Giving Compass' Take:
- "Urban geometry" is the relationship between city layouts, building construction, and density. The IPCC indicates that it significantly contributes to the climate crisis.
- How can cities grapple with the duality that urban buildings can help address issues with affordable housing but simultaneously advances climate change?
- Learn why the construction industry needs to think about climate change.
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In the summer of 1995, Chicago experienced one of the most deadly heatwaves in U.S. history. As temperatures spiked that July, hitting 100 degrees for five straight days, 739 Chicagoans perished, many of them old folks in cramped apartments.
Two months later, the city began its 16-year project of tearing down the infamous towers of the Cabrini-Green housing project. For 50 years, the red-brick exterior high-rises of Cabrini-Green, buildings synonymous with the birth of urban renewal and public housing in America, towered over the North Side of Chicago. At one time the high-rises were home to 15,000 people, but decades of neglect turned once sprawling grass yards and playgrounds into dirt fields and empty patches of pavement as the once-pristine brick facade crumbled above.
They might seem like unconnected events. But the majority of people affected shared two traits: They were Black, and they were poor. A report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Monday looked at the relationship between housing, building structures, and broiling city blocks and found that deaths from heatwaves — like the one in Chicago — are not a coincidence.
“The [IPCC] news that came out this week shows us that you can’t chop up the challenges of meeting our everyday needs amidst climate change into neat silos, “ Rick Cole, executive director of the Congress for New Urbanism told Grist. “It’s impossible to solve our affordable housing crisis, our climate emergency, and people’s desire for improved quality of life against racism and disinvestment into separate silos.”
The IPCC report found that the single biggest contributor to amplifying heat and warming in cities is “urban geometry,” the relationship between city layouts, building construction, and density. The main problem driving the so-called “heat-island effect” is tall buildings. They create urban canyons, blocking winds from cooling things down and locking in heat. Urban centers can range as much as 22 degrees warmer than nearby rural areas. Stoked by climate change, extreme heat kills more people in the U.S. than any other weather event. The report points to cities all around the world — especially Tehran, Iran and Kolkata, India — that are warmer than their surroundings.
Read the full article about housing for climate crisis by Adam Mahoney at Grist.