Architecture

Ambitious Urban Sequoia skyscraper designed to clean the air around it

Ambitious Urban Sequoia skyscr...
Urban Sequoia would sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to 48,500 trees, says SOM
Urban Sequoia would sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to 48,500 trees, says SOM
View 3 Images
Urban Sequoia would sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to 48,500 trees, says SOM
1/3
Urban Sequoia would sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon per year, which is equivalent to 48,500 trees, says SOM
Urban Sequoia would be made from materials like bio-brick, hempcrete, timber, and biocrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent compared to traditional building materials like concrete and steel
2/3
Urban Sequoia would be made from materials like bio-brick, hempcrete, timber, and biocrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent compared to traditional building materials like concrete and steel
Urban Sequoia would include carbon capture technology
3/3
Urban Sequoia would include carbon capture technology
View gallery - 3 images

An intriguing proposal from high-profile firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) imagines a skyscraper that could capture carbon and actually purify the air around it. The conceptual design, named Urban Sequoia, was created to mark the recent United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference in Scotland.

The skyscraper would feature an attractive design made up of glazing and greenery and incorporate a podium. It would be built from environmentally friendly materials like hempcrete, timber, and biocrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent, compared to traditional materials like concrete and steel.

Technical details are very light at this early concept stage, but according to SOM the skyscraper would sequester up to 1,000 tons of carbon per year, which it says is equivalent to 48,500 trees. To do this, it would feature integrated carbon capture technology – think the Orca, but on an even larger scale. The idea is that with such measures, the air in the immediate area would be cleaned. Eventually, entire "forests" of Urban Sequoias could transform cities and even change the course of climate change.

Urban Sequoia would be made from materials like bio-brick, hempcrete, timber, and biocrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent compared to traditional building materials like concrete and steel
Urban Sequoia would be made from materials like bio-brick, hempcrete, timber, and biocrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50 percent compared to traditional building materials like concrete and steel

"This solution allows us to move beyond net zero to deliver carbon-absorbing buildings, increasing the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere over time," says SOM. "After 60 years, the prototype would absorb up to 400 percent more carbon than it could have emitted during construction. The captured carbon can be put to use in various industrial applications, completing the carbon cycle and forming the basis of a new carbon-removal economy. With integrated biomass and algae, the facades could turn the building into a biofuel source that powers heating systems, cars, and airplanes; and a bioprotein source usable in many industries."

Though the Urban Sequoia is a very ambitious proposal and seems unlikely to be realized any time soon, global construction is estimated to account for almost 40 per cent of all CO2 emissions worldwide and there are growing calls to tackle the issue throughout the construction industry. One result of this is the growing popularity of timber buildings, which offer a genuinely sustainable alternative to concrete.

Source: SOM

View gallery - 3 images
1 comment
1 comment
Chunk Applegrabber
If that worked as promised, it would be a hell of an accomplishment. Per the USDA Forest Service, a mature 'state of nature' forest generally hosts 30 to 50 trees per acre and even incredibly dense forests have fewer than 600 trees per acre; one of these buildings could capture as much carbon as 80 to 1600 acres of woodland. Paving the world is still a bad idea, but replacing existing structures with these or building them on existing 'eco-wastelands' is a pretty solid carbon-offset!