knew that it had to create a design with several resilient features . The building needed to withstand the area’s brutal natural elements and rising sea levels. Guests to the historic area can now enjoy a bite to eat in the Lookout, an elongated wooden and glass center surrounded by a row of concrete fins that will help protect the building against future rising tides. The design of the visitor center was strategically planned to provide a place where visitors and tourists could stop in to enjoy a bite to eat while taking in the incredible views of the sea. According to the architects, the building also had to be constructed to withstand the current and future climate conditions. “From the outset, it was important that the building had composure in an environment that can be both beautiful and brutal,” said the council’s design manager Martin Hallum. Related: Sleek fiberglass visitor center is a beacon for wind energy in Denmark The building’s elongated volume is comprised of two connected horizontal boxes with the front box containing the main dining area. The box at the rear houses the service areas including the restaurant’s kitchen, the administration offices, meeting spaces and a visitor information point. The center is clad in wooden panels, with the front area punctuated with a series of windows that let in ample natural light . The building’s large sloping roof hangs over the exterior walls, providing shade during the summer months and protection from inclement weather. A wooden open-air deck wraps around the sides of the structure, leading out to the east- and west-facing terraces. Picnic tables surround the building for those wanting to enjoy dining al fresco. + Hampshire County Council’s Property Services Via Dezeen Photography by Jim Stephenson via Hampshire County Council’s Property Services

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Concrete fins protect this visitor center from rising tides

Venice’s canals go dry following weeks without rain

February 5, 2018 by  
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Venice has historically had a problem with too much water inundating its canals, but thanks to a combination of low tides and a lack of rain over the last few weeks, the sinking city’s waterways have turned into channels of mud. Indeed, unusual weather patterns have caused Venice’s water levels to plummet by more than two feet (60cm), rendering a number of channels completely unusable. And with no way to move through the city, many locals have left their boats and gondolas to languish in the muck. The Independent reports that dip in water is the direct result of low tides caused by the super blue blood moon paired with unseasonably dry weather. This, however, is not the first time the Italian city has seen its canals go dry; in 2016, water levels fell by 2.16 feet (66cm), and in 2008 and 1989 levels dropped by 2.95 feet (90cm). The canals are expected to return to normal when the rain returns. Related: Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free  While the phenomenon is surely alarming, flooding remains the biggest threat to the city.  Quarternary International published a report last year forecasting that Venice could disappear by the end of the century as a result of rising sea levels caused by climate change . The Mediterranean Sea is in fact predicted to rise by 4.59 feet (140cm) before 2100. The city itself is also sinking at a rate of about 1-2mm a year. Via Independent UK Images via Wiki Commons and Flickr

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Venice’s canals go dry following weeks without rain

Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

January 12, 2018 by  
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Millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels – but these floating homes are designed to weather the storm. Waterstudio is building a community of 33 villas to float on top of the water so that they won’t be inundated by sea rise. Construction of the community – dubbed Amillarah – starts this month with developer Dutch Docklands off the coast of Dubai. Sea levels could rise 3 feet by 2100, which could flood a good portion of the United Arab Emirates. These buoyed homes are designed to float on top of the water, and they wouldn’t lack the luxuries of your typical villa. Each one will feature a swimming pool complete with patio, trees, and landscaping. Each artificial island will vary from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet. Related: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of WaterStudio.nl talks about design for a Water World Leave your car on land, because the only way to reach these homes is via seaplane or boat. If you want to take advantage of ocean-front property without the flooding risk, you’d better start saving your pennies, because they start at 23 million dollars each. Waterstudio says the concrete base of each villa is built to last 100 years and the bases can help create an underwater habitat for sea life. Buyers can design their own island, and each one is self-sufficient. Waterstudio is well-known for their floating architecture , which includes a floating neighborhood in Amsterdam and

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Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth

November 24, 2017 by  
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Two of Antarctica’s glaciers are holding our civilization hostage, meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote in a piece for Grist . Pine Island and Thwaites are among the continent’s biggest and fastest-melting glaciers , together holding back ice that could unleash 11 feet of sea level rise . If they collapse, every coastal city on our planet could flood. Thwaites and Pine Island sprawl across a plain over 150-miles-long, and inland widen to a reserve of ice two-miles-thick that’s about the size of Texas, according to Holthaus, who says there’s no doubt the ice will melt. The question is not if, but how soon. Should the two glaciers collapse, every shoreline and coastal city could be inundated with water, leaving hundreds of millions of climate refugees homeless. And those events could happen in 20 to 50 years – too fast for humans to adapt. Related: Antarctica’s newest iceberg may destabilize the entire ice shelf Two climatologists, in a study published in Nature last year, said an increase of six feet in ocean levels by 2100 was more likely than three feet – but if carbon emissions continue increasing in a worst case scenario, all 11 feet of ice held back in Antarctica could be freed. But if these glaciers are miles thick, wouldn’t it take an incredibly long time for them to collapse? That may not be the case in our warming world. Holthaus pointed to new evidence saying once we reach a certain temperature threshold, glacier ice shelves extending into the sea – like those of Thwaites and Pine Island – could melt from below and above, quickening their demise. Holthaus noted not every scientist thinks there’s cause for panic. National Snow and Ice Data Center lead scientist Ted Scambos said the two glaciers may not collapse all at once – and rapid collapse would still produce several icebergs that could slow the rate of retreat and act as a temporary ice shelf. But the scientific community is starting to think we need more research into the risk of rapid sea level rise, according to Holthaus. University of Michigan leading ice sheet scientist Jeremy Bassis said, “Every revision to our understanding has said that ice sheets can change faster than we thought. We didn’t predict that Pine Island was going to retreat, we didn’t predict that Larsen B was going to disintegrate. We tend to look at these things after they’ve happened.” Via Grist Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA

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Switching to outdoor LEDs has made light pollution worse without saving energy

November 24, 2017 by  
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LED lighting was supposed to help save the environment with its lower energy requirements and more specific light direction. But new research published in Scientific Advances reveals we are now being smothered in worse light pollution than ever before — without the energy savings we expected. As a result, we are not only failing to reduce our carbon footprint, but our health could be suffering as well. Scientists examined satellite imaging to determine if the planet’s surface appears to be brighter than it used to be. If LED lights were working as we’d expected, the skies in wealthy countries would be remaining the same or getting darker at night. But the opposite seems to be taking place. “[W]e observed wealthy countries staying constant, or in many cases increasing,” said Christopher Kyba, lead author of the study in an interview with Gizmodo . Related: This village in Arizona has a simple solution to light pollution Part of the reason for the increase is because many cities have added more lighting because of the energy savings from LED bulbs, a phenomenon known as the “rebound” effect. Not only has this increased light pollution, but it has negated the energy savings that would be seen by simply switching an incandescent bulb for an LED one. Light pollution is considered to be a serious health threat , akin to air pollution, not only for humans but for wildlife as well, because it disrupts biological circadian rhythms. Half of Europe and a fourth of North America have compromised night skies that can impact health. + Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent Via Gizmodo Lead image via Arturo Castaneyra

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Switching to outdoor LEDs has made light pollution worse without saving energy

Global ocean circulation may be slowing down due to Arctic ice loss

August 16, 2017 by  
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Humanity is entering a phase of grave uncertainty as rising temperatures wreck havoc on our planet. Researchers from Yale University and the University of Southhampton have found evidence that Arctic ice loss may be having a negative impact on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) , the largest ocean circulation system on the planet. A complex system not easily explained by talking heads scoring political points, AMOC helps regulate ocean and atmospheric temperatures – and its collapse would have repercussions that not even scientists can properly predict. “The ongoing decline of Arctic sea ice exposes the ocean to anomalous surface heat and freshwater fluxes, resulting in positive buoyancy anomalies that can affect ocean circulation,” the researchers wrote in a new study published recently in Nature . “It is found that on decadal timescales, flux anomalies over the subpolar North Atlantic have the largest impact on the AMOC, while on multi-decadal timescales (longer than 20 years), flux anomalies in the Arctic become more important. These positive buoyancy anomalies spread to the North Atlantic, weakening the AMOC and its poleward heat transport. Therefore, the Arctic sea-ice decline may explain the suggested slow-down of the AMOC and the ‘Warming Hole’ persisting in the subpolar North Atlantic.” Related: How climate change could alter the environment in 100 years So what does this mean? Trevor Nace, a geologist, explains for Forbes : “This process whereby water is transported into the Northern Atlantic Ocean acts to distribute ocean water globally. What’s more important, and the basis for concern of many scientists is this mechanism is one of the most efficient ways Earth transports heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The warm water transported from the tropics to the North Atlantic releases heat to the atmosphere, playing a key role in warming of western Europe…” Since this is largely unprecedented, it is uncertain exactly what will happen if the AMOC collapses, or how it will affect global weather patterns. But we do know that even small shifts in climate can result in dramatic changes – evidenced by the growing number of droughts, floods and other natural disasters worldwide. In November, temperatures in the Arctic were 20C degrees higher than normal, according to an Arctic Resilience Report . The best way to slow down this trend is to release fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which requires a shift away from burning fossil fuels and other carbon-producing industries. And that requires leadership. Via Forbes Images via NOAA, NASA

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