Ambitious Urban Sequoia skyscraper designed to purify the air around it

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

The skyscraper would feature an attractive design consisting of glazing and greenery and would incorporate a podium. It would be built from environmentally friendly materials like hemp concrete, wood and biobeton to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50%, compared to traditional materials like concrete and steel.

Technical details are very light at this early stage of the concept, but according to SOM, the skyscraper would sequester up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon per year, which it says equates to 48,500 trees. To do this, it would have built-in carbon capture technology – think of the Orca, but on an even larger scale. The idea is that with such measures, the air in the immediate area would be purified. Ultimately, entire “forests” of urban redwoods could transform cities and even change the course of climate change.

Urban Sequoia would be made from materials such as organic brick, hemp concrete, wood and organic concrete to reduce the carbon impact of construction by 50% compared to traditional building materials such as concrete and steel.

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“This solution allows us to go 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% more carbon than it could have emitted during construction. The captured carbon can be used in a variety of industrial applications, completing the carbon cycle and forming the basis a new carbon removal system. With integrated biomass and algae, facades could transform the building into a source of biofuel that powers heating systems, cars and airplanes; and a source of bioproteins for use in many industries. ”

Although the Urban Sequoia is a very ambitious proposition and it seems unlikely that it will be realized anytime soon, global construction is estimated to account for almost 40% of all CO2 emissions in the world and there are has more and more calls to tackle the problem across the construction industry. One of the consequences is the growing popularity of wooden buildings, which offer a truly sustainable alternative to concrete.

Source: SOM

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