Architecture for sustainability: SOM presents Urban Sequoia at COP26

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Architecture for sustainability: SOM presents Urban Sequoia at COP26

During the COP26 – the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow – Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) unveiled ‘Urban Sequoia’ – a concept for buildings and their urban context to absorb carbon at an unprecedented rate.
SOM has developed the first step toward achieving this goal on a broad scale, with a prototype for a high-rise building that can be built today.
The need to transform the built environment is now clear given that the construction sector generates almost 40% of all global CO2 emissions. As the urban population is growing, in the coming decades, it is expected that, by 2060, an additional 230 billion square meters of new building stock will be needed.
The central proposition of Urban Sequoia is that the built environment can absorb carbon.
The design brings together different strands of sustainable design thinking, the latest innovations, and emerging technologies and reimagines them at building scale.
By holistically optimizing building design, minimizing materials, integrating biomaterials, advanced biomass, and carbon capture technologies, Urban Sequoia achieves substantially more significant carbon reductions than has been achieved by applying these techniques separately. These strategies can be applied to buildings of all sizes and types. For cities, SOM’s prototype design is a high-rise building that can sequester as much as 1,000 tons of carbon per year, like 48,500 trees.
The design incorporates nature-based solutions and materials that use far less carbon than conventional options and absorb carbon over time. Materials like bio-brick, hempcrete, timber, and biocrete reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent compared to concrete and steel. A progressive approach could reduce construction emissions by 95 percent.

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Urban Sequoia, rendering and graphic schemes courtesy of SOM- Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 


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