Commentaries

COP-26: Make Nature-Based Solutions a Top Adaptation Priority

By Timon McPhearson (The New School, US)

Natural infrastructure is a critical urban infrastructure that provides fundamental and irreplaceable services for human health, wellbeing, and livelihoods. Urban development must quickly shift away from the dominant 20th century model that exacerbates hazards and risks by paving over urban ecological infrastructure. Firm commitments at COP-26 are needed to radically increase investments in nature-based solutions in cities: restoring, conserving and investing in green and blue infrastructure assets. This will reduce the impacts of climate change as part of an adaptation strategy and also improve wellbeing.

Cities as Climate Saviours? Political Strategy Ahead of COP-26

By Linda K. Westman (University of Sheffield, UK)

Will cities play a key role at COP26 in Glasgow? This commentary examines three arguments about the importance of cities in delivering effective global climate action. Each argument is developed in relation to the negotiating position and political strategy of the UNFCCC Local Government and Municipal Authority (LGMA) constituency (LGMA, 2019).

Healing Cities: Toward Urban Climate Justice & Slum Health

By Jason Corburn (University of California, Berkeley, US)

The overlapping crises of climate change, COVID-19, and persistent social inequities are acutely felt in cities, particularly among the poor and already vulnerable. Urban climate justice demands a focused strategy to support the healing of these vulnerable communities while also creating new opportunities for them to co-lead more equitable climate resiliency strategies. COP-26 must address ‘healing cities for climate justice;’ or the need for urgent investments with (not on or for) already vulnerable people and places in order to eliminate existing suffering and urban traumas, while also planning for future prosperity.

Why Digital Building Passports Are Vital for Change

By Thomas Lützkendorf (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, DE), Ursula Hartenberger (PathTo2050, BE), York Ostermeyer (Chalmers U, SE)

COP-26 is about showcasing action and replicable, practical solutions that will accelerate market transformation. Climate action must become incorporated into the regular activities of the construction and real estate sectors. The way to achieve this is to incentivise a systematic and transparent approach to building-related information which can accelerate and reward stakeholder action. The building passport can accomplish this by creating a “living document”. In first instance, governments should set an example by making building passports mandatory for public buildings and then consecutively roll it out across other building typologies and market segments.

Adapt or Retreat? Developing a Long-Term Regional Planning Strategy

By Ellen van Bueren (Delft University of Technology, NL)

The delegates at COP-26 should now fully direct their attention to creating agreements and action plans. This creates a momentum to start planning our urban futures with a long-term perspective, in tune with the changing climate. The emphasis on adaptation is not always an appropriate option as it has unintended consequences which compound risks and can lead to a downward spiral of neighbourhoods and cities. A public debate is needed to develop clarity on when and where adaptation or managed retreat are appropriate. We need to ask: how can city regions develop in a resilient way, what assets should be preserved, at what costs and how do we protect vulnerable citizens?

Climate Adaptation in Cities: Planning for Heat Vulnerability

By Rohinton Emmanuel (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK)

Urban warming creates a ‘double jeopardy’ on a majority of humans (urban heat island and global warming). Sufficient information exists to identify where local action is most needed to protect those who are most vulnerable. As a matter of urgency, COP-26, national governments and local authorities need to address heat vulnerability by identifying vulnerable areas and implementing changes in planning practices.

Adapting our Cities and Urban Planning to Climate Change: Microclimates

By Michael Donn (Victoria University Wellington, NZ)

The complex and dynamic interactions between 3-D built form and the local environment must be accounted for in planning decisions to create pleasant, resilience microclimates for now and the future. Present planning procedures are over-simplistic and unsuitable. New approaches are suggested.

Reconcile Healthy Indoor Environments and Climate Mitigation

By Christhina Candido, Rebecca Bentley and Samin Marzban (U Melbourne, AU)

Buildings are often referred to as a “second skin”, providing sheltered infrastructure for working, playing, learning and living. People place trust in buildings to protect them and to provide safe indoor environments. Lessons from COVID-19 and recent extreme weather events are pertinent to COP-26, linking public health to the need for both mitigation and adaptation.

Fast-Growing Bio-Based Materials Can Heal the World

By Guillaume Habert (ETH Zurich, CH)

The construction industry faces many pressures including: to deliver both rapid urbanization and a steep decarbonization of the materials that it uses. Radical reductions in GHG emissions are needed by 2030, so the construction industry must drastically reduce its operational and embodied emissions within a short time frame. It is imperative to start implementing realistic solutions straightaway. Fast growing bio-based agricultural materials can store carbon in less than a decade and provide a realistic solution for building materials.  Positive change can be created quickly by creating both supply push (agriculture) and demand pull (public procurement and regulatory demand).

Climate Justice and English Dwellings

By Jonathon Taylor (Tampere U, FI), Lauren Ferguson* , Anna Mavrogianni* & Clare Heaviside* (*University College London, UK)

The changing climate is expected to have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups worldwide, due to greater exposure – and vulnerability – to various climate hazards. Urgent actions are needed to provide equity through not only providing mitigation measures, but also adapting homes that are most vulnerable to climate effects.

India’s Role in Sub-Saharan Africa: COP-26 Expectations

By Ankit Kumar (U of Sheffield, UK), Joshua Kirshner (U of York, UK), Lata Narayanaswamy (U of Leeds, UK) and Enora Robin (U of Sheffield, UK)

In the past decade, growing attention has focused on South-South cooperation in climate change mitigation, energy transitions and infrastructure development, especially on the increasing role of BRICS countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The questions of appropriate development - reducing the dependencies on carbon-based energy (and mineral consumption) for development - are highly pertinent to climate justice and an equity in partnership.

COP26: Sufficiency Should be First

By Yamina Saheb (Lausanne University, CH)

Avoiding the climate emergency requires going beyond the current set of policy measures. Instead, the concept of sufficiency needs to be adapted and applied to today’s environmental and societal challenges. This would provide clear metrics that are equitable and within the Earth’s ecological limits. The application of sufficiency to policies for building stock would provide a decent living standard for all and have a significant impact on limiting global warming.

What China's Carbon Neutrality Means for its Building Stock

By Wei Yang and Jie Li (Tianjin University, CN)

China's pledge to become carbon neutral will have profound effects on its existing and new buildings. Scalable scenarios from national to district levels have been created to begin a process of assessing and apportioning carbon budgets.  A range of new economic, social and technical measures will be needed to achieve this radical transformation.

Why High-Resolution Climate Modelling Matters: Cities and Health

By Clare Heaviside (University College London – UCL), Jonathon Taylor (UCL & Tampere U), Oscar Brousse (UCL), Charles Simpson (UCL)

Current and projected temperatures simulated by global climate models are typically output at a coarse resolution of 30–100 km. This is unhelpful for identifying climate-related public health risks in cities. New mapping is needed at higher resolution to better characterize hazards and prepare location-specific adaptation plans.

New Approaches to Building Regulations Needed

By Fionn Stevenson (University of Sheffield, UK)

COP-26 represents a significant opportunity for countries to make detailed commitments for their GHG emissions reductions and to rethink how buildings are regulated. Governments have a central role to ensure that widespread and consistent change occurs within the construction and real estate supply chains by introducing new regulatory measures to ensure that buildings meet their performance targets.

Next Steps for COP-26: Capability for Resilient Cities and Regions

By Sarah J. Darby (Oxford University, UK)

It is time for COP-26 to move away from arguing about carbon offset arcana and technological fixes to establishing a culture of practice and learning, with regional forums to support local action in providing shelter, food, water, business and communications. Capability addresses the questions of ‘how’ by creating practical solutions and carries with it public support for a liveable future.

COP-26: Stopping Climate Change and Other Illusions

By William E. Rees (Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, CA)

Do not expect significant progress from COP-26 on climate change mitigation.  There are fundamental barriers that prevent the deep and rapid changes that scientists advocate.  Most countries adhere to economic growth policies - which create ecological overshoot.  Unless and until we accept that we must live within ecological limits, then climate change will not be adequately tackled. Energy and resource consumption must be addressed through controlled economic contraction.

Unlock Carbon Dependency: Integrate Low-Carbon Development and Territorial Justice

By Stefan Siedentop (ILS - Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development & TU Dortmund University, DE)

Considerable institutional, technological and social lock-in inhibits the needed transition to a climate-friendly society. To overcome this, the socio-spatial effects of climate action must be on an equal basis with mitigation efficacy. Overcoming carbon lock-in in the built environment is much more than a technical issue; it will require the synergy of social, environmental and territorial justice.

Can COP-26 Accelerate Cities’ Climate Actions?

By Maria Balouktsi (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, DE)

It is broadly accepted that cities have a crucial role to play in delivering GHG reductions and many initiatives already exist. However, more needs to be done in policy and practice to coordinate, facilitate and accelerate the role of cities in delivering substantial mitigation.

Trust and Empower the World’s Schoolchildren

By Robin Nicholson CBE (Cullinan Studio and The Edge, UK)

Personal experience as a construction professional and an expert advisor to client organisations and to government has shown how slow top-down approaches can sometimes be to create change. In contrast, a bottom-up approach can result in rapid and strong change. An example of young schoolchildren being empowered to reduce their school's energy demand has yielded astonishing results. The climate emergency is an intergenerational issue that will dramatically affect the younger generation.  Involving childen and harnessing their positive approach is an imperative to constructive change.

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Alternatives to air-conditioning: policies, design, technologies, behaviours [editorial]
B Ford, D Mumovic & R Rawal

Benchmarking energy performance: indicators and models for Dutch housing associations
H S van der Bent, H J Visscher, A Meijer & N Mouter

Emissions from a net-zero building in India: life cycle assessment
M Jain & R Rawal

Lack of adaptability in Brazilian social housing: impacts on residents
S B Villa, P B Vasconcellos, K C R de Bortoli & L B de Araujo

Participation in domestic energy retrofit programmes: key spatio- temporal drivers
E Mohareb, A Gillich & D Bristow

Embodied carbon of concrete in buildings, Part 2: are the messages accurate?
A Moncaster, T Malmqvist, T Forman, F Pomponi & J Anderson

An alternative approach to delivering safe, sustainable surgical theatre environments
C A Short, A W Woods, L Drumright, R Zia & N Mingotti

Adapting owner-occupied dwellings in the UK: lessons for the future
T Hipwood

Integrating low energy cooling & ventilation strategies in Indian residences
M J Cook, Y Shukla, R Rawal, C Angelopoulos, L Caruggi-De-Faria, D Loveday, E Spentzou, & J Patel

Balconies as adaptable spaces in apartment housing
T Peters & S Masoudinejad

Inclusive Living: ageing, adaptations and future-proofing homes
V McCall

Residential geothermal air-conditioning: inhabitants’ comfort, behaviour and energy use
L Thomas, A Woods, R Powles, P Kalali, & S Wilkinson

Energy retrofit and passive cooling: overheating and air quality in primary schools
D Grassie, Y Schwartz, P Symonds, I Korolija, A Mavrogianni & D Mumovic

Outdoor PM2.5 air filtration: optimising indoor air quality and energy
E Belias & D Licina

Architects’ ‘enforced togetherness’: new design affordances of the home
E Marco, M Tahsiri, D Sinnett & S Oliveira

Overheating assessment in Passivhaus dwellings: the influence of prediction tools
V L Goncalves, V Costanzo, K Fabbri & T Rakha

The use of apartment balconies: context, design & social norms
M Smektała & M Baborska-Narożny

Sharing a home under lockdown in London
F Blanc & K Scanlon

Projected climate data for building design: barriers to use
P Rastogi, A Laxo, L Cecil &D Overbey

Residents’ views on adaptable housing: a virtual reality-based study
J Tarpio & S Huuhka

Technological transitions in climate control: lessons from the House of Lords
Henrik Schoenefeldt

Internal thermal mass for passive cooling and ventilation: adaptive comfort limits, ideal quantities, embodied carbon
T de Toldi, S Craig & L Sushama

Understanding air-conditioned lives: qualitative insights from Doha
Russell Hitchings

Living with air-conditioning: experiences in Dubai, Chongqing & London
N Murtagh, S Badi, Y Shi, S Wei, W Yu

Air-conditioning in New Zealand: power and policy
H Byrd, S Matthewman & E Rasheed

Summertime overheating in UK homes: is there a safe haven?
P Drury, S Watson & K J Lomas

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Latest Commentaries

Lessons from the Swiss Impulse Programme

The former Swiss 'Impulse programme' was a successful response to the 1970s energy crisis. It provides important lessons for today’s climate emergency about what governments, industry and academia can do to create a successful transition within the construction industry. Niklaus Kohler and Kurt Meier (both former members of the Construction and Energy Impulse programmes) reflect on key lessons for today about its implementation and how to sustain change over the short and long term.

New European Bauhaus Festival: Living within Planetary Boundaries

The first annual festival of the New European Bauhaus – a cultural initiative of Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) – took place in Brussels 9 – 12 June 2022. This ambitious programme and its recent festival recognises the built environment's centrality to creating climate neutrality, quality of life and social equity. Matti Kuittinen (Aalto University, coordinator of the Nordic Bauhaus programme) reflects on the festival, summarises its takeaways and applauds the mainstreaming of the New European Bauhaus.