I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature. - FAQs - Follow - Face - Ask - Donations - Climate Book Store - Submissions

Recent Tweets @climatecote
Posts tagged "architecture"
Asker cuckoomocker Asks:
Hello! I'm a student in Washington, and I'm on my way to get a bachelors in urban planning. After that I'll probably go for a Masters. I was wondering though, as someone that has a degree in city planning, what kind of jobs do people end up with that aren't just city planners? When people talk about getting a city planning degree, they only talk about becoming city planners. Are there any other options?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi Cuckoomocker,

Such an interesting question - what are alternative careers other than “urban planning” with an urban planning degree? There are a lot of options. It depends on your interests and your focus area. During my urban planning education at UMass-Amherst, I studied adaptation of coastal cities. But, I gained a lot of real world skills from graduate assistantships and volunteering - survey design (learn this!), historic preservation, economic growth, eminent domain, city park protection, water infrastructure, even apple orchard design, (don’t go into GIS, btw). From there, I became a specialist in adaptation and now I work around the world (OK, it’s not that easy, but I apply what I learned in grad school on a daily basis).

  • How about fighting wildfires in National Parks?
  • Work with game reserves in Africa and South Asia to protect rhinos, big cats, and elephants.
  • Drop your ethics, sell your soul to the devil and become a real estate developer. You’ll make a ton of money.
  • Or, double down on your ethics and go into international development. Help other countries build good communities.
  • What about historic preservation? Do homes, monuments, buildings, places, etc., need to be preserved for history?
  • Geographer
  • Archeologist
  • Land use attorney
  • Architect

Here’s an interesting job for recent graduate at the BLM $47k to $82k: “Recent Graduate Interdisciplinary (Natural Resources Specialist/Mining Engineer/Geologist”

There are tonnnnns of options for urban planners. I recommend, for your masters, that you latch on to an adviser that has very interesting ideas and projects in the real world. Avoid theorists (unless you want to teach). Protip: get as many graduate assistantships as you can with various city departments  - then call them “consultancies” on your resume - you’ll blow your competition away come job hunting time. Oh, and apply for jobs 6 months ahead of your cohort (trust me on this, your cohort will turn on you come graduation and are vicious competitors for the same jobs you’ll be applying to.).

Hope that helps a bit…


via Climate Central

What non-climate change books have most influenced you? What novels/books would you most recommend to others?
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:
Hi, I'm doing a dissertation on whether biomimicry is more of a help or a hindrance to architecture. I read your post about it, and just want to know whether you have any examples of where biomimicry has completely failed architecture? You listed Frank Gehry as an example of failing architecture, but from what I understand, he focuses on modern styles of architecture, not incorporating biomimicry. My dissertation is leaning towards "biomimicry is helpful" and i'd like to know how it's not. tq!
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi wondererwandered,

I vaguely remember the post. I think it was grouchy and dismissive, and pointed to Gehry’s many leaky roofs and probably velcro.

Gehry’s buildings are frequently cited as examples of biomimicry in architecture journalism, green blogs, and sometimes serious literature (see here), regardless if his work meets even a loose definition.

My general issue with biomimicry is a standard, off-the-shelf criticism: it doesn’t scale up. With nearly 2 billion homes in the world, it’s unclear how a new design based on biomimic design could retro fit so many existing homes. See the problem of green roofs…

Of the articles I’ve read on biomimicry, most are just celebratory blatherings that discuss discrete technologies, like shark skin buildings and spider webs and bullet proof vest. Does the world need these? What would sway me towards supporting biomimicry in architecture is showing that it’s more than a fad for a flashy few…



Some climate adaptation ideas - build canals - for the great city of Boston.

Boston’s solution to sea level rise

A report scheduled to be released Tuesday about preparing Boston for climate change suggests that building canals through the Back Bay neighborhood would help it withstand water levels that could rise as much as 7 feet by 2100. Some roads and public alleys, such as Clarendon Street, could be turned into narrow waterways, the report suggests, allowing the neighborhood to absorb the rising sea with clever engineering projects that double as public amenities.

The canal system was among the more imaginative solutions offered by some of the city’s leading planning, architecture, and engineering firms in a report compiled by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

Other suggestions include raising the Harborwalk, which rings the waterfront, to act as a stronger barrier for nearby buildings, adding breakwaters in the harbor, and creating wetlands that would act as sponges during periods of high water.

The authors said the ideas are intended to show how the region can respond creatively to the dramatic effects of climate change.

Via Boston Globe

Tree mulcher. Clears land to build homes, roads, utilities, etc.

I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I think this is great news. For decades, U.S. taxpayers have been subsidizing insurance for private homes and businesses that have been built in dangerous, flood-prone areas. Thousands of buildings are built (and rebuilt) in coastal areas that flood and storm with incredible reliability - and taxpayers foot the bill to rebuild these buildings in the same exact, vulnerable areas.

A Florida coastal home bought in August 2012 that pays a yearly premium of $500 will rise to $4,500.

It’s unfair, dangerous, and wasteful. This insurance, called the National Flood Insurance Program, has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

Even the U.S. government admits the program is terrible: see the GAO’s raw assessment of the program, here. Now, the program is being significantly scaled back. Unfortunately, this will affect several thousand people who own property in dangerous areas. The price of flood insurance will go up substantially, and many people will have to move.

In light of the killer landslide this week, Big Think questions why people insist and governments allow building in disaster-prone areas. Good read.

Interesting argument against governments protecting urban zones over food-production zones. Coastal communities and inland cities are protected from floods and erosion by highly complex infrastructure mechanisms, such as dams, levees, and piping. Agricultural lands do not enjoy the same levels of infrastructural capacity. But, should they? Should farms have an equal amount of protection as cities do?

Creating and Expanding Funding Streams for Adaptation Planning and Implementation

Cities and communities are confronted with planning and implementing climate adaptation with very few resources available to help pay for the help they need. Adaptation funding is competing against already limited funding for schools, police, and libraries from scarce local resources. So, while adaptation is a responsible long-term investment for communities, it is usually very difficult to secure adequate funding for planning and implementation. During this webinar we will explore ways to use existing mandates for implementing adaptation, give an example of how adaptation is moving forward in the City of Cleveland, and provide a forum for discussion on challenges and creative ways to move adaptation forward.

This webinar is the first of the National Adaptation Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt and Georgetown Law Center and hosted by
This webinar will focus on identifying existing adaptation funding streams and using existing resources and mandates to implement adaptation. 
Webinar will take place from 1:00-2:00 PM EST 

1:00-1:15Lara Hansen. Ph.D.Chief Scientist and Executive Director, EcoAdapt, will discuss "The State of Adaptation in the United States". Download the presentation.
1:15-1:30Sara P. HoverterSenior Fellow (health & climate) and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Center, will discuss federal opportunities and challenges to supporting state and local adaptation. Download the presentation.

1:30-1:45 Jenita McGowan, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland will discuss the Cleveland Climate Action Plan and the challenges and plans for implementation. Download the presentation.

1:45-2:00 Open discussion and questions for panel members.
Excellent adaptation webinar from EcoAdapt and CAKEX.
Asker lin-deng Asks:
Hi! Denser city living now seems to be the best solution for the billions of people added to the earth. But many prefer to live in big houses in the suburbs (than in tiny apartments), and would rather drive long distances to their workplace (than experience overcrowding on public transports). What do you propose would be the best way in encouraging both denser city living whilst having good neighbourhood satisfaction? Thanks
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi hello-linny!

This is incredibly complicated and I’m not really going to answer your question directly. There are a variety of design and urban planning techniques to help cities be more dense while being more livable. Form Based Code, Smart Growth, sustainable planning, etc., are very common, easily replicable, and very flexible solutions to this.

The problem with these solutions are that people are not staying in one place for very long. This trend of people moving to cities will slow a bit, and cities can adapt and absorb the influxes.

The real question, to my mind, is how to make them stay? These new people rarely participate in local government. They rarely stay or invest in a place, typically using the city as a catalyst to elevate their socioeconomic standing.

This is fine, but cities will suffer in the next demographic swing. As it stands, most cities are planning for the next 10-20 years using a stable or growing tax base. This is just not true. Tax receipts will not continue to grow, they’ll be more volatile, creating deeper dips and higher spikes in local economies.

Tax receipts, which are used for things like water, health, education, environment, security, business development, and transportation, will (probably) implode.

Detroit (or the entire country of Japan) is a good example of this. Both based their planning goals on false demographics.

So, while most cities are scrambling to provide design solutions, they really should be pivoting towards investing in the people. How? Diversity in education systems. Having a strong public school system is great, creating a system that includes charter, specialty, religious schooling options is even better. Assisting people with their health care options should include increased focus on mental health. Study after study has shown that when people improve their mental health, their physical health and relationships with communities greatly improves. Investment in parks, environmental quality, and conservation areas consistently (in nearly every country) show economic and health resiliency.

Here’s a sweet little report discussing some of these solutions: Demographic change in European cities: City practices for active inclusion.

There are tons of other things, like creating a Happiness Index, which measures how happy people are in the current situations. If there are dips and swings to this index, government can nudge the bar in one direction or the other.

Thanks for the interesting question!


Kivalina: The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade

Almost no one in America has heard of the Alaskan village of Kivalina. It clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States.

Which is perhaps just as well, because within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered - if at all - as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees.

Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina’s collection of single-storey cabins. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing.

The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed.

I have a few posts on Kivalina. The villagers tried - and lost - several times to sue oil companies and the federal government. 

"A haven for human rights can be built for everyone, block by block." - New Lego model of United Nations Headquarters unveiled. Note, the UN building was designed by 11 of the world’s most famous architects, including leads Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace Harrison, Max Abramovitz, Sir Robertson, etc. Illustrations of the building, here.