The Impact of Buildings on the Environment
In the last few decades, sustainability in design and innovation in construction methods have become increasingly important as both environmental activists and architects alike have realized the impact that buildings have on the environment. We live in an age where our groundwater is becoming more polluted; the earth’s temperature continues rising due to ozone depletion and acid rain drips down upon us. The key source of all of these problems lies in our continually increasing use of non-renewable energy resources. Most of our electricity is created from fossil fuels and burning coal, and the emissions from these power plants are deadly to our environment in the long run. While development of new renewable energy resources is vital to our ability to protect the environment, in order to truly succeed, we must reduce our current energy use.
Much of the energy use we once attributed to the industrial and commercial sectors is being revised because a significant percentage of non-renewable energy use in industrial and commercial applications relates to the creation and maintenance of their related structures. The manufacturing process to create different components that go into a building such as wallpaper, paints and tiles as well as the more obvious structural aspects is often very inefficient in its use of energy. Everything from the roofing materials to the wiring goes takes energy to produce. In evaluating our construction processes, it is vital to keep in mind the embodied energy, “a measure of the total energy required to produce a particular material or building component and to get it to the building site.” The energy used controlling the interior environment in a given building as well as other electrical uses such as lighting is also a major drain on our non-renewable energy resources.
In addition to the energy use in such buildings, the process of obtaining the raw materials used in construction and their processing can be detrimental to the environment. Quarrying for rock as well as mining for iron...