Innovative projects that are improving our communities
Earth Day this year comes at a fascinating time full of hope and a sense of chaos. On one hand, we are facing a troubling future with worsening climate events and repercussions that gravely affect our communities and livelihoods (not to mention a federal administration that ignores the science). On the other hand, we are lucky to be in the midst of innovations and progressive projects that are changing the trajectory of our climate future and making great strides in strengthening and improving our communities.
For us at BuroHappold Cities, it’s an especially exciting time as we watch many of our projects, new and old, grow and make positive impacts.
The project aims to reconnect public spaces, offering a better sense of community for Manhattan residents. Image: FDNA
The OneNYC 2050 update plan, just released, announced citywide investment in pedestrian priority streets. This idea is one we’ve been yammering about for some time. With an office in Lower Manhattan, we live through the struggles of limited sidewalk space, shared by tourists, commuters, residents and trucks. Collaborating with the Financial District Neighborhood Association, together we have created and launched the Make Way for Lower Manhattan report, which envisions a more pleasant, cleaner and safer public realm in the City’s most historic neighborhood. This proposal for shared streets reinvents the sidewalk and city streets in a way where space is balanced more equitably between people and cars.
Before OneNYC, there was PlaNYC where congestion pricing sprung up as a debatable new topic for New Yorkers. Years later and we finally have congestion pricing! The details are yet to be worked out but this is a win for the pedestrianization of NYC, investment in our public transit, and a move away from car dependence in Manhattan. Come 2020, we can look forward to cleaner air, less honking, and more space on our streets.
Decisions we make now about inclusivity and the environment will affect future generations for years to come. Image: County of Los Angeles
In 2016, we completed New York City’s Roadmap to 80×50 that set forth a comprehensive plan for NYC to meet the Paris Agreement targets. A major finding from this work was that buildings in NYC contribute roughly 70% of the City’s GHG emissions. To reduce emissions, buildings are key. In the works for some time, the groundbreaking Climate Mobilization Act was approved last week that will set a cap on carbon emissions for large buildings – a strong push for electrification of buildings and a move towards renewable energy. We can’t wait to see this unfold and take root.
As we invest in our futures and convert our energy sources to renewables, we also challenge the use and purpose of natural gas infrastructure. In an ongoing project, the GeoMicroDistricts Feasibility Study, we are evaluating the potential of using the aging natural gas infrastructure throughout Massachusetts as a means for catalyzing the installation of and investment in geothermal systems for district heating and cooling networks. Our study proposes an approach to make the energy transition work economically for utilities while benefitting us all with cleaner, safer, and healthier environments.
The County-wide initiative seeks to catalyse and support the development of sustainable city efforts, though better integration, communication and cooperation. Image: BuroHappold
On the west coast, sustainability is a call to arms and big moves towards carbon neutrality are happening on a regular basis. New to the priority list in many areas however, is equity and inclusivity in program design and implementation. Equity is an end state in which all groups have access to the resources and opportunities necessary to improve the quality of their lives. Lack of equity across the U.S. is a critical and complex issue that deserves attention in any planning effort. Through our work developing the Los Angeles County Sustainability Plan, OurCounty, we consider equity as a main theme and ask the people of Los Angeles County to interact with the planning efforts. Throughout the summer, we will be holding OurCounty Community Fairs where locals can share their thoughts, hopes, and worries for the County and play a part in its progression forward.
The momentum we are seeing across the U.S. in moving towards renewable energy sources, reducing car dependency, and prioritizing equitable planning and programs, is motivating us this Earth Week We look forward to continuing to work on projects like these that contribute to the collective effort of us all, in creating a better world. Happy Earth Week!