Our climate is changing, so must our architecture

Dear Editor,

The threat that climate change poses is existential.

As every architect should be able to tell you, buildings are the number one cause of CO2 — responsible for approximately 40 percent of annual CO2 emissions, well ahead of transportation at 33 percent.

Cement production alone creates eight percent of the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere, making cement a bigger contributor than all of India.

CO2 is the biggest factor in accelerating climate change, making buildings and therefore architects, inherently responsible.

And so, we find ourselves at a crossroads — to rethink the built environment and proceed cautiously; or to carry on, business as usual, and live at the mercy of mother nature.

Unfortunately, hurricanes have not yet attracted the attention they deserve in the architectural discourse of The Bahamas.

The phrase “our building codes are much stricter than those of the U.S.” gets tossed around so often.

After Hurricane Dorian tore through, I heard this more and more, as though it provided any kind of solace in the war zone that was left behind.

The truth is, our expensive cement homes are not designed to withstand such storms.

We need to move towards a more resilient, high-performance design to “weather the storm”.

Sadly, for many, Dorian was a heart-wrenching way of swallowing the climate change capsule and facing our impending reality.

Perhaps we should call upon our dear policymakers to codify these woes and make our architecture adaptive and resilient.

There are many factors at play: higher sea levels, intensification and frequency of storms and rising temperatures; so much to consider.

But why are we STILL building homes of yesterday?

Wake up Bahamas!

We cannot seriously be considering rebuilding our decimated islands to the same standard.

We must adapt.

We must focus our efforts on mitigation to minimize emissions, as well as durability, to bolster our island infrastructure so it can withstand any gust, wave or quake that lies ahead.

Such catastrophes are not hyperbole, but consequences of inaction of years bygone and those to come.

Any fault in climatological findings to date are that scientists have watered down the very real threat that we are facing.

You may recall Dorian being referred to as unprecedented.

What about the raging forest fires in Australia? Or maybe the recent earthquake in neighboring Jamaica?

I think it’s safe to say that the volatility and frequency of these climactic events is becoming all the more unprecedented and we have only one choice, and that is to adapt.

– Jane Doe, Nassau

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