By Luke Carothers

Buro Happold is no stranger to helping cities plan for a greener future.  The firm already has a strong reputation in green engineering, having completed climate action plans for several other cities such as New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Buro Happold’s work with New York City is particularly important as it was the first climate action plan to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.

For these reasons it is no surprise that the city of West Hollywood, California tapped Buro Happold to help them reduce the city’s carbon footprint.  The goal for Buro Happold’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) is to “define a new set of emissions goals and guidelines for the growing city and lay out an approach to overcoming climate change-related obstacles through the middle of the century” per the official press release. More specifically, the goal is to “aggressively reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve the city’s resiliency across mobility, housing, industrial and civic sectors.” The projected finish date for the project is the Summer of 2021, but there is a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Buro Happold’s Christopher Rhie, an urban planner and sustainability strategist, will lead the team as they build upon the city’s existing programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as the Green Building Program, Go Solar West Hollywood, and the Clean Power Alliance among others.  The team will also be working alongside members of West Hollywood’s current leadership including sustainability planner Robyn L. Eason.

The city of West Hollywood already has a great track record when it comes to enacting meaningful sustainability programs and ideas.  The team at Buro Happold intends to use this as a baseline, first determining how much progress these programs have made in terms of reducing the city’s carbon footprint.  However, West Hollywood’s progressive sustainability policies and programs make the city a unique challenge for the team in that there is no “low-hanging fruit.”

In other words, there are no easy problems left for the firm to solve.  Each challenge is tougher, and they require “transformative approaches”.  These approaches are going to be identified by a team led by Sabrina Bornstein, Buro Hapold’s head of climate resilience in Los Angeles.  Bornstein is tasked with developing a climate vulnerability assessment, which begins with a Climate Change Impacts and Vulnerability analysis that has five main aspects:

1. Exposure—the climate change effects West Hollywood will experience

2. Sensitivity—the key community structures, functions, and populations that are particularly susceptible to climate change exposure

3. Potential Impacts—how the climate change exposure will affect West Hollywood’s structures, functions, and populations

4. Adaptive Capacity—West Hollywood’s current ability to account for uncertainty, timing, and adaptive capacity

5. Risk and Onset—the impact assessment to account for uncertainty, timing, and adaptive capacity

For the project, Buro Happold will be working with Pueblo Planning who received the 2019 American Planning Association’s Los Angeles Emerging Planning and Design Firm Award.  Working with Pueblo Planning allows the team at Buro Happold to work towards their goal of giving the West Hollywood community a voice in each step of the project.


Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.

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