Studying civil engineering and construction technology, I never realized how much of an impact the fields I am pursuing have on our environment. More specifically, I never realized how much we have to consider when creating structures to the point where if not done with caution or correct practices, it could negatively affect our environment. That’s why in the academic major of construction technology and architecture, one of the courses required to graduate is the history and practice of sustainability. The course focuses on the approach to the design, construction, and stewardship of products and environments that align human need and ecological resourcefulness. What this means is how do we build and design structures to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This will certainly affect climate change because if the practice of sustainability isn’t considered into most or all projects, then we would only be adding to the problems that climate change is already causing. The practice of sustainability explores topics such as environmental justice, resource efficiency, the triple bottom line, and ecological footprint. All these concepts lead to creating what is called a green building. Current and future projects should prioritize trying to make a building as green as possible because I believe they would have the most impact on mitigating climate change in the United States. Green buildings, which are buildings that make efficient use of land, materials, energy, and water, are becoming more prominent in the construction industry. They tend to generate minimal or no waste and provide a healthy indoor environment for its occupants without compromising the outdoor environment.
One such building is the Josey Pavilion owned by the Dixon Water Foundation in Decatur, Texas. In 2016, it was voted number 8 as one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects and its no surprise as to why. According to their website, “the Josey Pavilion is a multi-functional education and meeting center that supports the mission of the Dixon water foundation to promote healthy watersheds through sustainable land management”. This means the project incorporates passive strategies to take advantage of the specific climate and increases the resource efficiency of the building. The Josey Pavilion was designed to have no active heating or cooling and adapt according to the weather conditions on any day. The facility has gapped wooden doors that open to allow maximum ventilation through the central gathering space to capture the cooling summer breezes from the southeast. The Josey Pavilion also has cupolas which is a small dome on a drum on top of a larger dome, adorning a roof or ceiling to maximize the use of the climate. The Cupolas not only provide daylight for the spaces but also utilize the pressure from breezes hitting the roof to help draw out hot air from the pavilion and have the air constantly moving within the space to filter it out. The center’s building elements can also be adjusted to provide shelter from harsh winter winds. The gapped wooden pivot and sliding doors of the facility help block wind that would normally go through the porches and spaces between the building. The windows of the cupola can also be closed in winter to help keep more warm air in.
All these passive strategies to reduce stress on the environment would have a significant impact on mitigating climate change because if we were to apply these types of designs on all buildings, the amount of carbon emissions we create by producing energy would go down exponentially. The strategy of replacing mechanical systems with passive systems within the Josey Pavilion resulted in a savings of 334,194,000 Btu (British thermal unit) of energy which prevents 72 tons of carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, an average home uses about 300,000,000 Btu per year according to the U.S Energy Information Administration. Imagine the amount energy we could be saving if every home in the United States could take advantage of their climate such as the Josey pavilion . More importantly, imagine the impact this would have in mitigating climate change not just in the United States but in the world as well. Furthermore, it would take 180 hectares of grassland one year to remove those 72 tons of carbon emissions and one hectare is about the size of one football field. The reason I believe many projects don’t take advantage of their climate to produce green buildings such as the Josey Pavilion is because many people just aren’t simply educated in this topic. The practice of sustainability has been around for the past 200 years. However, it was not until these past couple decades that the practice of sustainability became a course. If sustainability or any ecological related courses are taught at a younger age, I believe that future generations will be more informed and inclined to do something about mitigating the damage of climate change.
Of course, some climates are harder to take advantage than others and sometimes making a green building can be very costly. However, perhaps this is the first step in fighting climate change while also benefitting us at the same time. We recycle plastic and paper so why don’t we try recycling energy by creating buildings as green as the Josey Pavilion.