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No matter where you live or where you traveled in the Northern Hemisphere this summer, you were probably hot—very hot. Unexpectedly blazing temperatures hit everywhere from London to Paris to Shanghai—each reaching above 104 degrees Fahrenheit—to Boston (a cool 100 degrees by comparison). Fires have raged throughout Europe and a mega-drought persists in California.

The month of June had the warmest temperatures ever known over land masses, though we’ll have to wait for final statistics to learn if the entire summer of 2022 will break the all-time heat record set in 2020.

Cathleen McGuigan.

Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural RecordPhoto © Jenna-Beth Lyde

And if this summer wasn’t hot enough, just wait: an alarming new report from the climate-focused nonprofit First Street Foundation analyzed hyperlocal conditions, according to the Axios news website, and predicts that, in 30 years, an extreme-heat belt in the U.S., stretching from Texas to Illinois, will produce temperatures reaching as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit. That would affect at least 107 million Americans, including those living in Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, and other major cities. And, of course, the increased demand for air-conditioning will only worsen the cycle of carbon emissions that fuels global warming, unless we radically change how we generate electricity.

But the good news in the midst of this crisis is that Congress finally passed a major bill to tackle climate change, allocating the largest government investment to date—$370 billion—to help curb such emissions and fund green technology.

Not surprisingly, the bill passed entirely along party lines. But climate politics may well become bipartisan in the years ahead, with the rise of the next generation: a recent Pew poll, for example, shows that younger conservatives are more likely to support government action on the environment, such as requiring power companies to use more renewable energy.

One sector of the next generation is architecture students, and the demand is growing in design education for courses that address the climate crisis. In this issue of RECORD, we report on what educators at architecture schools across North America are doing to “radically decarbonize the curriculum,” as David J. Lewis, dean of the School of Constructed Environments at the Parsons School of Design, puts it. At some schools, studios require that students’ projects include a calculation of the carbon footprint. At the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, for example, all second year M.Arch. students were recently assigned a speculative project with a carbon budget of zero. After incorporating such elements as solar and geothermal energy sources to reduce operational energy, the students used a simplified life cycle assessment tool to measure the embodied carbon. In order to make the numbers work, assistant professor Sam Dufaux notes, they mostly “had to use carbon-sequestering materials, such as wood.”

Indeed, outside the studio, in the real world, specifying mass timber for buildings is rapidly increasing. In this month’s Continuing Education article, senior editor Joann Gonchar, FAIA, explores how architects are pushing the height of mass-timber structures as an alternative to concrete or steel construction. There are currently 139 such tall buildings complete or under construction globally, triple the number five years ago. Still, most mass-timber buildings are not aiming higher—they are aiming primarily to respond to urgent environmental concerns.

Yet exactly how timber is sourced, and how healthy that is for the environment, remains a topic for debate: the idea that “all wood is good” is not always true. Our lead news article reports on the evolution of responsible forestry in the Pacific Northwest. While the “timber wars” of the 1970s, when lumbermen and environmentalists were at loggerheads, have largely been resolved, leading architects who have pioneered the use of wood construction urge their colleagues to engage closely with lumber suppliers when sourcing for projects, to ensure best practices of cutting, replanting, and transporting from forests.

Also in the September issue is a remarkable building in which the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto saw both the forest and the trees in his design for the House of Music in a wooded park in Budapest. A few leafy trees poke through openings in the huge, floating mushroom-shaped roof, delighting visitors. While the project may not address global warming specifically, it does something else significant, combining architecture with nature to make poetry.