Climate change poses an existential problem, and how architects design their buildings plays a significant role in whether or not they worsen the state of the world or adapt to make their designs as climate-friendly as possible, lessening the impact of buildings on energy consumption. When people talk about climate change, you typically hear mention of going green in regards to cars and other forms of transportation, recycling, factory farming, fast fashion, and the kinds of ingredients used in your household cleaning products. You don’t really hear about how architecture impacts climate change.
While all of those do affect the climate, and greatly, at that, architecture accounts for nearly half of the total carbon emissions in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about how architecture impacts climate change, and how this essential part of our everyday lives can both account for human needs and environmental challenges. It’s bracing to know that although architecture impacts climate change negatively, so too can it positively, as part of the solution for how we save this planet.
Facts About Buildings And Climate Change
In order to look forward to a brighter future, we must first learn from our past. Buildings pose a complex challenge, since the most environmentally friendly building is one that’s already been built. As such, the goal moving forward with new designs is to make them carbon neutral, which means that they don’t contribute CO2 to the atmosphere through taking into account elements such as resources and materials used. Ideally, architects should aim for a carbon-negative building, which is one that actually removes carbon from the atmosphere.
A handful of facts about how architecture impacts climate change currently are as follows:
- Decisions being made in regards to saving money, regardless of the environmental cost, rather than how money could be saved in regards to making environmentally friendly choices, which is proven to be more sustainable for the environment and for your bank account in the long run. An environmentally friendly building is one that cuts down on your energy bills and functions on a long-term basis.
- Continuously building new buildings as opposed to considering how old ones that have been abandoned or no longer serve an intended purpose can be renovated and re-constructed to suit different purposes.
- How the building is run in regards to HVAC, the windows used, and more. The operation of the building itself significantly affects how architecture impacts climate change.
The Materials Matter
Sustainability in architecture is challenging because though it’s known that architecture impacts climate change, so many aspects and materials used in the creation of buildings both positively and negatively affect the environment. Concrete, for example, can bring down energy costs in buildings, which is a positive. However, it’s made with cement, which accounts for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, which is a negative. Thus, sustainable design leads to dilemmas that don’t always have a clear resolution.
However, there are some materials that affect how architecture impacts climate change in a way that is more easily recognized as a positive over a negative, and these are materials architects should strive to use more of in their designs. Some of the carbon-neutral materials for sustainable design include: timber, stone, and other such natural materials. As science progresses, we are discovering new materials and ways to manufacture current materials to be carbon neutral, such as “sea concrete”, which is grown underwater via an electric current, and carbon-neutral aluminum and steel.
Architects are people who care a lot about making a positive impact on the world, so knowing how architecture impacts climate change, is it any wonder that they’ve worked to innovate ways to turn their industry carbon-neutral? The American Institute of Architects promotes using architectural improvements to neutralize the effect this vital industry has on the environment.
Some of the architectural innovations designed to improve how architecture impacts climate change are:
- Rewilding takes into account how architects can use the biodiversity and ecosystems of the area they’re designing for to lessen the depletion of natural resources.
- Reversible design plays into the idea of a circular economy, where materials can be reused so as to eliminate waste. This kind of architecture creates buildings that are strong, reliable, and serve their purpose for entire lifetimes, while ensuring that they can be deconstructed and the components utilized to build them can be reused.
- Biomimicry creates some of the most efficient buildings in how it emulates natural systems to replicate how plants take carbon out of the atmosphere.
- Retrofitting improves how energy efficient buildings are through making buildings that don’t need to depend so much on HVAC.
- Meeting Passivhaus standards, which refers to the Passivhaus Trust that encourages designs of buildings to be airtight and insulated, a key part of making buildings that are sustainable.
The Hope Sustainability In Architecture Brings
Whether architects are designing new buildings or retrofitting an existing structure, it’s entirely possible to move to a future where architecture impacts climate change in a way that is more positive than negative, through the choice of building materials, the designs of the buildings themselves, the construction process, and more. Architecture and sustainability can indeed go hand in hand which inspires immense hope for the future.
Expert Architects Serving All Types Of Industries
BGW Architects care a great deal about reducing long term maintenance and operation expenses in the buildings we create, lessening the impact of our architectural designs on the environment. We work collaboratively with our clients every step of the way to craft a building that suits your needs and brings your vision to life. To schedule your free consultation for your architectural needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!