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The future is here and it might not be as bad as we think

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

When I think of the future I imagine holographic and metallic designs and buildings. There are dark skies hanging over heads with skyscrapers crumbling, and trash piled up at every corner. However, the future might be far from this apocalyptic vision. Future buildings would have a minimalistic design with greenery at every corner. Everywhere you turn there’s clean and beautiful pathways. After a long period of feeling dreadful, and fearing the idea of existential threat, I now feel excited and hopeful for a clean future.

Let me tell you about something exciting I just learned! What if it was possible to fight climate change by reinventing already existing architectures? A 2021 COP26 briefing referred to SOM’s eco-friendly proposal of an architectural revolution that would turn cities into “carbon sinks”, places where more carbon is absorbed than released. The type architecture is called “Urban Sequoia”, and it would be built with carbon-storing biomaterials.

rendering © SOM

Urban Sequoia, as the name indicates, is a new style of architecture that takes inspiration from a real-life forest. With the ever-growing population, by 2060, around 230 billion square meters of building stock will be necessary, studies suggest. To make up for the trees being cut down, SOM proposes transitions to materials that absorb carbon. These biomaterials include bio-bricks, hempcrete, and timber. The carbon impact will be lowered to 50% when these materials are used in place of concrete and steel.

Let’s talk about the impact of these new materials being used. The more carbon-absorbing buildings there are, the more carbon will be stored and not in the atmosphere. A “forest” of these buildings will have a huge impact on the cities we live in. These high-rise buildings can capture 1,000 tons of carbon, equivalent to the work of 48,500 trees. Imagine the impact of millions of these buildings all over the world. In 60 years from when it's implemented, it could sequester around 400% more carbon than it would emit. As you can tell, Urban Sequoia would potentially be a significant solution to the climate crisis.

The company hopes to expand this innovation beyond buildings to roads, pathways, and more. When I first heard about this idea I thought that it was only talk and would never actually happen. As I began researching it, however, I realized how attainable it actually is. In a few years, you may well see the beginning of Urban Sequoias! Imagine the city you live in, that looks something like this, turn into this! Let me know in the comments below what you think about this!

image © SOM
rendering © SOM

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