Issue #1: Climate change

An assembly of terra cotta tiles reflects light in iridescent shadows, showing the possibility of facade designs that combine passive energy systems and aesthetic innovation.

A terra cotta assembly developed by faculty at the School of Architecture and Planning is among several studies exploring passive energy building systems. 

The challenge of our time

No other human activity has a greater impact on the climate crisis than the planning, design and development of the built environment.

This same burden of responsibility, however, implies the magnitude of possibility for those who design, plan and build our cities to shift the climate crisis trajectory and perhaps the future of our planet. Embracing the potential of our disciplines as agents of change, the School of Architecture and Planning places climate action at the center of its teaching and research

Commemorating our 50th anniversary, "Be the Plus" invites you to join us in considering new possibilities for our disciplines as creative, innovative and regenerative forces in our world. Learn more about Be the Plus.

Issue #1: Climate change

New features

Specially glazed and tinted glass reflects sun and UV radiation.

"The majority of building-related professionals [interviewed for our project] assumed that future weather conditions would resemble the past. But trends in the data show that this is not the case."  Nicholas Rajkovich shares findings from his research on climate-adaptive design strategies in The Conversation.

Specially glazed and tinted glass reflects sun and UV radiation.

Reflecting the urgency and centrality of the climate crisis to the work of architects, UB alumnus James Hartford (MArch ’95) describes it as a “newly understood force – a force that we must account for in our designs just as we deal with Newtonian gravity.” Hartford says the profession has the opportunity to take the lead in addressing what has emerged as an existential threat for our planet. 

aerial view of the Niagara River in spring.

UB played a central role in earning a designation for the Niagara River Corridor as the 40th Ramsar site in the U.S. The corridor joins more than 2,300 wetlands worldwide recognized for their rare habitats and biological diversity. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Faculty research on climate change

A photo of a house covered in seven feet of snow after an extreme snow event in Buffalo in 2014.

Preparing buildings for climate change

Are current buildings - and the codes and policies that regulate them - prepared for the predicted increase in extreme weather events as the climate crisis worsens? These challenges and solutions to address them are detailed in a series of reports recently completed by UB resilience expert Nick Rajkovich and his Resilient Buildigns Lab.

A map of weather stations, tree canopies, parks buildings and roads across Western New York reveals clusters of vulnerability and resiliency to extreme heat.

Sensing thermal extremes

Extreme temperature events cause greater mortality rates than all other weather-related events, with those in low-income and traditionally marginalized communities most at risk. A national study co-led by UB will assess these risks and develop macro and micro strategies that build urban climate resilience for all residents.

A photo of Champions for Change engaging in a workshop.

Training citizens as change agents

The Citizen Planning School trains citizens to effect change at the local scale on sweeping global issues including climate change, economic inequality, and social justice. The program graduated its latest class of nine Champions for Change with diverse plans for regenerative development in their own neighborhoods. 

Farmers and residents of a rural village in Africa gathered in a group.

Climate impacts on food systems

Research by UB's Food Lab and Community for Global Health Equity reveals that climate change impacts compound existing economic challenges faced by small-holder farmers around the world, threatening a critical link in sustainable food systems at the local and global scale.

A photo of UB's GRoW Home, featuring a solar-panel roof and thermally insulated walls.

Energy, technology and lifestyle

Architecture professor Martha Bohm assesses the design process and performance of UB's net-zero energy prototype, the GRoW Home. Designed for (and placing second in) the 2015 Solar Decathlon, the GRoW home features an integrated greenhouse and occupant-controlled thermal systems.

A photo of Life Support during its unveiling last summer, showing tree limbs and branches structured together to create habitat for native flora and fauna in the Australian desert.

Habitecture in the Australian desert

Architecture professor Joyce Hwang's "Life Support" is a living art sculpture that transforms a dead, 400-year-old tree into functional habitat for bats, birds and reptiles. It was installed over the summer in an ecological offset zone in Canberra, Australia, in collaboration with the region's parks and conservation department. 

Alumni contributions on climate change

Banham at larkin.

Socio-ecological design futures

In the recently published book Design with Life, alumnus Mitchell Joachim (BPS ‘94) and Maria Aiolova chronicle projects developed by their nonprofit organization, Terreform ONE, that define new directions in socio-ecological design and intersections of synthetic biology, architecture and urban systems.

Families in Indonesia walk through flooded streets.

Coastal city preparation

Doctoral research by urban planning PhD graduate Tu Dam Ngoc Le examines climate adaptation strategies for 45 coastal regions in the developing world. Her work reveals a complex policy landscape challenged by socio-economic sensitivity, insufficient infrastructure and limited adaptive capacity.

One-thousand plastic beverage containers — and counting — dangle from the ceiling of the last room of “Ocean Cube.

A provocation on ocean pollution

The New York City pop-up exhibit "Ocean Cube" has wowed thousands of visitors with its playful reflection on ocean pollution. Co-designed by Randy Fernando (MArch '18) and fabricated in our shop, the project has garnered reviews in the New York Times. It's on view through Oct. 23. 

What's your "plus"?

How are you pushing the "plus" of future practice in our disciplines? Tell us how for a chance to be featured on our "Be the Plus" blog. Contact Rachel Teaman, assistant dean for communications: