Climate and the city: the serious threat that climate change poses to cities requires urgent solutions

The building material has an impact on the environment as most cities use concrete and steel which absorbs heat. Using durable materials in building spaces or building a water feature indoors can help.

The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an alarming assessment of the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and global greenhouse gas emissions associated greenhouse. While coastal cities face the highest climate risks as sea levels rise, inland areas are not far behind. “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at a press conference unveiling the report this year. It is a “damning accusation of failing climate leadership”, he added.

Since urban heat islands often amplify the impacts of heat waves in cities, they are a common occurrence and a predictable hazard. It has impacted health and city infrastructure. Heat waves accelerated last year. In August, Spain had set a new provisional heat record at 47.2 degrees Celsius. Despite the heat, residents of a town of around 1,400 people, Algar, in southern Spain, were enjoying their evenings away from home. Portland and Seattle in the United States experienced temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. Like most European cities, especially Athens, the heat wave has curbed the tourist season. The Greek capital became the first in Europe to appoint a heat manager, after Miami, which announced the first person to hold the position in May.

However, urban greening is often explained as a solution to combat heat waves or floods through green and natural urban spaces, community gardens, green corridors, etc. The building material has an impact on the environment as most cities use concrete and steel materials which absorb heat. Using durable materials in building spaces or building a water feature indoors can help. Most architectural designs have shifted to exteriors using organic elements like verdant vertical gardens, large windows, and ventilated buildings.

According to the findings of the US Green Building Council, based in Washington, buildings alone account for approximately 41% of global energy consumption. Concrete can be substituted by the use of alternative building materials like hempcrete, a mixture of hemp and lime, a lightweight insulating material ideal for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass. Recycled steel scrap, ideal for the construction of eco-buildings, can be used for beams, beams and other structural elements. It reduces energy impact by 75%. The solar tiles generate electricity for the inhabitants of the building and protect the roof from the sun. Paper-based insulation, made from recycled newspapers and cardboard, is a superior alternative to chemical foams because it resists insects. Bamboo can be used in invisible items behind walls for added toughness.

While there is adaptive reuse of doors and recycled lumber to eliminate toxic construction waste, rainwater harvesting and percolation pits help regulate a structure’s water usage. Breathable walls have become imperative as technological solutions such as titanium dioxide coating, biodynamic cement, bentonite clay help filter airborne pollutants into the microclimate. Biodynamic concrete panels use sunlight to catalyze chemical reactions and convert nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide into inert salts. These materials are not prohibitively expensive and add only 4-5% to construction costs.

Corporate initiatives such as the Mahindra-TERI Center Excellence are helping bridge the gap of publicly available data, tools and guidelines to support green building development in India. Mahindra Lifespaces, the real estate and infrastructure development arm of the Mahindra Group, and the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) have released key findings from five years of research into energy-efficient buildings, materials and technologies in resources suited to Indian climates and conditions. The research focuses on the standardization and measurement of building materials. More than 150 new and existing materials have been tested for their thermal properties. This will promote the reduction of energy consumption in buildings, will improve the comfort and well-being of users, in addition to the design of buildings and homes. “The real estate sector can play a vital role in meeting SDG commitments and constructing buildings designed for the well-being of users,” says Arvind Subramanian, Managing Director and CEO of Mahindra Lifespace Developers.

To make cities safer and liveable for citizens while reducing emissions, Honeywell has partnered with software company Trinity to provide integrated smart city solutions. For example, aggregating information on traffic, environment, parking, emergency services, safety and security, and utilities to improve the efficiency of cities and large planned residential communities.