Stock Wildfire

Invasive Species Could Have Caused the Deadly Wildfires in Hawaii
According to The Guardian, scientists believe non-native grass species—particularly fountain grass and Guinea grass—may be to blame for the recent wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, as they have “adapted to thrive with fire”, according to a fact sheet from the Pacific Fire Exchange, a Hawaiian fire science organization.

A July 2021 report from the County of Maui warned public officials and residents that non-native grasslands and sugarcane fields were making Hawaii more susceptible to devastating wildfires. “The lands around Lahaina were all sugarcane from the 1860s to the late 1990s,” Clay Trauernicht, a fire ecology professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, told The Guardian. “Nothing’s been done since then—hence the problem with invasive grasses and fire risk.”

Other factors may have contributed to the fatal blaze. “The early part of 2023 was wet, which helped grass growth, and then we have had quite a dry summer, with a moderate drought on Maui for about a month now,” Abby Frazier, a climatology professor at Clark University in Mass., said in the article. “I never expected it to be this bad in terms of lives lost. It is shocking and gut-wrenching, but the fire itself was not a surprise.”

Downed power lines, seen in video footage from island residents, may have also been catalysts for the fires on Maui. [The Guardian]

Climate Change May Be a Factor in California's First Tropical Storm in 84 years

Over the weekend, tropical storm Hilary brought torrential rain, flooding, and strong winds to Southern California and parts of Nevada. The weather event was the California's first tropical storm since 1939, which forced Governor Gavin Newsom to issue a state of emergency. Human-led climate change may have contributed to this record-breaking storm. Palm Springs, Calif., for example, received a 3.18 inches of rain on Sunday evening; the desert locale typically receives about 4.85 inches of rain a year. And, according to the National Weather Service, Hilary broke records for the wettest day in August for several regions.

While Hilary raged, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake recorded near Ojai, Calif., was felt in Santa Barbara County and Los Angeles County. No fatalities, significant injuries, or major damage have been reported from the earthquake; however, several homes, businesses, and cars were damaged during the storm. [Los Angeles Times]

An Upcoming Event Seeks to Create Architecture That Challenges the Status Quo

courtesy The Architecture Lobby

The Architecture Lobby—a Connecticut-based organization of architects, landscape architects, designers, and students that advocates for fair labor practices and equity in the built environment—announced this summer that its Architecture Beyond Capitalism School will host an online event from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. The free and inclusive event, open to members of diverse communities and practitioners of varying career levels, will seek to “find global allies for change-making projects and movements; test frameworks, formats and strategies for building better and lasting collective momentum; lay out visions for architecture beyond capitalism—including alternatives and improvements to the status quo; develop disciplinary language and practices that are more open and inclusive; humanize the expectations and outcomes of design processes; and explore and develop together in a messy process,” according to a description on the organization’s website. [The Architecture Lobby]

The National Mall Gets a Temporary Art Exhibition Celebrating American Stories

Six temporary art installations, part of an outdoor exhibition for the Trust for the National Mall in Washington D.C. entitled Beyond Granite: Pulling Together, will be on display now through Sept. 18. “The National Mall is one of the most iconic commemorative spaces in the nation with monuments, memorials, and open spaces,” Julie Moore, a spokesperson for the Trust for the National Mall, told Washingtonian. “But it’s also a finite space and is continually in demand for additional storytelling opportunities.”

Curators Salamishah Tillet—a New Jersey–based writer, critic, and scholar of African American Studies—and Paul Farber—the director of Monument Lab, a nonprofit art and history organization in Philadelphia—urged six artists to answer one question: What stories remain untold on the National Mall?

The cohort of artists includes Paul Ramírez Jonas, Ashon T. Crawley, Wendy Red Star, Derrick Adams, vanessa german, and Tiffany Chung, each showcasing their unique works. “Let Freedom Ring” by Paul Ramírez Jonas, for example, features a tall interactive metal tower with small bells that play the song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” except for the last musical note. Visitors are encouraged to ring the installation's ground-level 600-pound bell to sound the final note and share their stories about freedom. [The Washington Post]

Judge Rules State of Montana's Disregard of Climate Change Unconstitutional

A group of Montana youth, ranging in age from 5 to 22, won a landmark case on Aug. 14 when District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ruled that the state’s actions of disregarding climate change when approving fossil fuel projects and initiatives were unconstitutional. “It is incredibly gratifying to see a Montana court recognize the effects the state’s harmful energy policies have on young people and all Montanans,” Barbara Chillcott, senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said in a press release. “Judge Seeley’s ruling underscores the reality that Montana’s government is actively working to undermine our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment … This decision sets important precedent for other constitutional climate cases in the U.S., and, most importantly, gives these youth plaintiffs some hope for a better future.” [New York Times]

Burning Man 2023 Temple Designed With Love, Community, and Safety in Mind

Temple of the Heart will be a communal space for gatherings during the 2023 Burning Man festival later this month.
courtesy The Burning Man Project Temple of the Heart will be a communal space for gatherings during the 2023 Burning Man festival later this month.

The Burning Man Project, the San Francisco–based arts and culture organization behind the popular Burning Man festival, released images of the temple that will be erected at this year’s event from Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Named Temple of the Heart, the all-wood structure—designed by architectural designer Reed Finlay and technology entrepreneur Ela Madej, both based in California, to be a space for community and love—will be 40 feet tall with a spire expected to reach 80 feet in the air. “Temple of the Heart is designed to look like an upside-down desert flower with a stem reaching up into the sky, serving as both a beacon as well as a sundial,” according to an article posted on the organization’s website. “It creates a feeling of being near a heart, wrapped in love for those who seek solace and respite. At night it will glow with soft, warm, welcoming light.” [The Burning Man Project]

ARCHITECT Columnist Asks "How Can We Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Bricks?"

Héctor Zamora, ©Solo Houses

Last week, ARCHITECT columnist Blaine Brownell, FAIA wrote a piece questioning how the AEC industry can reduce carbon emissions from the production and use of construction bricks. “A recent estimate of the annual global production of bricks by California-based Global Industry Analysts is approximately 1.5 trillion units (not including concrete bricks); another study by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland approximates the output at 2.2 billion metric tons,” Brownell wrote in his column. “According to EPFL researchers Karen Scrivener and Hisham Hafez, worldwide fired clay-brick production contributes 0.48 kg CO2eq per kg, or 1.1 Gt CO2eq, total emissions, each year.”

Product companies have started experimenting with new brick formulations. “Several manufacturers have developed building modules that replace fired clay with substitute materials requiring less embodied energy,” Brownell wrote. “A common surrogate is plastic that has been repurposed from waste streams and is either incorporated alone or in combination with other materials.” [ARCHITECT]

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