In a comprehensive review of the Economic and Social Benefits of Sustainable Buildings, the author confirms the veracity of these recently adopted alternatives to what we know so far. The problem is the sheer size of the proposed task of greening all the present built environment. In any case, here is :The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to Green Building Insider.
Exploring the Economic and Social Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Sustainable buildings are well-designed structures that consider the needs of the environment. The rapidly changing climate is resulting in substantial pollution, increased natural disasters, and an ever-growing endangered species list. It is necessary to consider research on how certain buildings impact the environment and what can be done to mitigate their environmental footprint. Here are six economic and social benefits of sustainable buildings to know about.—
4 Elements of a Sustainable Building
Many things make a building sustainable and each plays a vital role in environmental preservation.
1. Stormwater Management
Stormwater runs down drains and into sewer systems, harming the natural water table. The right strategies can mitigate this issue. Stormwater management methods can capture runoff and slowly integrate it into the ground to replenish the water table, reducing the risk of flooding.
Surrounding a building with local plants is a low-maintenance and sustainable way to landscape. Trees and plants from the surrounding area can already handle the climate, eliminating any extra care and maintenance. Native landscaping reduces fertilisation and irrigation needs, cutting water use and eliminating harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere and water supply.
3. Renewable Energy
Using renewable energy whenever possible can reduce emissions and excess energy use.
There are two types of solar energy — active and passive. Active solar uses panels to create a closed-loop renewable power source, while passive orients buildings to get the most sunlight possible. They can absorb, reflect and transmit thermal energy, insulating a building.
Wind energy uses moving air to create electricity. Large turbines can benefit businesses and factories, and personal property owners can use individual turbines. It is best to design buildings where the wind will reach them the most for maximum benefits, like unsheltered flatlands or high elevations.
Hydroelectric energy comes from moving water. While significant sources such as the Hoover Dam can supply plenty of power through its facility, others can be small or even damless.
Sustainable materials are another integral part of creating environmentally-friendly buildings. They can significantly reduce the carbon output of standing structures. The following are some of the most popular:
Bamboo: Bamboo is fast-growing and requires little processing, making it an excellent eco-friendly material. It is a strong and attractive material for interiors and exteriors.
Building sustainably can positively affect local, national, and global economies.
1. Reduced Emissions
As it enters the atmosphere, carbon dioxide supercharges the natural greenhouse effect, causing global temperature to rise. By implementing cleaner energy sources – such as renewables – and by incorporating more efficient systems through building design, builders can significantly cut carbon emissions.
Reducing the amount of emissions entering the atmosphere – and thus tackling the problem at its source – requires less money and resources to develop climate change mitigation strategies. When large facilities become sustainable, community members will not face as many health impacts caused by emissions, saving on care costs.
2. Increased Productivity
Employees surrounded by natural light and elements of nature are often less stressed and more productive. This plays a vital role in business competition and supply and demand. Businesses rely on their workers. Sustainably designed buildings can increase morale and energise them.
3. Reduced Building Costs
Though some costs may be higher, the overall costs of constructing and maintaining a sustainable building are lower than conventional construction methods. Many sustainable buildings can be partially or fully completed elsewhere, limiting the resources used on a job site. Sustainable buildings also have a greater value in the long term compared to traditional alternatives.
Social Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Along with assisting the economy, sustainable buildings can do a lot for the social health of residents.
1. Physical Health
Nature can help people destress and sustainable building designs cater to that need. By incorporating natural landscaping, sunlight, and greenery inside, architects and designers can create environments that lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety-related rapid heart rate.
These environments can also increase pain tolerance and release muscle tension. Using sustainable materials keeps used options from ending up in landfills, which can contribute to public hazards.
2. Mental Health
Sustainable, natural materials like wood and stone can reduce the impact of many mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. With so many people understanding the effects of climate change, knowing where they live and work support the environment can help put their minds at ease.
Less pollution in the air can help the population breathe easier and spend more time in sunlight. Doing so can boost their mood, energise them and help release stress.
Sustainable buildings provide excellent opportunities for educating the public about caring for the environment. Having facilities with renewable energy resources, natural materials, and sustainable practices can inspire others to make their homes and businesses more environmentally friendly. It can create a ripple effect, helping to create a better world. Something as simple as an educational poster can go a long way.
Improving the Built Industry
Construction causes around one-third of the world’s waste, making the design process a critical component of climate change reduction. Buildings contribute to 40% of worldwide carbon emissions. Humans need them, but they can work to make them better for the planet.
In a recent survey, 47% of global respondents said sustainability is at the top of their priority list. Governments are working to meet sustainability goals and everyone can play a part.
Sustainable buildings are a necessity to slow the devastating effects of climate change. By understanding the benefits of these structures, builders, designers, and owners can work to create a better future.
The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to The Times
The Green Revolution: How European Smart Cities are Tackling Climate Change
The Green Revolution is in full swing across Europe as smart cities rise to the challenge of tackling climate change. These urban areas, equipped with advanced technology and innovative solutions, are leading the charge in reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable living.
In the heart of Europe, cities are harnessing the power of technology to create a more sustainable future. They are integrating digital technology into urban infrastructure to improve the quality of life for their residents while simultaneously reducing their environmental impact. This is achieved through a variety of methods, including the use of renewable energy sources, efficient waste management systems, and advanced transportation solutions.
One of the most notable examples of this green revolution is Copenhagen, Denmark. The city has set an ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2025. To achieve this, Copenhagen has implemented a wide range of initiatives, such as the installation of wind turbines, the promotion of cycling as a primary mode of transportation, and the creation of green roofs to absorb rainwater and reduce heat.
Similarly, Stockholm, Sweden, is making strides in its quest to become fossil fuel-free by 2040. The city has invested heavily in renewable energy, particularly in the form of biofuels generated from waste. Stockholm also boasts an extensive public transportation system that runs largely on renewable energy, further reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
In Spain, the city of Barcelona is leveraging the power of technology to create a more sustainable urban environment. The city has implemented a smart grid system that allows for more efficient energy use and distribution. Additionally, Barcelona has introduced a comprehensive waste management system that includes the use of sensors to monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the city of Amsterdam is pioneering the use of electric vehicles. The city has installed numerous electric vehicle charging stations and offers incentives for residents to switch to electric cars. Amsterdam also encourages the use of bicycles and public transportation, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
These European smart cities are not only reducing their own carbon emissions but also setting an example for other cities worldwide. They demonstrate that it is possible to integrate advanced technology into urban infrastructure in a way that improves the quality of life for residents while also reducing environmental impact.
However, the green revolution is not without its challenges. Implementing these changes requires significant investment and planning. Cities must also work to ensure that these advancements are accessible to all residents, regardless of income level. Despite these hurdles, the progress made by these European smart cities is promising.
The green revolution in European smart cities is a testament to the power of innovation and technology in the fight against climate change. By harnessing renewable energy, promoting sustainable transportation, and implementing efficient waste management systems, these cities are making significant strides towards a more sustainable future. As the world continues to grapple with the realities of climate change, the lessons learned from these smart cities will be invaluable in shaping our global response.
In conclusion, the green revolution is transforming cities across Europe, turning them into bastions of sustainability and innovation. These smart cities are leading the way in the fight against climate change, proving that with the right technology and forward-thinking policies, a sustainable future is within our grasp.
Billie Jean King Main Library, completed in California in 2019, Credit: Benny Chan
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) launches the Whole Life Carbon Accounting service to help accelerate low-carbon building design & development
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), a worldwide alliance of architects, designers, engineers and planners, has introduced a new service aimed at accelerating the implementation of low-carbon and net-zero buildings.
The initiative, named Whole Life Carbon Accounting, is a system used to assess and measure the operational and embodied carbon emissions of a building throughout its entire lifespan.
When the system is incorporated during the design phase, it offers a precise picture of the proposed building’s carbon footprint, enabling investors, property owners and developers to make well-informed decisions. By evaluating a building’s performance after completion, the service enables owners to monitor progress and achieve their long-term sustainability goals.
“The greatest opportunity to work towards a more sustainable future is to invest in new climate action measures,” said Kent Jackson, SOM Design Partner. “We are proud to extend our long and proven history of working with public bodies, property owners and developers to help lead the way for a low-carbon built environment. We look forward to bringing our skills and expertise to bear on the critical issue of a reduced carbon future.”
The shift towards whole-life carbon
Accounting for approximately 40% of carbon emissions worldwide, the built environment has long prioritised the reduction of operational energy and its carbon emissions. However, there has been a significant shift in focus towards whole-life carbon, changing the way buildings are designed, constructed and renovated.
Embodied carbon – the carbon impact associated with a building’s initial construction – cannot be rectified later, whereas operational energy and associated carbon emissions can be improved to a certain extent once a building is in use.
“The built environment urgently needs new approaches to performing carbon assessments. Innovation is driven by a diversity of ideas and voices,” says Mina Hasman, SOM Sustainability Director. “Evidence shows that as a project develops and design strategies evolve, the gaps between traditional assessments and a building’s true performance can lead to a performance gap of up to five times more energy use and/or carbon emissions between predicted and actual values.
“Our service puts an end to this. As regulators and investors evaluate new and existing assets more closely, we provide clients with practical strategies to help inform their investment, development and management activities.”
Applying SOM’s interdisciplinary approach, the firm’s sustainability team analyse and measure operational and embodied carbon emissions across every stage of a project. Clients can therefore gain an understanding of a building’s true carbon impact and the ability to translate carbon targets into measurable performance outcomes.
Carbon assessments are typically performed at the end of design stages by different parties and to different standards. This can result in isolated calculations which are not comparable and cannot effectively illustrate a building’s accurate performance.
The gaps between the projected performance of a design and actual building performance widen as projects develop and designs evolve. Consequently, calculations can constitute as little as 20% of actual carbon emissions. This can affect a building’s value and viability in the long term.
The building is one of few in the region that features a lightweight timber structural system, to build the library atop an existing underground concrete parking garage. It was also named 2021 Project of the Year by the US Green Building Council and was the winner of the Metropolis Magazine Planet Positive award.
Additionally, SOM achieved a remarkable 61% reduction in embodied carbon compared to a typical concrete building, by preserving most of the original concrete structure.
SOM’s Whole Life Carbon Accounting has resulted in the internationally acclaimed Billie Jean King Main Library, Credit, Benny Chan
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a global practice of architects, designers, engineers, and planners, responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings and significant public spaces.
From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in how we live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities worldwide.
The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged in a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe. SOM is a net zero emissions business.
We Expect A Lot From Our Buildings — How Do International Codes Assure Sustainability?
Today, society faces 3 major challenges in the built environment: ensuring building safety, improving sustainability, and addressing our affordable housing crisis.
May is Building Safety Month. Up-to-date international codes can make communities more equipped to endure increasingly frequent and severe weather events, improve sustainability, and address the affordable housing crisis. This year, innovation and collaboration are evolving due to the increasing frequency and severity of global weather events. All communities need building codes to protect their citizens from disasters like fires, weather-related events, and structural collapse.
It seemed to make sense to learn more about how modern and innovative international building codes address these imperatives, how code officials work day in and day out to keep the public safe, and how the International Code Council is enabling the flow of innovative policies and practices around the world to improve the built environment.
Q: Thanks for making yourself available to answer some questions. For those unfamiliar with the International Code Council, why is it in existence, and what effect has it had on cities and towns across the globe?
Dominic Sims, CEO of the International Code Council, Photo provided by International Code Council
The International Code Council was established in 1994 as a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated model building codes. The mission of the Code Council is to steward the development process for model codes that benefit public safety and support the industry’s need for one set of codes without regional limitations. We are a member-focused association with members from across building industries who come together to participate in our democratic and transparent process to develop the most widely used set of building safety codes and standards in the world – the International Codes® (I-Codes®).
Our technical staff works closely with legislators and code officials to help jurisdictions implement the most appropriate set of codes for their specific regions.
Q: I’m struck by the call for reciprocity toward improving sustainability and addressing the affordable housing crisis. These 2 objectives seem not to be related. Might you offer some insights into their symbiosis?
We expect a lot of our buildings. They are complex systems that have broad ranging impacts on our lives and communities. They protect us from hazards, influence our health, and impact our environment. Finding the balance across all these expectations while maintaining affordability is challenging, but the Code Council and governments must navigate these complexities.
Housing affordability is particularly important for low and moderate income households. These households are often the hardest hit by disasters — many of which are exacerbated by climate change — and lack the resources for post-disaster recovery. At the same time, they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on utility bills — in some places 3 times as much as the average household. When we talk about housing affordability, it’s not just whether we can get someone in a house but whether they can afford to stay there.
The International Code Council is currently the only code development organization that actively considers cost as an element of the code development process. Through the code development, process stakeholders from across the building industry come together to identify the best practices for safety and sustainability while ensuring the resulting buildings remain affordable and accessible to broad populations. Naturally, individual communities have their own perspectives on priorities for their building stock. The Code Council provides communities with tools to achieve those priorities from model codes that capture the current consensus to stretch codes that can assist communities in going beyond minimum-level requirements.
Q: May is Building Safety Month. What should our readers know about the need to adopt modern, regularly-updated building codes?
Today, society faces 3 major challenges in the built environment: ensuring building safety, improving sustainability, and addressing our affordable housing crisis. Modern and innovative international codes are society’s first line of defense to address these imperatives. One of the most cost-effective ways to safeguard communities against natural disasters is to build using hazard-resistant building codes.
FEMA studies show that every dollar invested in the adoption of modern building codes provides 11 times more in savings by reducing casualties, lowering the cost of building damage and helping communities get back on their feet faster by minimizing indirect costs such as business interruptions and lost income. We want to emphasize to all communities the importance of adopting modern building codes and stress the critical importance of continued inspection and enforcement to keep buildings and their occupants safe and healthy. We also encourage local governments to fund their building departments to support the needed level of maintenance inspections.
The formula for success in implementing and supporting modern building codes and inspections is simple: staff, train, and finance.
Q: How is the building industry working to increase water efficiency through innovative practices and technologies — not just domestically but worldwide?
Logo provided by ICC
Innovation and collaboration must evolve due to global weather events’ increasing frequency and severity. There are many examples of countries in water-scarce areas that are innovating to increase water efficiency. Those involved in the code development process can draw best practices from the following examples across the globe:
Israel is leading the world through its policies, practices, and technologies for its water resources and conservation, most notably through reclaiming over 80% of its wastewater and stormwater for agricultural operation.
Saudi Arabia boasts the highest production of desalinated water worldwide (the country removes salt out of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf) and is in the process of converting its desalination plants to solar.
Cape Town, South Africa is incorporating automated domestic water metering installations to set a target water usage for each resident per day, leveraging alternative water sources, and updating their supply network infrastructure.
The United Kingdom is cutting water use through water metering, incentives for water-saving technologies, hosepipe bans, and investing in updating the country’s water supply equipment.
The North China Plain has addressed increasing agricultural demands on water through increased monitoring, institutionalized water conservation practices, ground leveling, and more efficient drainage and irrigation sprinklers.
Q: How does Building Safety Month address some of the issues that we face as a global community, including extreme weather events and water scarcity?
Clean water is the world’s most precious commodity, and public health depends on safe and readily available water. The World Health Organization estimates over two billion people live in water-stressed countries, which is expected to worsen in some regions due to a changing climate and population growth. Water conservation and efficiency issues have become crucial conversations amongst building safety professionals in recent years. Building Safety Month raises awareness about these issues by reinforcing the need to adopt modern, regularly-updated building codes, and helps individuals, families, and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures.
Q: What additional details or insights might you provide on how we can institute these best practices in the US?
There is currently no national standard on maintenance and inspection. Individual states follow their own enforcement procedures to seek out, modify, adopt and enforce their own building codes and standards. Currently adopted codes, which local jurisdictions can, and do, modify on a case-by-case basis, may or may not include provisions for building re-inspections and maintenance requirements. The International Property Maintenance Code® (IPMC®) established minimum requirements for the maintenance of existing buildings through model code regulations that contain clear and specific maintenance and property improvement provisions. The latest edition is fully compatible with the International Building Code® (IBC®).
Every jurisdiction needs to understand what their specific regional needs are so that their building, maintenance, and re-inspections codes have appropriately specific provisions for the natural, environmental, and emergency conditions more prevalent in their area (e.g., Florida hurricanes, Kansas tornadoes, California earthquakes and wildfires).
Architectural design is crucial in the construction industry for several reasons:
Functionality: Architectural design ensures that the building or structure is designed to serve its intended purpose effectively. It takes into account the needs and requirements of the users, incorporating various functional aspects such as spatial planning, circulation, and accessibility. A well-designed building enhances productivity, efficiency, and overall user experience.
Aesthetics: Architectural design adds visual appeal and beauty to a structure. It considers elements such as proportion, scale, balance, materials, colors, and textures to create a harmonious and visually pleasing environment. Aesthetically pleasing buildings not only enhance the quality of life for occupants but also contribute to the overall urban or rural landscape.
Safety and Structural Integrity: Architectural design plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and structural integrity of a building. It takes into account factors such as load-bearing capacity, structural systems, resistance to natural forces (e.g., earthquakes, wind), fire safety, and adherence to building codes and regulations. Proper architectural design minimizes the risks associated with structural failures, accidents, and disasters.
Sustainability: With growing concerns about environmental impact and resource conservation, architectural design plays a vital role in promoting sustainability in the construction industry. Designers consider strategies for energy efficiency, water conservation, use of eco-friendly materials, waste reduction, and integration of renewable energy systems. Sustainable architectural design minimizes the ecological footprint of a building and contributes to a greener future.
Economic Considerations: Architectural design influences the economic aspects of a construction project. Effective design can optimize the use of space, reduce construction costs, and improve operational efficiency. It takes into account factors such as lifecycle costs, maintenance requirements, and adaptability to future needs. Well-designed buildings have the potential to increase property value and attract occupants, contributing to long-term economic viability.
Cultural and Social Context: Architectural design is influenced by the cultural and social context in which it is situated. It takes into account local traditions, cultural values, and community needs. Architecture can reflect and reinforce cultural identity, provide spaces for social interaction, and contribute to the overall well-being of communities.
In summary, architectural design is essential in the construction industry because it ensures functionality, aesthetics, safety, sustainability, economic viability, and cultural relevance in the built environment. It integrates various considerations to create well-designed and meaningful spaces that positively impact individuals, communities, and the environment.
Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
Traditional construction methods were no match for the earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, an engineering expert says, and the area will continue to see such devastation unless updated building techniques are adopted.
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