Half of the world’s population resides in cities. With increasing greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for energy, these urban environments are major drivers of climate change. However, where many see cities as environmental blemishes, community leaders see opportunity.
Visionaries and community leaders around the globe are developing ways of building net-zero cities. These metropolitan areas integrate cutting edge technology, energy efficient materials and appliances, and even simple planning and design techniques that are often overlooked—all of which lead to the local creation of more energy than is consumed. Net-zero developments rely upon a paradigmatic shift in how buildings are designed. Traditional architecture must give way to a more collaborative approach, whereby experts from across a diverse spectrum of disciplines contribute to the overall design of the community.
While not easily implemented, many net-zero communities are beginning to crop up across the country. Universities have been among the earliest and most committed adopters, however, military bases, a national historic site, and a mixed-use neighborhood are also developing net-zero communities. Their efforts show that a commitment to even very challenging climate solutions can yield positive results. To learn more about successfully implementing a climate action plan, visit Path to Positive for resources.
Today, more than half of the world’s population calls a city home. And over the next few decades, that number is projected to rise.
From an environmental perspective, cities are already responsible for the majority of the planet’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To meaningfully battle climate change and stay within our carbon budget, getting things right at the urban scale is critical.
Internet of Things (IoT) visionaries imagine a future where a “smart” electricity grid communicates bidirectionally with smart buildings wired with sophisticated sensing and controls technology. With this kind of setup, net-zero energy buildings—hyper-efficient structures that produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume from the utility annually—could easily be the norm. But this is pretty far out on the horizon.
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