Cities have a large role to play in tackling climate change but often overlook an important tool at their disposal to address this global challenge: zoning. This is the argument that Janna Levit (BArch 1986) and Drew Adams (MArch 2011), of the firm LGA Architectural Partners, make in a recent article published in Azure.
“It is past time that we rethink this pervasive regulatory instrument that affects every aspect of our built environment,” they say in the article, arguing that it can help gird cities against the effects of climate change and ever more extreme environmental conditions.
As evidence they cite research by Assistant Professor Fadi Masoud, “a leading advocate for a more climate-attuned approach to zoning.”
“He argues that modern zoning has become too fixated on regulating land use to predictable outcomes,” write Levit and Adams. “As a result, the planning of neighbourhoods becomes static, as opposed to evolutionary and responsive.”
This comes into sharp focus in Southeast Florida and Miami, where, until recently, areas increasingly vulnerable to flooding were still being zoned for intensification. Masoud and the MIT Urban Risk Lab have been working to create new spatial planning tools. They have developed a visualization platform which maps – in combination – flood risk, ground water, permeability, infrastructure, topography, geology and other factors alongside zoning to inform parametric adaptations which Masoud calls “flux-based.”
“As concerns over the environment propel us to imagine new, dynamic models of urbanization, contemporary ecological theory offers a foundation for rethinking the mechanisms of conventional land use planning,” Masoud argues.
Image Credit: Fadi Masoud + MIT Urban Risk Lab