Deniers of man-made climate change are quickly becoming a rare breed. Or, at least, a population increasingly regarded with skepticism, astonishment and, at times, spite. With 2015 identified as the warmest year in recorded history, arguments rejecting humankind’s involvement in a rapidly deteriorating environmental landscape are becoming harder to believe and support. In fact, according to Pew’s 2015 “Global Attitudes & Trends” study on climate change, a median of 54 percent of people surveyed globally identify climate change as a “very serious problem,” while 85 percent feel it is a “somewhat serious problem.” Society no longer considers global warming a mere myth, but, rather, a phenomenon linked to infection and disease, economic risk, international unrest, resource scarcity and environmental degradation.
Reflecting society’s mounting concern for the natural world, action is being taken on a global scale to mitigate climate change. On December 12, 2015, in an unprecedented feat of global negotiation, 196 nations signed the Paris Agreement – a legally-binding pact aiming to permanently limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, provide climate aid to developing nations and ensure nationally-determined climate action through a transparent review process and short-term roadmap.
With nations thus expected to transition to a low-carbon economy on a subnational, national and international level in the coming years, urban spaces have a central role to play in implementing a truly sustainable future. Sixty-six percent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations. As urban populations grow, cities must therefore envision and enact solutions that will neutralize the helm of human activity in relation to the natural world.
Developers of urban spaces have an opportunity to become pioneers by building sustainable infrastructure. Whether through sourcing sustainably harvested or repurposed building materials, installing energy-efficient electrical products or monitoring utility usage, commercial and residential real estate developers can develop a public image of community and environmental stewardship.
Some developers are already taking the lead right here in Boston. Here are two buildings to consider:
Located alongside Boston’s Fort Port Channel, Atlantic Warf demonstrates how historic structures may be repurposed to reduce consumption and recycle available resources through environmental consciousness. According to Urban Land, the prior 1899 Russia Building – now a mixed-use retail, residential and commercial space – uses monitoring systems to record the building’s overall utility usage, while permitting tenants to track their individual consumption. The building additionally contains a vegetated roof and a stormwater management system that provide insulation, as well as recycle rainwater for property maintenance services, including heating and cooling. Through continual monitoring and material reuse, Atlantic Wharf embodies the ideal that efficiency, conservation and recycling can be high-end.
Atlantic Wharf was developed in 2011 by Boston Properties and designed by CBT Architects.
Recognized as a one of the 2015 Top Ten Projects demonstrating sustainable architecture by The American Institute of Architects, E+//226-232 Highland Street Townhouses – a grouping of four three-story townhomes – has found a way to optimize the environment’s natural energy, heating and cooling systems. For instance, harnessing the building’s exposure to sun, each townhouse has 38 solar panels, allowing the development to produce more energy than it uses. Further, the building’s orientation is positioned as to optimize sunlight for heating purposes in the winter and provide shade in the summer, reducing heating and cooling utilities year-round. E+’s acknowledgment by top architectural associations indicates that the natural world is something to be embraced to maximize efficiency.
E+ was completed in 2013 and designed by ISA-Interface Studio Architects.