Wellness for Cities – Greenings naturally

Adapting with climate change, rather than ‘to’ is proving to have multiple benefits. At the city levels the buildings can be our food sources, and can be improved to be more energy efficient, even the street can be better designed to help shield the needs for more energy.

Posted on 9 Sept 2012 Co2land.org was a story of innovation on using cities as part of our food production “Another way to design for food production” this story is also a must read for it also tackles the city problems and the innovation needed to prepare for the future. Featured: Stockolm’s purpose build highrise gardens and a Melbourne Hatch System enterprise.

The following is a post on Chicago and how the city is doing more to prepare for coping with climate change: The scene is set with the iconic CITY HALL building installing an impressive green roof in the city. The building has a 7010m2 (23,000 square foot) green roof and serves as a test bed for researching and measuring the impact of green roofs. This one innovation saves the city about $3600 a year in heating and cooling for the building and can reduce the external surface temperature of the building by as much as 80 degrees Fahrenheit! The roof features a spectacular rooftop garden and grows more than 100 plant species. A rainwater collection system irrigates the roof and several bee hives pollinate the many flower varieties. The plants on the rooftop soak up the sun’s heat to evaporate water, keeping both the buildings underneath and the air above it cooler. It is further claimed an expanded similar project for all roofs in Chicago could save $100 million in energy every year, and help absorb stormwater runoff.

Chicago is known for its climate extremes and residents can endure days of summer when the heat index reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “The city’s annual average temperature has increased by 2.5 degrees since 1945, according to this climate assessment created by a consortium of scientists and commissioned by the city”. Of even more worry is that it is no longer about peak heat, the problem extends as an increase in ambient temperature rises.

To do more the city is working to engineer that it can stay cooler using less energy even as temperatures rise by putting into place innovative ideas and concepts. The green roof is one, and another combating the ‘urban heat island effect’. Simply, concrete and pavement, which absorb and trap heat, make cities like Chicago hotter than surrounding rural areas. Buildings soak up the sun’s rays during the day and release that heat into the night. Additional research (Joseph Fernando of University of Notre Dame) shows that Chicago is about four to five degrees warmer than the neighbouring rural town because of this effect. It is also a worrying trend discovered in research that it is shown that urban sites and rural sites are warming at about the same rate (Thomas Peterson, chief climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). It does appear by the evidence all life styles are suffering because of climate change: You should also read: Global climate data shows the Earth has been warming increasingly over time.

Hat tip to that city’s officials for the $7 billion plan to build a “new Chicago” (source: Karen Weigert, the city’s chief sustainability officer).  That means renovating citywide infrastructure from sidewalk to rooftop. The additional innovation and steps taken by the city include:

  • Chicago already has 359 green roofs covering almost 5.5 million square feet — that’s more than any other city in North America. City planners are pushing for even more.
  • Chicago has mandated that all new buildings that require any public funds must be “LEED” Certified — designed with energy efficiency in mind — and that usually includes a green roof. Any project with a green roof in its plan gets a faster permitting process. That combined with energy savings is the kind of green that incentivizes developers.

But the city is looking beyond buildings — they’re hitting the streets too:

  • That’s why they’re designing new streetscapes that integrate technology and design elements from widened sidewalks for increased pedestrian traffic to tree and plant landscaping that provide shade. The pavements are made of a light reflecting material mix that includes recycled tire pieces and lanes coated with a microthin concrete layer that keep the street from absorbing so much heat.
  • Chicago’s 3058 klms (1,900 miles) of alleyways traditionally absorb heat and cast away potentially cooling rainwater. But new ‘green alleys’ use permeable pavement that absorb rainwater. As that underground water evaporates that also keeps the alley and air around it cool.

CO2Land org enjoys hearing these stories and in particular where cities consider they need to be looking beyond buildings and streets as just a place where we move vehicles and goods. They need to be places that integrate technology and design elements for a better place.

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