See Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm — located in the middle of Bangkok

This green roof and farm offer a Swiss army knife of solutions — flood control, solar energy, fresh produce, green space for city dwellers, jobs, learning opportunities, and more — to some of our most pressing urban problems. Landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom tells us how it works.


Could cities actually be designed to improve the environment? Bangkok, Thailand, landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, a TED Fellow, thinks so. Her imaginative work challenges the prevailing thinking that urbanization has to have a negative impact on the planet, whether it’s in the form of flooding due to paved surfaces, excessive energy use, disrupted biodiversity or the heat island effect.

With her firm Landprocess, Voraakhom has designed a new green roof on the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University, about 25 miles north of central Bangkok. Bangkok is extremely vulnerable to catastrophic flooding — in fact, according to the World Bank, nearly 40 percent of the city, which is built on a river delta, may flood annually by 2030, and this situation has been greatly exacerbated by paved-over earth and intensifying rainy seasons.

The Rangsit green roof is the follow-up to Voraakhom’s award-winning Chulalongkorn University Centennial Park, an 11-acre green space in downtown Bangkok that can capture and hold one million gallons of water in its retention pond and storage tanks and prevent it from submerging the city. (Watch her TED Talk: How to transform sinking cities into landscapes that fight floods.)

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Voraakhom’s new 236,806-square-foot structure — which opened in December 2019 — encompasses a flood-water management system and also Asia’s largest rooftop organic farm. “We’ve combined the principles of modern landscape architecture with traditional agricultural knowledge to create a Swiss army knife of environmental solutions, integrating water management, green energy, green public space, and more,” says Voraakhom. “Meanwhile, by 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, and water will be a scarce commodity. We need to start using city spaces more efficiently to ensure a secure and sustainable source of food production.”

The green roof, containing an H-shaped lush landscape, looks like a futuristic hill with a brick building nestled snugly beneath it. “The hill features an intricate pattern of zigzagging terraces of planted beds, leading all the way down to the bottom,” says Voraakhom. “When rainwater hits the roof, it cascades down the zigzags cut into its slopes while being absorbed by the soil in the beds.” The excess water is channeled into four retention ponds – with a capacity of up to 3 million gallons  at the bottom of the mound. “The process slows down the flow speed of rainwater runoff by 20 percent compared to a normal concrete rooftop. This keeps a large amount of water out of the sewage systems, preventing the area from flooding during heavy rains,” she explains. The shape of the building also pays respect to one of the founders of the campus, economist Puey Ungphakorn. “‘Puey’ means ‘mound under the tree’ or ‘nourishment’ in Thai,” she adds.

Inspired by Thailand’s rice-growing tradition, the terraced structures were constructed using the ancient rammed-earth technique and are Voraakhom’s nod to the agricultural history of this region. “When I was thinking about this project, I tried to think back to what I could remember of this area from childhood — and rice terraces came to mind,” she explains. “A century ago, this area was outside of the main part of Bangkok city, filled with forests and swamps. A hundred years ago, King Rama V decided to devote this region to growing rice, so Thailand could become a major rice producer for the world. The king commissioned canals to control the water, and the region became known as Rangsit Fields, famed for its terraced hills of rice.”

The city’s concrete urban sprawl took over throughout the 20th century, culminating in major redevelopment when Bangkok hosted the 1998 Asian games, according to Voraakhom. The fields were dug up to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people. Afterwards, the university moved a branch of its campus to the site, and dense commerce and industrial development sprang up around it. “Today, the university wants to demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability in its infrastructure as well as its curriculum, and I wanted to bring the agricultural landscape and tradition back to Rangsit Field as a source of food,” she says.

Voraakhom’s wish has come true: Rangsit Fields now boasts a 1.73-acre rooftop farm. The dome’s stepped terraces are filled with organically grown crops – including a drought tolerant variety of rice, and many indigenous vegetables and herbs, including red and green oak-leaf lettuce,Thai eggplant, green roselle, Thai red pepper, dill. “We’ve planted almost 50 species of vegetables, herbs and rice. We’ve already had a round of harvesting, and the farm will be able to supply the canteens on campus with 20 tons of rice, herbs and vegetables a year, providing approximately 80.000 meals,” says Voraakhom. “The food waste is composted to fertilize the farm, and water from the retaining ponds is used to water plants, creating an entirely localized, circular system.” Since all the plants are grown organically, there’s no synthetic pesticide pollution. “The farm also creates a habitat for pollinators, restoring biodiversity, and reduces the need for food transport, contributing to environmental health as well as healthy living,” she says.

The farm serves as an outdoor classroom and a source of local jobs, too. Staff hired by the university tend to the crops, and farmers offer workshops on sustainable agriculture, permaculture and nutrition as part of the university’s sustainability curriculum. “Students and community members are invited to participate in seasonal seeding, harvesting, and so on,” says Voraakhom. “Farming is a crucial part of our country’s heritage. The urban farm is training a new generation of organic farmers with real-world skills. It also fosters a sense of community.”

Not only does the building offer a patch of green in the city, it’s fueled by green power. Integrated into the roof design, photovoltaic panels installed at the top of the mound generates 500,000 watts of electricity per hour. This is used to power the building, including the water pumps that pull water up from the retaining ponds to irrigate the crops during the dry season. Thanks to built-in passive cooling, there is less need for energy-intensive air conditioning: The roof works to insulate the building from heat. Meanwhile, breezes blowing across the retaining ponds cool the air before it enters the building. “When the wind blows over the water in the ponds, it creates a microclimate that also cools the atmosphere around the building, helping to reverse the urban heat island effect, says Voraakhom.

This project, which cost roughly $31.6 million US to build, offer a compelling demonstration of what’s possible as we rethink how we can live and thrive in our urban areas. Is it possible to build climate resilience — and even food production and community well-being — into all future cities? Voraakhom believes that many aspects can serve as a template for urban planners and architects who are striving to build sustainable cities. “The green roof and urban farm at Thammasat University show how climate resilience-focused development can perhaps begin to contribute more environmental benefits than problems,” she says. “And maybe even help resolve some of the problems of the past.” SOURCE

Watch her TED Talk here:


No more fire in the kitchen: Cities are banning natural gas in homes to save the planet

VIDEO: Cities are banning natural gas stoves to save the planet

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, mostly methane, and produces 33% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.

“There’s no pathway to stabilizing the climate without phasing gas out of our homes and buildings. This is a must-do for the climate and a livable planet,” said Rachel Golden of the Sierra Club’s building electrification campaign.

These new building codes come as local governments work to speed the transition from natural gas and other fossil fuels and toward the use of electricity from renewables, said Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and the environment at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“Every house, every high-rise that’s built with gas, may be in place for decades. We’re establishing infrastructure that may be in place for 50 years,” he said.

These “reach” or “stretch” building codes, as they are known, have so far all been passed in California. The first was in Berkeley in July, then more in Northern California and recently Santa Monica in Southern California. Other cities in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state are contemplating them, according to the Sierra Club.

Some of the cities ban natural gas hookups to new construction. Others offer builders incentives if they go all-electric, much the same as they might get to take up more space on a lot if a house is extra energy-efficient. In April, Sunnyvale, a town in Silicon Valley, changed its building code to offer a density bonus to all-electric developments.

No more gas stoves?

The building codes apply only to new construction beginning in 2020, so they aren’t an issue for anyone in an already-built home.

Probably the biggest stumbling block for most pondering an all-electric home is the prospect of not having a gas stove.

“It’s the only thing that people ever ask about,” said Bruce Nilles, who directs the building electrification program of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that focuses on energy and resource efficiency.

Roughly 35% of U.S. households have a gas stove, while 55%have electric, according to a 2017 kitchen audit by the NPD Group, a global information company based in Port Washington, New York.

For at least a quarter of Americans, it doesn’t matter either way. They already live in houses that are all-electric, and their numbers are rising, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s especially true in the Southeast, where close to 45% of homes are all-electric.

For the rest of the nation, natural gas is used to heat buildings and water, dry clothes and cook food, according to the EIA. That represents 17% of national natural gas usage.

But the number of natural gas customers is also rising. The American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies, says an average of one new customer is added every minute.

“That’s exactly the wrong direction,” Nilles said.  MORE

The climate crisis in 2050: what happens if cities act but nations don’t?

How Miami’s South Beach could look if global heating reaches 2C. Photograph: Nickolay Lamm/Courtesy Climate Central/

It is cities, not national governments, that are most aggressively fighting the climate crisis – and in 30 years they could look radically different

She has barely ever been in a car, and never eaten meat or flown. Now 31, she lives on the 15th floor of a city centre tower from where she can just see the ocean 500 yards away on one side and the suburbs and informal settlements sprawling as far as the eye can see on the other.

Life is OK in this megacity. She earns the exact median income and is as green as she feels she can be: she has no children yet, her carbon footprint is negligible, and her apartment, built in the early 2000s, has been retrofitted for climate change with deep insulation, its own solar air-con and heating systems.

It has a “living” wall of plants and a balcony where she grows a few vegetables. Waste is automatically sorted or composted. Outside it may be roasting, with temperatures often higher than 40C. Inside, she’s cool.

She loves where she lives, even though the water tastes slightly salty sometimes and there are often electricity outages in the summer months because of the frequent droughts affecting reservoir levels. Her windows catch the breeze, and because the mayor has adapted to climate change by banning cars across the whole city centre and no fossil fuels are burned nearby, there’s little air pollution. She feels healthy.

Food is expensive because of the massive floods and droughts that have affected the world’s main food-growing areas, but most of hers is organically grown and is delivered by drone from the nearby 20-storey “farmscraper” built 10 years ago. Most cities of this size grow as much of their own food as possible these days, as a way to reduce transport emissions.

Artist’s impression of ‘farmscrapers’, designed by architect firm Vincent Callebaut. Image: Solent News/REX/Shutterstock

To make extra money last year, she traded in her annual government carbon and meat quotas. Short-haul flights have been stopped anyway, and like everyone her age, she is allowed just one return flight a year.

But she doesn’t need to travel much now. The city authorities have thrown money at protecting infrastructure and helping people adapt to the higher temperatures and ever more frequent storms. The green spaces have been re-wilded. She can walk safely down the shady, tree-lined streets, cool off in the lido, or visit the urban forest, which the far-sighted city mayor started 20 years ago on wasteland.

But now she really worries. She may have adapted her own life as far as possible to climate change, but so much is out of her control. The world’s population has grown by 2.5 billion people since she was born in 2019, and carbon concentrations reached the 550 ppm (parts per million) milestone last year – just as the IPCC scientists had forecast they would. They were just 407 ppm when she was born.

Despite some international action on climate change, global warming passed the 1.5C mark – considered the maximum for long-term safety – in 2040 and is now heading inexorably for 3C or 3.5C, possibly within 100 years. That is really dangerous and means food and water will be scarcer, the rains will be heavier, and even more people will flood in from rural areas to the city.

Worst of all, the continuing loss of ice at the poles and in the great mountain ranges means sea levels are rising faster than most would have believed possible 30 years ago. The last great superstorm, caused by extraordinarily warm temperatures in the Arctic, flooded miles of coastal settlements and forced the permanent evacuation of dozens of expensive ocean-side apartment blocks. Waves crashed 100 metres beyond the new, higher sea walls. That’s when her water started to taste salty.

Perhaps the time has come for her to sell up and migrate to higher land, she thinks. She has been told that the underground water supplies to her tower block are beginning to be polluted with seawater and might only last 10 years, and that her tower could be deemed unsafe to live in within 20 years because of flooding. But it’s far worse in most parts of the city. There the extremely poor don’t live in strong houses, and can’t build higher walls, relocate, borrow money or adapt so easily.

A view of a flooded lower Manhattan plaza after Hurricane Sandy left most of the area without power in 2012, New York City, USA. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

But if she left, where would she go? Every year her apartment is worth less because it is so close to the ocean; property on higher ground now attracts premium prices. Her city has grown vastly in the previous 20 years, as droughts and floods have made farming less profitable and hundreds of thousands of climate-affected people have migrated in from rural areas. Many of them live with only patchy public transport, and endure dreadful air pollution and heat.

This is the climate breakdown reality she was warned about at school, and why she skipped classes to join the great demonstrations of the 2030s. Back in October 2019, the C40 group of 94 global megacities had used IPCC and World Bank figures to forecast that 1.6 billion people living in over 970 world cities would be regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures by 2050.

It said another 800 million people living in 570 cities would be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding, including the world’s great coastal cities. And it also said that 2.5 billion people (or nearly one in four people on Earth) would be living in the over 1,600 cities where national food supplies were threatened by the climate crisis – including supposedly richer cities such as Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul and Los Angeles. These predictions proved to be accurate.

Urban Forest Strategy and Precinct Plans by City of Melbourne, winner of an award of excellence from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 2016. Photograph: City of Melbourne

Her city did its best to adapt, inspired perhaps by a report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions, backed by some of the world’s leading economists, that showed that governments that invested in low-carbon cities could not just help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis but could also massively enhance economic prosperity, attract the most talented people – and, not incidentally, make cities far better places to live.

Permanently cutting 90% of urban emissions in 2019 would have cost the world $1.8tn but would have been generating annual returns of $7tn by now, it said.

“Cities are engines of growth, innovation and prosperity,” António Guterres, then UN secretary general, had said. “It is possible and realistic to realise net-zero emissions by 2050. But to get there we will need the full engagement of city governments combined with national action and support.”

Sadly, most governments did not pay much attention. It’s easy to be wise in retrospect, but money spent then would have been the best investment ever made, she knows. Now the figures seem conservative. Now it is a race against time.

How likely is this future?

By 2050, cities will be home to over 70% of the world population. The great global challenge is to adapt them to the changing climate and reduce emissions.

That means conserving water, planting trees, banning fossil fuels, changing diets, adapting farming, improving soils, reducing air pollution which contributes to warming, and even painting buildings white to reflect heat.

Many north European cities have started to ditch diesel and petrol, ban cars and plastic and turn to renewable power, aiming to be “carbon-zero”. Seoul is planting 30m trees and expanding its green spaces vastly to create shade; Melbourne and many other Australian and British cities will benefit from ambitious street tree-planting programmes. Denmark, one of the most urban of all European countries, aims to cut emissions by 70% by 2030; its capital, Copenhagen, aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

Urban Forest Strategy and Precinct Plans by City of Melbourne, winner of an award of excellence from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 2016. Photograph: City of Melbourne 


More Than 100 Cities Worldwide Now Powered Primarily by Renewable Energy


These cities get more than 70 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewables. That’s up since the Paris climate agreement.

Burlington, Vermont, gets 100 percent of its power from renewable energy, including from solar farms like this one, built on locally made systems that track the sun. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Burlington, Vermont, gets 100 percent of its power from renewable energy, including from solar farms like this one, built on locally made systems that track the sun. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

As the price of renewable energy drops, more cities are cutting the cord with fossil fuel-based electricity.

A new report released Tuesday by the environmental group CDP finds that more than 100 cities worldwide now get the majority of their power—70 percent or more—from renewables. That’s up from 42 in 2015, when countries pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the Paris climate agreement.

CDP notes that more than 40 of those cities are now powered entirely by renewables, including Burlington, Vermont, which gets its electricity from a combination of wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Burlington will have more company within the next 20 years—58 U.S. cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, having announced plans to do the same.

London-based CDP, which tracks climate-related commitments by corporations and governments, looked at 570 cities across the globe for the report. The group defines renewables as solar, wind, hydro, wave power, biomass, geothermal—or all non-nuclear and non-fossil fuel sources—and includes cities where electricity from clean energy sources is citywide, not just in municipal buildings.

Four U.S. cities made the list of those getting at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewable sources: Seattle; Eugene, Oregon; and Aspen, Colorado, along with Burlington. Five Canadian cities are also on the list: Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, North Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia. MORE

Proposed “Big Moves” on climate could transform Vancouver in ways residents might not have imagined

This posting is a teaser to get you to read the common sense, realistic plans Vancouver is making in the full article. It contains all sorts of initiatives that the Prince Edward Council should be considering. If you wish to send an email to all Members of Council as a group, please email

Coun. Christine Boyle's motion last January declaring a climate emergency has set the stage for dramatic recommendations from Vancouver city staff.
Coun. Christine Boyle’s motion last January declaring a climate emergency has set the stage for dramatic recommendations from Vancouver city staff.

…Vancouver city council will deal with two major staff reports focusing on greenhouse gas emissions.

The first includes recommendations on the city’s response to a “climate emergency”, which was declared in January by council.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact that this report could have on the city and possibly other countries in the years to come….

Local governments can change the world. That’s been seen in everything from antismoking efforts to cannabis regulation to the peace movement to the trend across the globe to viewing drug addiction as a health issue.

In all four of these areas, Vancouver was a leading player in North America, just as it has been in responding to climate change.

Local actions can persuade senior governments to follow because municipalities are often hothouses for innovation. And this has also been the case with climate change.

Witness the role that municipal governments, including Vancouver, had in strengthening the backbone of world leaders to set hard limits in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

“In Canada and around the world, there is a growing movement of hundreds of local governments recognizing the emergency that climate change represents, accelerating their own actions, and calling on provincial/state and national governments to ramp up their responses,” the city report states. “Given the world’s increasingly urbanized population is on the front lines of the fight against climate change, the world’s urban population will disproportionately experience the effects of global warming.”

Forest fires have brought shrouds of smoke to Vancouver in recent summers. City staff have proposed
Forest fires have brought shrouds of smoke to Vancouver in recent summers. City staff have proposed “clean air” rooms as one possible response. METRO VANCOUVER 

The city report recommends six “Big Moves”, which will be voted on by council. Below, I’ve listed them, as well as their implications for city residents. MORE


Image result for free transportation las vegas

Las Vegas is expanding its self-driving shuttle experiment

Cities across the US are rethinking their policies on homebuilding and transportation. Minneapolis lifted a longstanding, exclusionary ban on multifamily housing. San Francisco joined a few other cities in ending requirements that new developments have a minimum number of parking spaces.

Policymakers from big cities in Oregon and California have proposed statewide revisions to local zoning rules, making possible denser, multifamily homes and public transit. Communities like Austin and Berkeley, typically suspicious of new development, elected city council members with YIMBY-like platforms. (Citylab had a good roundup of the 2018 action.) And now the new governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has released a budget with a $1.3 billion goose to housing construction in cities.

100+ Cities Commit to Clean with 100% Renewable Energy

We have some very good news to share.

Commit to Clean: 100 City Celebration

Just a few days ago, a huge milestone in our collective journey to 100% renewable energy was reached when Cincinnati, Ohio became the 100th city to pledge a switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2035. With your help, we’ve seen cities across the country make the pledge, from Denton, Texas to Santa Barbara, California. With every city that Commits to Clean through 100% renewable energy, we take another important step toward reducing the negative health effects caused by climate change and the burning of fossil fuels. The solution is here and we’ve seen that it not only is attainable—it’s a solution being embraced across the nation because of the power in our collective voice. MORE

Take Action

Cities and communities across the country are ready for a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy! Tell your mayor and local leaders you’re ready for 100% clean energy for all! TAKE ACTION

Canada driving sustainable growth of ‘intelligent industry’

The digitalization of the physical world has sparked the emergence of “intelligent industry” – a transformational opportunity to drive climate-friendly growth to a degree that the adoption of renewable energy generation can’t match.

Breathing New Life into Traditional Industries

At the steering wheel is Canada, a country assuming a leadership role in building and scaling the technology companies that are driving this global shift founded not only on climate concerns, but competitive advantage.

Addressing climate change is no easy task. Big problems often lead to big, new thinking. However, to effectively address climate change in the near term, the real focus should be on technology that optimizes the performance of existing solutions.

Simply converting to renewable energy generation will yield only a fraction of the change needed to reach a multitude of climate-based goals, including global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon intensity. The most significant changes are to be driven by traditional industries, transportation, buildings, cities and infrastructure and agriculture and food. MORE

The Story of Sustainability in 2018: “We Have About 12 Years Left”

The big question now is whether businesses will push back and go down a cleaner path on their own. It’s easy to see why multinationals might as they face pressure from sub-national regions — California Gov. Jerry Brown held a Global Climate Action Summit which produced many aggressive climate goes from cities and state, for example.

Gov. Brown also signed aggressive new laws committing to carbon-free electricity statewide by 2045 and requiring solar on all new homes. So even if U.S. action sputters, governors and mayors who influence local and regional business conditions will be pushing the clean economy and pro-climate agendas. MORE

Making progress in tough times: Lessons from 2018

Image result for CleanBC
CleanBC plan — probably the most comprehensive Canadian attempt to date to achieve the transition to a low carbon economy. (

…But in the midst of these setbacks and outright tragedies, key leaders and movements across our country fought back with great ideas and even greater energy and resolve.

Movements such as “$15 and Fairness” and #MeToo and Black Lives Matter continued, in many places, to gain ground and ensured that out-dated and damaging attitudes were confronted.

Led by great progressive mayors in cities as varied as Vancouver, Saskatoon and Montreal, municipal councils took action to help their neediest citizens, including critical expansions of affordable housing.

The governments of British Columbia and Alberta, though divided on the issue of pipelines, continued to implement ambitious plans to create jobs including with First Nations, build critical infrastructure, and protect the rights of vulnerable communities, to name but a few of their accomplishments. Right before the holidays, BC announced its widely praised CleanBC plan — probably the most comprehensive Canadian attempt to date to achieve the transition to a low carbon economy. MORE