Galina Churkina awarded with "Aquila Capital Transformation Award"

12/17/2020 - For her research on replacing cement and steel in urban construction by wood, PIK guest researcher Galina Churkina has been awarded with the first “Aquila Capital Transformation Award”. A high-profile jury chose Churkina's paper “Buildings as a global carbon sink” from a large number of submissions from PhD graduates at renowned universities and research institutions worldwide. The “Aquila Capital Transformation Award” aims to support research for mitigating climate change and is endowed with EUR 20,000. The award will be announced on an annual basis and aims to provide a contribution to a more sustainable society in the context of energy transformation and decarbonisation in Europe.
Galina Churkina awarded with "Aquila Capital Transformation Award"
Skyscraper construction with wood. Photo: - KK Law

With the 2020 theme “Accelerating Decarbonization in Europe”, the award honours outstanding work by researchers who focus on applicable solutions to combat climate change. In addition to providing financial support for the research, the “Aquila Capital Transformation Award” aims at facilitating the practical application of researched concepts and solutions. The award wants to contribute to the UN`s Sustainable Development Goals 9 (Industry innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 13 (Climate Action).

Roman Rosslenbroich, co-founder and CEO of Aquila Capital, comments: “Dieter Rentsch and I founded Aquila Capital in 2001 and we have always relied on intellectual rigor and analytical research to inform our decision making. With this in mind, we have decided to donate this award with the aim of finding breakthrough concepts that can be implemented in order to mitigate climate change. The conclusions of Ms. Churkina’s paper match Aquila Capital’s philosophy very well. They present a practical application of research and address two of our firm’s investment themes, timber and real estate. “In its first year, the award has already been very well received with numerous excellent and valuable submissions. We at Aquila Capital want to make an active contribution to combat against climate change – be it directly through our investments in renewable energy or by promoting academic research.”

In the view of the jury, Dr. Churkina illustrates the importance and feasibility of replacing cement, steel and other building materials with timber for mid-rise urban buildings in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the construction industry. The research paper  was chosen by  the expert jury consisting of Prof. Eicke R. Weber, former director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, and Prof. Yukari Takamura, professor at the Institute for Future Initiatives, the University of Tokyo, Prof. John Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (who did not take part in the vote), as well as two managers from Aquila Capital. The submissions were evaluated by three criteria: originality, quality and impact.

Prof. Yukari Takamura comments on behalf of the jury: “Congratulations to Galina Churkina and to all the other candidates! We had a great selection of submissions from all over the world: from Berkeley to Edinburgh, from Graz to Goteborg. Energy transition and decarbonisation are now gaining the highest priority. A sense of urgency is emerging and every new academic contribution is important. Together with my fellow jury members, I am already looking forward to next year and I hope a lot of young scientists submit their application.”       

Galina Churkina holds a diploma in Mathematics from the Moscow State Lomonosov University in Russia and PhD from the School of Forestry, University of Montana, USA. She researched and taught at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, School of Natural Resources and Environment (University of Ann Arbor), Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. She also collaborates with The Nature Conservancy on developing a comprehensive understanding of the climate benefit from forests and sustainable forest products.  Ms Churkina was a recipient of fellowships from Open Society Foundations, the German Science Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies. She received the Women of Distinction award from the Soroptimist International of the Americas and was among the pioneers of the holistic studies of the urban carbon cycle.


Galina Churkina, Alan Organschi, Christopher P. O. Reyer, Andrew Ruff, Kira Vinke, Zhu Liu, Barbara K. Reck, T. E. Graedel, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (2020): Buildings as a global carbon sink. Nature Sustainability [DOI:10.1038/s41893-019-0462-4]

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