Green architecture, also known as sustainable architecture, is a philosophy that encourages the incorporation of sustainable energy sources, ecosystem-friendly designs, the recycling of building materials, and considering the placement of the building with the surrounding environment.
The Growing Issue
The issue of global warming has made itself evident ever since the industrial revolution. The rising sea levels, the overall temperature increasing, and intensifying hurricanes show how Earth is being negatively impacted by human activities like burning fossil fuels and pollution. Major petroleum companies are digging up fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas which in turn causes land degradation and water pollution. When burning fossil fuels for energy, they produce large quantities of carbon dioxide and these emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, which largely contributes to global warming.
According to the University of Michigan-Center for Sustainable Systems, almost 39% of all the United States’ energy consumption is directly consumed by residential and commercial buildings. In perspective, the United States makes up 15% of the entire world’s energy consumption. By replacing the excessive production of fossil fuel energy with cleaner, renewable energy and reducing the amount of wasteful material in buildings, only then can we begin to see improvements in our environment.
The movement of environmentally friendly buildings went mainstream with the creation of the group Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The purpose of this organization is to certify buildings that meet a certain level of performance and criteria. The qualifications to get certified include sustainable site development, energy efficiency, environmentally clean building materials, water conservation, and indoor environmental quality. What is the importance of this certification? Having the certification shows that your building is contributing to the health of the people around it, so it is considered to be a standard now.
The Green New Deal, laid out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is also a proposal that calls for improving the environment. One aspect of the legislation mentions that we must upgrade all existing buildings so that they provide efficient energy. If this is passed, we could have a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. There has been speculation as to how sustainable architecture will be funded, but if green materials and technologies become more known and commonplace in the world, then the prices of them will go down in the long run.
Aspects of Green Buildings
Protection against loss of warm or cool air: insulating materials, laminated glass
Reuse of Materials
Recycled building materials (materials from demolition sites)
Alternative Energy Sources
Own supply of power: wind and solar power (solar collectors/photovoltaic panels)
Underground (5 feet below surface or more) or Earth-sheltered building: natural climate control
Things You Can Do At Home
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs (LED)
Take shorter showers/do less laundry to use less water
Recycle anything that is recyclable
Replace any products that cause waste with reusable ones (straws/bags/cups/plates)
Turn off anything that uses electricity when not being used
Kurtzleben, D. (2019, February 07). Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline
U.S. Energy System Factsheet. (n.d.). http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/us-energy-system-factsheet