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By 2025, there will be 20 more megacities from 21 years ago, a United Nations report revealed in March last year. A point of concern perhaps, considering these bustling metropolises are the largest contributors of air pollution, accounting for at least 80 percent of all CO2 emissions. However, with the ascension of urban growth, there has been a positive penetration of architectural practices committed to incorporating greener design functionalities.

In New York, the transformation of the city’s elevated railway line to a public park is an example of an innovative project, which successfully combats the ailments of urbanization. Built in the 1930s, the railway line, designed for heavy-loading freight trains, was constructed 30-feet from the ground as a safety precaution. The line, which runs through the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, closed operations in 1980, and through the tireless efforts of the Friends of the High Line community, received approval from the City of New York to be reconstructed to a public park.

The incorporation of green spaces has taken to the forefront of urban planning on not only a regional, but global scale. Similar to the NYC’s High Line project, the construction of garden rooftops in Shanghai has decreased air-conditioning usage by 20 percent, reduced indoor temperatures and improved building insulation. According to the Shanghai Daily, it only costs 125 yuan (US$18.30) per square meter for a rooftop lawn, yet if a mere six percent of roofs were covered by vegetation, 1.5-2.1 trillion tons of greenhouse emissions could be reduced on a yearly basis.


On a grander scale, Bjarke Ingels Group’s 8 House project in Copenhagen merges green functionality and modern architecture with spectacular result. The 11-storey building boasts a 1,700 sq. m green roof, and is built on descending slope designed to maximize the light for the garden’s greenery.  The project is home to Denmark’s largest apartment building with 475 residences, along with office and retail spaces.

It is no secret that sustainable design is a sound response to maintaining an environmentally sustainable future. If the world’s megacities were to adopt high-performance, energy-efficient green buildings, this could signal a great leap in progress in our fight against global warming.

Global ecological sustainability can be achieved, but first we have to start at the grassroots level in changing the way we live, and more importantly, the way we build.