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Eric Michelén
March 5, 2021

We are living in a time of change – the era of digital transformation is the new chapter in the history of humanity: the 4th industrial revolution.

The power of technology is growing exponentially, empowering us to make the world safer, cleaner, and more abundant.We are facing many challenges on our way to a better life, among them: the rising number and impact of natural disasters, more frequent and intense drought, storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers – climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.

Floods all over the world are becoming more devastating. And water is a subject of importance for the continuity of life onboard our planet.

Floods all over the world are becoming more devastating.



We live in a machine so perfect , and any change we create has an impact in every spectrum of what this great ecosystem is built to do with the purpose of life. Since 1880 the main sea level has increased about 21-24cm, producing massive change worldwide. Global warming is causing the global mean sea level to rise in two ways. First, glaciers and ice sheets worldwide are melting and adding water to the ocean.Second, the volume of the ocean is expanding as the water warms. A third, much smaller contributor to sea-level rise is a decline in the amount of liquid water on land—aquifers, lakes and reservoirs, rivers, soil moisture. This shift of liquid water from land to ocean is primarily due to groundwater pumping.

Data has shown us that:

·  The decadal average loss from glaciers in the World Glacier Monitoring Service's reference network quintupled over the past few decades, from the equivalent of6.7 inches (171 millimeters) of liquid water in the 1980s to 18 inches (460millimeters) in the 1990s to 20 inches (-500 millimeters) in the 2000s, to 33inches (850 millimeters) for 2010-2018.

·  Ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased seven-fold from 34 billion tons per year between 1992-2001 to 247 billion tons per year between 2012 and 2016.

·  Antarctic ice loss nearly quadrupled from 51 billion tons per year between 1992 and 2001to 199 billion tons per year from 2012-2016.

Looking at the information, we see changes in how the ecosystem works, affecting other layers of this complex and delicate ecosystem. Bringing new challenges that we must face. Cities will have to look for solutions and look for another way of living. A significant concentration of the human population lives near the shore; in case of global flooding, this can bring massive migration to inner lands that will cause a collapse in every aspect of our lives. Second potable water resources will become very scarce, building up tension and conflicts. By 2025 it is estimated almost half of the human population will live in water stress areas.

The amount of natural disasters is growing we see more and more victims from floods all different world. According to The United Nations report, flooding has accounted for nearly half of all weather-related disasters worldwide since 1995 and has killed an estimated157,000 people and affected some 2.3 billion others. Every continent is dealing with the problem. Asia is one of the most affected and by far is the most populated continent on earth. Latin America and Africa are dealing with the same problems, but they sometimes present the worst because of lack of resources or inadequate infrastructure.

By 2025 it is estimated almost half of the human population will live in water stress areas.


Overview of the problem

According to experts, by 2050, around 70% of the human population will be living in cities. The population is expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion people. Nearly 6billion peoples will suffer from clean water scarcity by 2050 due to increasing water demand, water resource reduction, and increasing water pollution[1]. At the same time, the number of people worldwide vulnerable to a devastating flood is expected to mushroom to 2 billion by 2050 due to climate change, deforestation, rising sea levels, and population growth[2]. Rising sea levels could push chronic floods higher than land currently home to 300 million people within two-three decades.

"Too MUCH water!" and "Not ENOUGH water!" - are two sides of the same "water challenge" coin.

Water is life. In the evolution of our history, water has been the leading resource to develop human settlements; it was a need for us to survive and maintain other resources like cattle and food.It was a means of communication and energy. Farther forward in time, we have multiplied and grew so that our population and our cities are demanding more power and more resources to maintain life. We need more water, clean, fresh, and abundant.

Some studies have been made by different universities lead by a group of engineers, scientists and we can see that the problem is already here. The sum of terrestrial water storage is on apace to decline by two-thirds of the planet's land. The worsts impact will be in the southern hemisphere, where water scarcity is already threatening food and leading to human migration and conflict.

Freshwater makes a small fraction of all the water on the planet; only about 2.5 percent is fresh, and humans have proved to be inefficient water users. For example, the average hamburger takes2,400 liters, or 630 gallons, of water to produce, and many water-intensive crops, such as cotton, are grown in arid regions. 

Moreover, to add to that inefficiency every second, the urban population grows by two people. 95% of the urban expansion in the next decades will take place in the developing world. InAfrica and Asia, the urban population is expected to double between 2000 and2030. Between 1998 and 2008, 1052 million urban dwellers gained access to improved drinking water and 813 million to improved sanitation. However, the urban population in that period grew by 1089 million people and thus undermined the progress. One out of four city residents worldwide, 789 million in total, lives without access to improved sanitation facilities. Four hundred ninety-seven million people in cities rely on shared sanitation. In 1990, this number was 249 million. 27% of the urban dwellers in the developing world do not have access to piped water at home.

More than ever, we need to act and think about the future we want to leave for the next generation to come. So we can build on the shoulders of giants and push forward life to the next generation to come. This problem is the responsibility of every human being onboard spaceship earth. Cities will grow and doubled; they will get bigger and in a faster way. So we need to find solutions even faster and in a disruptive way to meet the already presenting needs, which will come in the near and extended future. The fast pace and the change in our climate present a series of problems that must be solved, which will drive us to question everything we know and think out of the box.

We need to act and think about the future we want to leave for the next generation to come.


What are we doing?

Education is an essential factor and probably is the primary key. We need to utterly understand our planet how it works for teaching our future generations to think sustainably. To act thinking of others as an ecosystem, and whatever we do, do it for the whole's benefit.We have grown and advanced in knowledge, science, and technology and still have a long road to go ahead.

In our growth in knowledge and applied sciences, we have learned. Furthermore, we can look for solutions in so many places that can help to improve life. Our knowledge and technology growth gives us different ways that we could not imagine centuries of years ago. However, we need to have intentionality because we have enough resources to become agents of change for future generations' wealth and prosperity.

Designers, architects, scientists, and engineers have a crucial role in building a better future adapting to the changes. We must understand that nature has shown us that she does not need from us; we need from her; we need to utterly understand that we must be resourceful while understanding how she does the work. Technology is vital here because we have learned to harvest the resources by doing more with less.

Solutions like Fuel cell systems are a clean, efficient, reliable, and quiet source of power. Fuel cells do not need to be periodically recharged like batteries but instead continue to produce electricity as long as a fuel source is provided. Many companies like Hydrogenics, Ballard Power, and Proton power are eagerly pushing forward to use the know-how to sustainably produce energy and water.

Zero mass water. It is a company that harvests water from air and sunlight effortlessly and practically, and for the better, it is always the same. Founder Cody Friesen, a materials scientist and associate professor at Arizona State University, spent nearly seven years developing the Source Hydro panel.

In the academic spectrum, scientists supported by institutions are developing studies finding new solutions in nanotechnology, AI, quantum mechanics, design, and engineering, looking even for the most simple solutions that do not need a high cost of operations in some of the solutions. They rely more on technology like Ai and Satellites for heat detection for better urban planning or drones to map and upload information of the spots in cities area that tend to be flooded.


Our cities can be a sponge for harvesting waters, and we can stock the rain that falls and use it in a better way and with less energy.

Looking for new ways.

Now is the moment to ask the big and right questions that can deliver the answer. What can we do? With what we have, how can we use what nature gives us? How can we architects, designers, dreamers change the status quo? What technologies are we developing that can produce a change? How to do more with less?

Moreover, in that way, we can imitate nature and how she works for life. The contradiction is the mother of creativity. We need more water on one hand, and we are drowning in it on the other one and creating the place for Architecture 4.0 where exponential disruptive technologies meet the need in the smarter cities of the future.

They bring us the opportunity to tap into imagination and create endless possibilities to co-create a new world capable of supporting life for everyone.

We need to start asking questions indifferent ways, getting out of the box. Our cities can be a sponge for harvesting waters, and we can stock the rain that falls and use it in a better way and with less energy. Sidewalks, streets, parks, buildings each have a role to play in that infrastructure; what we must do is to rethink what we know. Starting cities from scratch gives the possibilities of contemplating further advancement where those critical points in the land and act upon it to use it in our favor not by forcing it but by reshaping it. However, this can raise another question what can we do with what we have now? We can spot heated places in the City and placers where it tends to flood and have a broader look at that behavior, and we can determine where the critical and dangerous zones are and prevent faster in seasons of rains. This can give us as well where to spend the money from the government budget.

Data and Ai and IoT could bring opportunities and play different roles. Our world is mapped every day. The technology involved is increasing and getting much better.

On the other hand, AI and robotics' interaction presents us with a future where spaces adapt to our needs. The information is growing exponentially, and AI has a vital role in this; it can help us bring solutions using an algorithm and act autonomously. Building and spaces can use this information to change complemented with 4d materials facades space usage could change according to their needs. Building by themselves can be units of water capture and reservoir for their usage and theCity. With 4d printing, we can re-imagine the streets and sidewalks differently. Let us rethink our road to the future. Let us  not make a living and instead let's make sense, design more in tune with nature, learn from  We can genuinely use the forces of nature to our advantage and be right stewards of it.

Let us rethink everything we know and go to the unknown. Moreover, create a new one.





Eric Michelén II is a partner at Michelén & Michelén

Eric Michelén II is a partner at Michelén & Michelén, an AIA International Associate and CEO of EMA Arquitectura, a starter architecture and technology consulting firm focused on applying the design principles in nature to human ecosystems.
Throughout his 10 year portfolio of projects in the Caribbean and studies in technology applied to architectural design, Eric has demonstrated passion for societies' infinite capacity to unlock further their creative potential and the power of architecture in shaping a better world.
Eric is interested in biophilic design in architecture and the intersection of architecture and technology with nature to do more with less.  
Eric has an Associate in Architecture from UNIBE and a Master in 3D modeling and Simulation from the Universitat Politecnica de Cataluna Barcelona.