Photo credit: Inhabitat
Every year, about 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere from concrete production alone. As cities continue to grow (according to the UN, world urban populations are expected to increase by 84% by 2050), the amount of polluting building materials being created will increase right along with them. And it isn’t simply the materials that are causing problems. A study and report titled “Buildings and Climate Change,” completed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), revealed that “over 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions take place during the operational phase of buildings, when energy is used for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, and other applications.” The main problem with a building’s lifetime of energy consumption is that the energy is most likely coming from a fossil fuel-powered plant. How are we going to design buildings with harmless materials, both for our planet and the people occupying them? What can we utilize in our buildings to make sure their annual energy needs are kept to a bare minimum?