A new skyscraper can remove 1,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere

On 11 November, during the UN Conference on Climate Change in 2021, or COP26, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (AS) revealed their proposal for Urban Sequoia, a conceptual network of buildings that absorb carbon into the surrounding atmosphere.

Efforts to reduce the carbon impact of construction processes have attracted attention for obvious reasons, as the construction sector is responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions. In particular, these attempts have led to the minimization of carbon emissions during the start-up, design and construction phases.

However, if successful, the Urban Sequoia project could reduce that amount at an unprecedented rate even after construction is complete, according to a press release. The final design is the result of integrating previous solutions into green building, including material minimization, carbon capture technologies, the use of biomaterials and design optimization.

Carbon reduction with structures

This reduction in carbon is mainly due to two reasons. The material used in the construction of buildings includes bio-brick, hemp concrete, wood and biocreet, which consume much less carbon than conventional materials such as steel and concrete. But the result is not only carbon-neutral structures. What makes these buildings even more environmentally friendly is the carbon sequestration that occurs after the buildings are put into operation, which means that the buildings are not part of the problem, but may be the solution.

SOM argues that the concept of this proposal goes beyond achieving net zero, as these buildings remove carbon through an alternative design approach. They took the first step with a prototype tall building to study the effectiveness of the solution. While reducing carbon emissions by consuming natural materials, the prototype absorbs 1000 tons of carbon per year, equal to 48,500 trees. This results in up to three times more carbon removal than is needed for the structure. Carbon absorption occurs for algae and biomass production, carbon sequestration materials and finally, due to the air capture function of buildings, which filters CO2 through the stack effect.

The ultimate goal of the company is not one high or even many complexes, but to develop the concept on a larger scale, perhaps in the cities. The concept is for forests due to the limited effect of a building, just like a tree. In this way, buildings with different functions can be built, from schools, family homes, hospitals to tall buildings. To some extent the idea is for makes cities act like forests.

“It’s time to talk about neutrality. “Our proposal for Urban Sequoia – and ultimately the whole ‘forests’ of Sequoias – makes buildings, and therefore our cities, part of the solution, designing them to capture carbon, effectively changing the course of climate change,” says Chris Cooper. SOM partner.

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