Challenge #50 ~ Buildings and Cities

Read the blog post on the February Theme – THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY

Photo by Kai-Henrik Barth

Qatar’s diverse population comes from around the globe. Living together here in Qatar offers a unique opportunity to meet and mix and exchange new ideas. It’s a unique opportunity to Think Globally – Act Locally and to accelerate implementation of climate solutions. 

Our living spaces, buildings and city-wide community greatly benefit from sustainability initiatives and activities to improve livability of the built-environment and foster regenerative development. 

Project Drawdown, considered the world’s leading resource for climate solutions, identifies existing solutions in the Buildings and Cities sectors that can be implemented now to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere. 

This week’s challenge reminds us of individual actions we can take in our homes, in the buildings we live in, and in the cities we live in to reduce GHG emissions. Building on a whole year of 52 Weekly Challenges, we discover what we can do personally, to be part of the climate change solution in the Buildings and Cities sector.

LED Lighting (Household)

Project Drawdown Number 33 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Bulbs deploying light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use 90 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light. They do this by converting most of the energy into light instead of heat, thereby reducing electricity consumption and air conditioning need to offset the heat.

Project Drawdown estimates that “As LEDs replace less-efficient lighting, 7.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided in residences by 2050.”

LED light tends to be toward the blue end of the spectrum, which can disrupt sleep cycles and contribute to age-related macular degeneration. This impact is greatest in high intensity LED lights, such as those used in newer flashlights, car headlights, and some toys, producing a whiter and “colder” blue light that is more harmful. LEDs meant for home lighting can be purchased in warm color spectra, e.g. natural daylight white bulbs; by choosing these we can benefit from their energy efficiency and protect ourselves from harmful effects. 

Walkable Cities

Project Drawdown Number 54 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Walkable cities are built to enable and encourage pedestrian instead of vehicular transportation, which makes it easier and often faster to get around. Cities and neighborhoods designed this way encourage walkling, significantly reducing driving and consequently reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Qatar, Msheireb, Lusail, Katara, and The Pearl are examples of walkable neighborhoods. 

Creating a walkable urban environment is about making walking appealing, designing to encourage lots of fellow walkers, a mix of property-types (retail and residential), and design elements that make walking a pleasure. What’s most important are shaded walkways to provide comfortable options even during the summer months and removing of architectural barriers to allow for connectivity and inclusivity, allowing all people to be active.

Our Walking & Biking Challenge encourages us to walk when we can in Qatar. With good design, as in Msheireb, where the street orientation is designed to take advantage of air flow, walking will become possible and pleasant.

Walkable cities are safer and more attractive to live in, making for happier, healthier citizens. As with many sustainable practices, walkable cities provide a win-win-win, with health, prosperity, and sustainability going hand in hand.

Smart Thermostats

Project Drawdown Number 57 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Smart thermostats use machine learning to observe our habits and train themselves to cycle heat and air conditioning based on when we are likely to be home and need them. Newer technologies can also take into account peak use times, resulting in more energy efficient, more comfortable, and less costly conditioning of the air in our homes.

Not only are smart thermostats projected to avoid 2.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but return on investment is high, saving their owners $640 billion on utility bills by 2050.

As our Refrigerant Challenge reminds us, refrigeration management is the single most powerful solution to reducing global warming, according to Project Drawdown. Using smart thermostats to reduce our need for constant air conditioning is a step toward reducing the impact of air conditioning in our homes.

Landfill Methane

Project Drawdown Number 58 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Over the course of a century, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. What is the biggest source of methane in the atmosphere? Food waste and other organic matter in landfills!

Now here’s where we can really make a difference. In our Feed Others, Not the Landfill Challenge, we see many things we can do to reduce food waste. As encouraged in our Healthy Soils Challenge, tossing our food scraps and yard trimmings into the garbage is throwing away a valuable resource. By composting that material, we can create beneficial soil amendments to add to our gardens or containers, improving the soil of our outdoor and indoor plants while keeping them out of the landfill, where under anaerobic conditions methane is produced.

Paper is another source of organic matter. By recycling paper, as mentioned in our Beyond Recycling Challenge, we can keep yet another source of methane out of the landfill. Of course, this is just a stop-gap measure while we work to reduce waste, the source of the landfill materials to begin with. It’s an important step, and helps to remind us that before we recycle, we need to reduce and reuse!

Bike Infrastructure

Project Drawdown Number 59 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Not only walking, but also biking is an emissions-free mode of transportation. It’s a virtuous cycle. With better biking infrastructure, more people bike, creating an incentive to improve safety for bike riders, making it more attractive for even more people to bike. Not only are greenhouse gas emissions reduced, but residents enjoy the health benefits of cleaner air and more physical activity.

Project Drawdown points out that by building bike infrastructure rather than roads, governments can realize tremendous savings over time. We’re starting to see this infrastructure develop in Doha. Have you taken a spin on the Lusail bike path or biked from West Bay to The Pearl? You might catch sight of the Emir early in the morning on Sports Day riding his bike on this newly complete bike-friendly infrastructure.

The Gulf Times reported that in 2018 “His Highness the Emir rode a bicycle through Doha Corniche and the West Bay towers area, sending out a message to keep practising different kinds of sport for good health and fitness.”

SustainableQATAR considers these two sustainable transportation options in our Walking & Biking Challenge. You can do your part by insisting on designing our cities to encourage these alternative and carbon-free modes of transportation.

By considering these strategies related to Buildings and Cities, we help to reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #3 Good Health and Wellbeing; #9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities; #13 Climate Action and #15 Life on Land.