We all know climate change is an issue that needs to be reverted as soon as possible or we’ll have to suffer the consequences of our actions in the near future. But why should we even care if saving the environment does not have anything to do with our academic majors in college? Some people have majors in fashion, computer engineering, business or law. In my case, it’s architectural technology. But thinking this way is completely wrong. Why? Because even if we’re unaware of it, our majors do indeed contribute to climate change in one way or another.
My major is architectural technology and what I do is study the field of architecture with the aid of computer programs like Rhino, AutoCAD, Illustrator and Photoshop. We draw floor plans by hand or virtually and make physical models to scale. When I first began studying architecture back in high school, I never thought how it could possibly contribute to climate change. I couldn’t imagine how a residential complex, bridge or even a skyscraper could have an impact on climate change. But as time went on I picked up more knowledge about how buildings and structures work, the materials they’re made and how they are obtained and transported to the construction site. These little things I was learning were beginning to piece together and I was finally able to see how.
First of all, the material is needed to build any kind of structure and the places where the materials are manufactured and prepared are far away. So, they must be carried by trucks and driven to the site. How many vehicles are needed depends on the size of the structure and the load. With too many delivery vehicles driving at once, air pollution worsens. Buildings under construction can make CO2 emissions even if they haven’t been completed and opened yet. It doesn’t stop there. Construction machines also produce the same emissions like bulldozers, excavators, cranes and forklifts. They all rely on gas to work. Second, when buildings or structures are completed and being used they start using a lot of power. This is why large cities consume a lot of energy. For example, skyscrapers have so many floors and each with rooms for office or residential use and they need electrical current for lighting, HVAC and electronic devices. If the electricity comes from power plants then it’s not doing any favor for the environment. Power plants burn coal, oil and gas and when there’s high demand the burning rate increases. Lastly, buildings, especially residential ones, have lots of people living and working inside. More people mean more production of waste (trash or biowaste.) If these people don’t dispose of their trash properly it will end up in places where it shouldn’t be like rivers, parks, beaches, basically other places where it’s supposed to be litter free. If sewage systems aren’t inspected, biowaste can contaminate public or remote areas.
This is how architecture impacts climate change. The material shipment, the construction equipment, the electrical system and waste made by people all have negatively contributed to climate change. The world’s biggest and busiest cities emit the most greenhouse gases accelerating global warming which is causing so many irreversible effects to Earth’s ecosystem. So, what can architects or students studying architecture do to slow down climate change?
As a student, I’ve been taught about the many ways a building could be designed to be “greener.” Green means something eco-friendly, sustainable and good for the planet. In my previous semester I took a design class where I proposed a vertical structure on the High Line in NYC that works as a staircase, observation tower and an event space. It was to be powered by solar panels to provide power within the area. In other words, students and real architects look for ways on how a structure or building could make it’s own power using a sustainable source and find ways how they could consume the least amount of power. I’ve seen some concepts on the internet such as installing wind turbines in a building, using hydroelectric power and even geothermal. The field of architecture can provide solutions for the process to reverse climate change and I’m sure other fields can contribute as well.
We can all stop climate change even if our academic majors have nothing to do with science. We can use our knowledge from our different majors and collaborate to find solutions to make the world we live in a better place. That’s one of my main motivations to continue studying architecture.