Buro Happold tapped to develop a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan for Tucson

The Heat Is On

Buro Happold tapped to develop a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan for Tucson

The Sonoran Desert city of Tucson, Arizona. (Manny Pacheco/ Unsplash)

Having previously developed climate mitigation plans and sustainability blueprints for cities including New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, a dedicated climate team from Buro Happold now has its sights set on Tucson. Home to more than a million residents in its metro region, Tucson is Arizona’s second-largest city and the third-fastest warming city in the United States behind Las Vegas and El Paso.

As recently announced by Buro Happold in a press statement, its winning proposal to helm the 10-year CAAP, “combines the total urgency of establishing climate solutions, with the necessity of enacting these plans with the support and involvement of the diverse communities it will affect.”

Per the United Kingdom-headquartered global engineering, design, and planning consultancy, Tucson’s action plan will combine the on-the-ground knowledge of local climate groups with its own advisory team of climate experts and engineers, including frequent collaborator Autocase.

“These foundational partnerships will incorporate the essential experience of local groups and organizations, including the Living Streets Alliance and the Drachman Institute, the community-based research and outreach arm of the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture,” said Chris Rhie, associate principal with Buro Happold. “Buro Happold will work in collaboration with each of these groups, making sure to center historically underrepresented voices in the work.”

As noted by Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, the city has already taken steps to achieve goals outlined in its 2020 Climate Emergency Declaration, including launching tree-planting campaigns, introducing electric buses into its public transportation fleet, and rolling out EV-ready residential construction mandates. “Building off this work, we have brought onboard Buro Happold to help shape our Climate Action Plan and create a more livable, vibrant and healthy Tucson,” said Romero in a statement. The blisteringly hot, drought-stricken desert city has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030 and becoming zero-waste by 2050.

Tucson, which like the rest of Arizona is facing down a particularly grim future if action isn’t taken, is one of more than 2,000 jurisdictions in 38 countries that have declared climate emergencies. Despite the urging of locals groups, Phoenix, the fourth-fastest warming city in the U.S.,  has not. (Flagstaff was the first Arizona city to do so in June 2020, two months before Tucson.)

As noted by Buro Happold in its announcement, Tucson’s action plan will “lay out clear and achievable objectives for the city, including a concrete path and timeline to reduce carbon emissions while leaving important room for the goals to be refined in response to developing circumstances.” Diversity and inclusion are an integral part of the plan as Buro Happold aims to engage everyone in the Tucson community in the plan.

“It’s highly detailed, highly technical work that has to happen in order for us to be able to have the strategies that actually make sense, and that will have the best economic, social, and environmental impacts for our city,” Romero said of Buro Happold’s role in a statement shared by Arizona Public Media, which noted that the firm will receive $400,000 for developing the CAAP.

Per a recent Arizona Daily Star article detailing the climate action plan and Buro Happold’s involvement in shaping it, it will take the firm nine months to develop before it is finalized in December. Residents will be able to provide feedback throughout the development of the plan and share input during the public hearings process as Tucson City Council votes to adopt it at the end of the year.