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Architecture & Climate Change

Architecture in recent years has been trying to combat the negative effects of construction on the atmosphere by leaning towards using more sustainable building  and construction materials. Building high performance houses are one way that architects have been creating new buildings to reduce the energy used which is better for the environment.. Construction is the final step when creating a building, but it is also the most detrimental part for the environment because of the emissions of certain materials that are used, as well as vehicles that are used to transport materials and other construction products to the site.

Buildings emit carbon and use varying amounts of energy depending on building types. Studies show that buildings requiring lighting, heating, and cooling in the United States uses 40% of the total energy consumption throughout the country. Carbon emissions are linked to the material types and the construction practices that are used when edifying and designing buildings, but they are also greatly damaging for the earth. Green architecture aims to lower the effects of buildings on the climate and architects and government officials in the US and other nations have implemented laws and certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a green building certification program used worldwide) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) to combat these effects.  These certifications aim at being able to limit or reduce the amount of energy consumption of buildings, enhance individual health, protect water and other resources, and promote sustainable and regenerative ecosystem services.

Apart from LEED certifications and others like them, architects are changing and even creating new materials to work with to further advance their fight against climate change. Building materials like concrete emit carbon because of their chemical makeup and  if architects can find alternatives to these, they’d not only be helping the climate, but also making new possibilities for their designs as well. This is why architects are doing research and working with new but also existing materials that are repurposed or reused that have lower carbon emissions. Materials that have lower embodied carbon, such as recycled steel, reclaimed wood, bamboo, and recycled plastics are often chosen by architects because they lower the need to gather fresh new materials. Another great example of how construction materials can be used to fight climate change is the exploration of carbon absorbing materials which capture and store carbon dioxide, such as certain types of concrete or bio-based materials and can help offset emissions associated with building construction.

Sustainable Architecture aims to make sure that the building itself can offset the energy and resources that are used during its construction, as well as the carbon emissions that cement and other materials release not only in the initial construction stages but also in a building’s lifespan. There are many ways that architects combat these things, by making high-performance buildings that are self-sustaining by being powered by solar energy, also by using construction practices and specific materials that produce minimal carbon emissions. Adaptive reuse architecture is also emerging and being practiced greatly by architects who take old buildings and design them to be used in new ways which gives older, unused buildings a purpose without having to be torn down. This also allows architects to avoid creating a new building from scratch.

Although architects are striving to make an impact on the environment, I don’t believe that Net-Zero Carbon and Energy buildings alone can solve the impacts that have already happened to the planet, but I do think that it is a great way forward that challenges architects to create while trying to look out for the environment.

 

Sources:

https://www.eesi.org/topics/built-infrastructure/description

https://www.gensler.com/blog/net-zero-design-is-key-to-resilient-post-pandemic-future

https://www.archdaily.com/977740/what-is-net-zero-architecture

https://www.usgbc.org/leed

 

 

Comment on this article

ClimateYou moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (New York time) and can only accept comments written in English.

2 Responses

  1. Before reading this blog, I had assumed constructing and the development of buildings had little to no impact on climate change. It is quite interesting that these actions also contribute to carbon emissions and climate change. Aside from the use of buildings requiring more eco-friendly material, there are some other smalls steps to slow the carbon emissions, such as for vehicles delivering material could be converted to electric powered vehicles for fewer carbon emissions. Perhaps if technology permits, developing other electric powered construction vehicles such as cranes, excavators or other heavy machineries. A process like this may take time before we see any slowdown to carbon emissions when it comes to architecture.

  2. When I read this blog it was very interesting because you mentioned how we can use Architecture to combat climate change which is a good thing. You mentioned infrastructure of better stability for the environment but there is one con when using architecture to help with climate change which is the cost of the infrastructure for stability, not to mention the cost of material to build sustainable housing. Overall it would be very beneficial to the environment but also for everyone who would like to contribute to this idea.

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