By Robert L. Reid
The challenges that climate change poses for cities is leading many urban areas-large and small-to work to reduce their own carbon footprints. These measures are often aimed at decarbonizing buildings, making transportation sustainable, and converting the local power grid to renewable energy. Making sure that all climaterelated decisions keep social equity and inclusion in mind is another key goal.
Around the world, cities are on the front line of facing the effects of climate change and at the forefront of efforts to mitigate, accommodate, and whenever possible eliminate the potential hazards of the changing climate. From flooding caused by sea level rise or powerful storms to longer and more dangerous heat waves and massive wildfires, these climate-related challenges represent what scientists warn could be existential threats, especially to coastal cities and urban areas in what were already the hottest and driest regions.
A key development that spurred many cities into greater climate action came in June 2017 when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the climate-focused Paris Agreement, designed to limit global temperature increases to 1.5º above preindustrial levels. In response, a group of U.S. mayors that has now grown to more than 400 pledged to "adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement," according to a June 2017 press announcement by the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (also known as the Climate Mayors).
Formed in 2014, before the Paris Agreement withdrawal, the Climate Mayors group now leads municipalities that represent 70 million Americans, including the nation's 10 most populated cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose, California. Together, they have pledged to "intensify efforts to meet each of our cities' current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create the 21st century clean energy economy," according to the June 2017 press announcement.
By 2050, more than 65 percent of the world's population is expected to live in cities, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international network that "connects 94 of the world's greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way toward a healthier and more sustainable future," according to the C40 website. Several cities in the Climate Mayors group also participate in the C40. A recent C40 report,
Cities Leading the Way: Seven Climate Action Plans to Deliver on the Paris Agreement
, focuses on the efforts by Barcelona, Spain; Copenhagen, Denmark; London; New York City; Oslo, Norway; Paris; and Stockholm to become cities that no longer rely on fossil fuels. Because cities such as these seven are "centers of population, consumption, buildings, and transport infrastructure," the report explains, they offer a "unique opportunity to accelerate the transition to low carbon resilient systems."
As the C40 report suggests, cities can seem uniquely equipped with the necessary tools and advantages to deal with climate change. For example, cities are the locations in which considerable investments in infrastructure are made, which means "they have a great stake in ensuring that those investments are long-lived and can withstand future climate change conditions," notes Nasser Brahim, the senior climate change planner in the Boston office of Kleinfelder, based in San Diego. Cities also have considerable autonomy and ability "to enact change at a faster pace than do federal or even state governments," Brahim says.
Likewise, compared with the heated debates about climate change that occur at the national level, local leaders tend to be far less political and more bipartisan on climate issues, says Brian Swett, a principal in the Boston office of the international consulting, design, and engineering firm Arup. This bipartisanship stems from necessity because the residents of cities who are already feeling the impacts of climate change "don't care what political party you're in … they're looking [locally] for leadership around both mitigating climate change and also adapting and reducing the risk of major climatic events," explains Swett, who also serves as Arup's director of cities and sustainable real estate. Arup has worked with various cities, including Boston and Los Angeles, on their decarbonization plans.
At the same time, cities can be hamstrung by the fact that the resources to deal with climate issues might be controlled at the state and national levels. Likewise, key assets that might be addressed to help a city reduce its emissions-public transit systems, airports, energy grids, and water systems, for example-might be controlled by county, regional, or state authorities, rather than by the city itself, says Swett. Of course, most cities with climate action plans still try to reduce the emissions from those critical components in their communities, but such efforts require cooperation with other governmental bodies rather than being under the city's direct control.
"We need to be careful thinking that cities are just going to 'fix it all' for us," notes Mikhail Chester, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE, an associate professor of civil, environmental, and sustainability engineering at Arizona State University. Chester-who received a Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize from ASCE in 2017 for his work on sustainable engineering issues- notes that cities will innovate and develop new insights and solutions to mitigate or adapt to climate change, but "all levels of government have some role in tackling this problem."
Moreover, engineers must realize they won't just be designing massive seawalls or stronger levees to protect against extreme climate-driven events. Instead, they will make plenty of mundane climate-related decisions on a day-to-day basis- for example, selecting a pump to handle coastal flooding that might not be record breaking but still exceeds the typical flood from the historical record or deciding on the right temperature-sensitive asphalt mix for city streets in a climate that slowly but surely is getting hotter each year, Chester explains.
Engineers must also contend with the onset of multiple challenges at the same time, such as tackling climate change while also trying to cope with "emerging, disruptive technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles" and other upcoming concerns, Chester warns.
Various American cities have adopted climate plans modeled after the so-called Green New Deal proposal that was introduced this year in Congress but blocked by the Senate. These include urban areas of all sizes, from New York City and Los Angeles, with populations in the multiple millions, to Seattle, with some 725,000 residents, to Ithaca, New York, with a population slightly above 31,000. (Other cities have proposed equally sweeping efforts to decarbonize their communities without using the Green New Deal moniker.)
These climate action plans generally focus on three critical aspects of urban life, each a major emitter of greenhouse gases: buildings, transportation, and energy networks. Working with engineers, environmental experts, and others, city leaders have set ambitious goals to make their cities greener, striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, convert electrical power generation to renewable sources, electrify transportation fleets, and take other measures, generally through incremental accomplishments scheduled for 2025, 2030, and even out to 2050. Resilience also plays a key role in many of these plans as does the need for social equity and inclusion. Because the hazards of climate change are expected to disproportionately harm disadvantaged communities, many cities are working to make certain that traditionally underrepresented groups are included in the discussions and decisions, notes Russell Fortmeyer, LEED AP, an associate principal in Arup's Los Angeles office, who was the prime technical consultant on that city's Green New Deal plan. The international engineering firm AECOM also worked on the Los Angeles plan.
Buildings contribute considerable levels of greenhouse gases to the urban carbon footprint, varying by the size and density of the city and its built environment. For example, buildings account for roughly 40 percent of emissions within Los Angeles's sprawling urban landscape, says Seth Strongin, LEED AP, an associate and project manager in Arup's Los Angeles office, who also worked on the city's Green New Deal project. But in Boston-a more compact, denser municipality-buildings are estimated to emit a whopping 70 percent of the city's greenhouse gases, according to Swett.
In San Francisco, a public-private task force is examining how to decarbonize the city's existing buildings, with a plan for how to achieve that effort expected in early 2020. The city's goal is to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, starting by requiring all commercial buildings of more than 500,000 sq ft to obtain carbon-free energy by 2022. The city will expand that effort to all commercial buildings of more than 250,000 sq ft in size by 2024, and then to all commercial buildings of more than 50,000 sq ft by 2030.
To reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, cities and the owners of individual structures are trying multiple approaches, from actions as simple as replacing incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient illumination to measures as complex as replacing a building's entire facade with a more environmentally friendly exterior. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio even threatened to "ban" the traditional but energy-inefficient steel-and-glass skyscraper, though his plan seems to involve stricter energy requirements rather than an outright prohibition on any building materials, explains an April 25, 2019, article in the
New York Times
, "De Blasio's 'Ban' on Glass and Steel Skyscrapers Isn't a Ban at All."
Rachel Michelin, AIA, LEED BD+C, a vice president in the Chicago office of New York City-based Thornton Tomasetti, has worked on projects that removed and replaced the facades of older buildings and also projects that added a second cladding over the original facade. These measures can improve a building's energy performance by up to 20 percent or more, depending on the current performance, Michelin notes. Buildings that still have single-pane windows can switch to double- or even triple-pane windows, she adds, and aging mechanical systems can be replaced with modern, more efficient heating and cooling systems that might also be smaller, requiring less space within the building.
Some building owners and municipalities are looking to install all-electric heat pumps, rather than natural gas or other heating sources, notes Rebecca Hatchadorian, LEED AP BD+C, an Arup associate and project manager in the firm's Boston office. But these moves are potentially problematic, especially in the short term, she adds, because currently the electric grid in many cities is "dirtier" than natural gas in terms of emissions. In Berkeley, California, the city council recently passed the nation's first ordinance that bans the use of natural gas in new construction starting in 2020, requiring all-electric systems instead. More than 50 other California cities are considering similar moves to "encourage or require all-electric new construction," according to information on the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has offices in several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can also be combined with measures to promote climate change resilience, such as when a building owner relocates the mechanical equipment out of the basement, in case of flooding, and uses that opportunity to also convert from natural gas to electric systems, notes Brahim. Likewise, new vegetated green spaces, connected together, might be constructed to capture stormwater but can also serve to trap carbon and reduce the urban heat island effects while also promoting pedestrian networks, he adds. Encouraging people to walk and cycle rather than take private, fossil-fuel-powered cars is a key goal of many cities' climate plans.
In Chicago, the city's Building Energy Benchmarking program is used to increase awareness of energy performance as a first step toward improving that performance. This program requires the owners or operators of all commercial, institutional, and residential buildings larger than 50,000 sq ft to track their buildings' energy use, report that information to the city annually, and verify the accuracy of that energy data every three years through an independent audit, Michelin explains. Boston has a similar plan that requires the owners of buildings larger than 35,000 sq ft to report their annual energy and water use and to take "energy actions" every five years to reduce energy use, says Hatchadorian. "By providing better information on building energy use, reporting and disclosure is enabling owners and tenants to become more aware of energy use, energy costs, and greenhouse gas emissions and opportunities to reduce all three," explains the city of Boston's website about the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance.
New York City's recent Climate Mobilization Act is the first such program in the world to set emissions caps for buildings larger than 25,000 sq ft, according to
Mayors and Climate Protection Best Practices
, a June 2019 report from the United States Conference of Mayors. New York City's plan seeks to reduce carbon emissions from such buildings by 40 percent by 2030 and by more than 80 percent by 2050, the report notes. Designed to provide building owners with the flexibility to pursue various options to reduce emissions rather than a "one-size-fits-all approach," the law also threatens "annual penalties greater than $1 million for the worst offenders," the report notes.
In San Francisco, efforts to improve the energy performance of buildings can be combined with measures to improve seismic resiliency, notes Joel Stout, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, a Thornton Tomasetti vice president. Strategies that install on-site renewable energy systems, including solar panels and battery storage systems, will also help buildings continue to operate in the aftermath of a seismic event that knocks out municipal power services, Stout says. New techniques, such as buoyancy-driven ventilation, also help reduce energy usage by eliminating the need for energy-intensive fans that force air through a building's ductwork. Instead, the buoyancy system features louvered towers spaced along the length of a building. Cooling coils at the tops of the towers reduce the temperature of the air, "and the weight of that colder air creates a flow in the downward direction to naturally ventilate [the floors below]," Stout explains.
Vegetated "green roofs" and "cool roofs" that use lighter colors or reflective materials are other measures that cities are choosing to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. Such approaches reduce the heat island effect, lowering roof temperatures and thus lowering the carbon footprint of buildings. The city of Los Angeles, as well as the state of California, requires some form of cool roof for all new construction and certain roof replacements, with rebates available to offset the increased costs. Los Angeles has also been working on "cool pavement" projects that coat asphalt roads with a special sealant that helps reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the streets (see "Los Angeles Project Seeks Cool Solution to Hot Asphalt,"
, January 2018, pages 33-34).
In Chicago, the 11-story city hall has featured a rooftop garden since 2000, its roughly 20,000 plants selected "for their ability to thrive in the conditions on the roof, which is exposed to the sun and can be windy and arid," explains the city's website about the project. Replacing a section of ballasted, black tar roof, "the city hall rooftop garden improves air quality, conserves energy, reduces stormwater runoff, and helps lessen the urban heat island effect," the website notes.
In addition to its requirements to reduce building emissions, New York City's Climate Mobilization Act also requires that new buildings in certain occupancy categories, as well as certain buildings undergoing major renovations, install green roofs and/or solar panels and rooftop wind turbines.
If a green roof isn't enough, how about an entire green facade? That's essentially what Arup engineered for the Italian city of Milan. The Bosco Verticale is a sustainable high-rise development that creates a vertical forest "in the heart of one of Europe's most polluted cities," the Arup website notes about the project. Designed by Milan's Stefano Boeri Architetti, the project includes two residential towers that feature some 900 trees (each up to 6 m tall), 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 floral plants on terraces up to the 27th floor of the buildings. This greenery provides shade and improves the air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and dust particles. "Arup designed the structural stability of the trees through the botanical analysis of the species and their geometry, a detailed wind climate assessment, and two different wind tunnel test campaigns to discover how growing them at height would affect the buildings' structures," the site explains. Safety cables and in some cases steel cages were used to restrain the trees and prevent them from overturning during major windstorms.
Projects known as green infrastructure can also help cities reduce the urban heat island effect and capture stormwater, notes Barbara Minsker, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, the chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Southern Methodist University and the Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship. Green infrastructure often consists of large, vegetated spaces, generally at ground level—retention ponds, rain gardens, and bioswales as well as areas with trees and other plants, Minsker notes. Although green infrastructure isn't always green in color—the term can also describe permeable pavements and other porous materials that allow water to penetrate the ground below the structure—the predominant forms do involve living plants, Minsker says. Cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, and Philadelphia have experimented extensively with green infrastructure, she adds, pointing to Baltimore's efforts to convert vacant lots into parks and Chicago's Space to Grow program for planting trees, vegetable gardens, and other greenery at schoolyards. Such green schoolyards benefit both the students—who "learn better when there's green spaces outside the windows of their schools," Minsker notes—and the city itself, which can construct green infrastructure in lieu of more costly "gray" infrastructure projects involving large stormwater pipes and other "hard" systems.
In Philadelphia, engineers from the city's water department are working with Drexel University's Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Laboratory to track real-time data on the city's green infrastructure systems. Elsewhere, New York City is more than doubling—from 4,000 to 9,000—the number of specially designed curbside rain gardens that "absorb millions of gallons of stormwater each time it rains … making the city more resilient in the face of global warming," according to an announcement from the mayor's office.
Trees can lower daytime temperatures during the summer by as much as 10ºF, especially when the tree canopy cover in a city exceeds 40 percent, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in the March 25, 2019, proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as "Scale-Dependent Interactions between Tree Canopy Cover and Impervious Surfaces Reduce Daytime Urban Heat during Summer." Indeed, trees are considered so important to combating climate change that the city of Los Angeles just hired its first city forest officer, whose tasks include planting 90,000 new trees by 2021 and increasing the city's tree canopy by at least 50 percent by 2028 in areas that currently have the least shade.
Green infrastructure efforts can also benefit engineers, who might know how to design a concrete pipe but not how to maintain a garden, Minsker says. Working on green projects can broaden an engineer's knowledge through collaborations with leaders and experts in urban planning, landscape architectures, the social sciences, and other disciplines, she adds.
Transportation is another major source of greenhouse gas emissions that cities are working to change, with their efforts often focused on improving public transit and the cities' own fleets of vehicles, trying to change what types of vehicles citizens use, and, as noted previously, promoting such green transportation options as walking and cycling.
New York City's proposed Green New Deal, for instance, calls on the city to "invest in and advocate for major upgrades to our bus, subway, bike, and road networks, while reducing gridlock through a fair congestion pricing program and tougher enforcement," according to the April 2019 report
OneNYC 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City.
Congestion pricing, in particular, is touted for its expected role in reducing individual vehicle traffic and generating funds to help improve public transit. The report's "ambitious goal" is to have "80 percent of all trips in the city taken by sustainable modes by 2050 … so no one needs to rely on a [fossil-fuel-powered] car."
Congestion pricing is also being considered by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and other major municipalities. Indeed, when it comes to the average driver in American cities, reducing transportation-related emissions will most likely require the proverbial combination of both carrots and sticks. "Getting residents and commuters to change their transportation modes of choice will require making transit, biking, and walking more convenient, less expensive, safe, and practical, while also making driving and parking more expensive," explains the 2019 report
Carbon Free Boston
, on which Swett and Hatchadorian were the technical leads for the building sector analysis.
New York City's efforts to increase sustainable transportation include such measures as the installation of dedicated bus lanes, a citywide network of electric vehicle charging stations, protected bike lanes on city streets and a "connected network of greenway paths for cycling," and a test project with so-called Green Loading Zones, which dedicate curb space for zero-emission vehicles to pick up or drop off goods, the
report states. By monitoring the use of its own vehicle fleet, the city plans to eliminate 1,000 public vehicles, which will help reduce congestion and parking demand. The city also plans to make its fleet carbon neutral by 2040 through the use of "renewable diesel"—a nonpetroleum fuel made from various waste products—as well as increasing the use of hybrid and electric vehicles.
New York City is one of more than 125 cities and 15 counties participating in an electric vehicle purchasing cooperative led by the Climate Mayors. Together, these jurisdictions have committed to purchasing more than 2,100 electric vehicles by 2020. The cooperative, which also helps cities and counties purchase charging stations, estimates that the vehicles it helps public sector agencies procure will reduce gasoline usage by 1 million gallons annually, according to the Climate Mayors web page about the cooperative. Although the cooperative currently offers only electric passenger vehicles, it is working with a procurement partner to potentially offer electric school buses later this year. A similar cooperative to help transition private-sector fleets to electric vehicles is also under consideration.
In New York City's Green New Deal, even a proposal to make organics recycling mandatory can have a direct impact on vehicle emissions, notes Adam Friedberg, P.E., an associate principal in the New York City office of the international engineering firm BuroHappold. Currently, diesel-fuelpowered trucks haul New York City waste to sites as far away as Virginia and North Carolina, Friedberg explains. Mandatory recycling of some portion of that waste would help reduce the number of trucks on the roads and thus decrease the greenhouse gases they emit. BuroHappold worked on several climate-related reports for New York City, including
1.5°C: Aligning New York City with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Of course, innovation offers another solution to decarbonize trucks, as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative and Plasma Science and Fusion Center recently announced the development of a plug-in hybrid engine that could help transition long-haul trucks toward electric power and reduced emissions. Long-haul trucks might also achieve emissions-free operations by using hydrogen fuel cells, adds Swett. "Electrification is the primary mechanism [for zerocarbon transportation], but it's not the only one," he notes.
In Southern California, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (also known as L.A. Metro, a countywide entity covering the city of Los Angeles and 87 other cities and special jurisdictions in the region) recently acquired its first 60 ft long electric bus and expects to receive 40 more over the next year. By the end of 2021, the transit agency plans to operate only electric buses on both its Orange and Silver lines—two heavily used public transit corridors—with a commitment to electrify the entire bus fleet by 2030, says Cris B. Liban, D.Env, P.E., ENV SP, F.ASCE, L.A. Metro's executive officer for environmental compliance and sustainability.
The agency is currently considering different types of electrical charging systems for the bus fleet as well as chargers that could be installed at the bus stations to encourage people to use electric vehicles to get from their homes to the public transit sites, says Liban. One challenge, though, is that the bus depots and other sites for charging the buses are generally in developed neighborhoods, which restricts the amount of space available in which to install the charging infrastructure that must potentially service hundreds of vehicles at a time.
Because the L.A. Metro fleet of more than 2,200 buses runs on compressed natural gas rather than diesel fuel, it is already a "clean energy" system, Liban notes. But the agency is striving to take its fleet from "clean to cleanest," he says, explaining that currently 43 percent of those buses operate on renewable natural gas—obtained from sources such as landfills, dairies, and wastewater treatment plants. By the end of 2019, however, the agency will use "one hundred percent renewable natural gas propulsion for its revenue fleet," Liban says.
L.A. Metro is also looking at ways to increase energy storage to make the agency less dependent on the local energy grid and wants to take measures to reduce the agency's consumption of water, install more energy-efficient lighting, improve the heating systems, and find other ways to decarbonize the agency's overall operations.
To promote greater use of public transit, L.A. Metro is extending its underground subway and light-rail system and working to make it easier for travelers to move through downtown Los Angeles without having to transfer lines. Although the subway and light-rail lines are already electrified, the agency is trying to make the overall system even greener through energy-storage measures. One system, for example, captures the energy from trains braking via regenerative braking technology that then uses the captured energy to help propel a train as it leaves the station or to help power the station itself, Liban says. Another project uses flywheel technology to help trains avoid drawing more power from the grid as they move around curves, slow down, and then accelerate-a system that is already saving the agency tens of thousands of dollars a year in reduced energy usage, Liban notes.
L.A. Metro's recently released
Climate Action and Adaptation Plan
commits the agency to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent by 2050, compared to 2017 levels, Liban says. This goal and other measures could save the agency more than $245 million (in 2017 dollars) over that time period, Liban adds.
Perhaps the most critical efforts to make cities greener involve working to convert the local electrical grid to renewable energy. After all, it does not actually reduce emissions much if a building is switched from fossil fuels to electricity or a city adopts an allelectric fleet of buses if the electricity to power those systems is generated by burning coal or other fossil fuels.
In Los Angeles, the city currently produces roughly onethird of its electrical power via renewable sources, notes Strongin. Under a planned incremental transition to cleaner energy, the city's renewable sourcing should increase to 55 percent by 2025, 80 percent by 2036, and 100 percent by 2045, under a state-mandated deadline for all of California's energy.
"Once the grid is emissions-free, that will be a main driver of having emissions-free buildings," Strongin explains.
Among other initiatives, Los Angeles plans to convert to natural gas a coal-fired power plant in Utah-operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power-and then later phase out at least three natural gas power plants. The city's Green New Deal plan also calls for investing $8 billion to upgrade transmission and distribution systems and other equipment to help integrate renewable energy into the existing energy grid.
To convert its electric grid to carbon-neutral status, New York City is looking at energy sources as near as offshore wind farms and as distant as hydropower from the Canadian province of Quebec-an effort that will involve joint action by the city and the state of New York to invest in new transmission systems, notes the
report. The completion in December 2016 of America's first offshore wind project-the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, off Rhode Island-will likely serve as a catalyst to help start other wind projects in the region, says Friedberg. And indeed, various other wind farms representing approximately 2.9 GW of clean energy are in the works at sites along the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic shores of the United States, with completion dates expected during the early to mid-2020s, according to a July 2019 press release from Ørsted, the Danish energy firm that owns and operates the Block Island project.
New York City's Climate Mobilization Act also requires the city to study the feasibility of replacing its power plants fueled by natural gas with battery storage systems powered by renewable sources. To promote its goal of 500 MW of available energy storage by 2025, the city has committed itself to expediting the permitting process for small and medium storage installations by 2020, according to the
Years of deferred maintenance mean that many power grids in the United States will likely have to replace key systems sometime soon, notes Swett. The goal should be to make replacements "for the energy supply of the future, not the energy supply of the past!" he stresses. For example, engineers have often worked on massive, utility-scale energy projects in the past, but the future will likely involve shifting cities to a zero-carbon future through energy-storage efforts, microgrids that service a particular campus or set of buildings, and other greener, distributed alternatives-perhaps powered by thermal sources, solar panels, or biogas fuel cells, explains Fortmeyer.
The question of social equity and inclusion is a critical part of many cities' plans to reduce carbon, enact a Green New Deal, or take other climaterelated actions. Indeed, many cities point out directly in their climate action plans that climate change will most likely have a disproportionate impact on lower-income, vulnerable communities. In Boston, for example, Arup worked with a specialist on social equity-Bostonbased All Aces Inc.-so that "any policy or strategy we proposed" was examined and evaluated "through an equity lens," notes Hatchadorian.
report stresses carbon neutrality and the need to lead by example on climate change—but also calls for goals that some might not see as directly related to climate issues, such as ending the opioid epidemic, enforcing fair wage regulations, and protecting tenants from "unscrupulous landlords."
"Emissions are one factor that should be part of the conversation. But at the end of the day, this is really about human beings," notes Liban. "In the development of future strategies, we want to make sure all voices are heard."
As Fortmeyer explains: "There's an assumption in engineering that…building codes have a kind of neutral position in relation to populations and demographics." But because climate issues "disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities…it's important that engineering schools and engineering students understand that there's an inherent bias in building codes, standards, and guidelines," Fortmeyer says.
For example, "if you sit down to design a building based on current standards in the city of Los Angeles, you will effectively end up with an air-conditioned building—but air-conditioning is not something that everyone can afford," notes Fortmeyer. Instead, he explains, "the challenge of climate change means we have to question everything… engineers need to be taught to look at codes with much, much more criticality—because we have to challenge these assumptions that we just keep accepting as the norm because 'the norm' simply isn't going to help us meet the challenge."
Robert L. Reid is senior editor and features manager of Civil Engineering.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
▪ Los Angeles's Green New Deal: https://plan.lamayor.org/
▪ L.A. Metro's
Climate Action and Adaptation Plan:metro.net/projects/sustainability/climate-program
▪ New York City's Green New Deal reports
OneNYC 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City: onenyc.cityofnewyork.usand 1.5°C: Aligning New York City with the Paris Climate Agreement:
Carbon Free Boston
▪ United States Conference of Mayors' report
Mayors and Climate Protection Best Practices:usmayors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/climateawards2019.pdf
▪ C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group's report
Cities Leading the Way: Seven Climate Action Plans to Deliver on the Paris Agreement:resourcecentre.c40.org/resources#cities-leading-the-way
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