It is expected that within the next few of decades, Earth will have absolutely nothing left to offer whoever/whatever is capable of surviving on it. Although the human race is solely responsible for the damages done to the planet, a thin silver lining can still be seen if radical changes were to be done to the way we live on Earth and how we sustain it.
Since architects and designers carry a responsibility of building a substantial future, we have put together an A-Z list of every sustainability term that you might come across. Every week, a new set of letters will be published, helping you stay well-rounded on everything related to sustainable architecture and design. Here are the terms that start with letters D, E, and F.
Daylight Harvesting: Light control systems that use daylight to counterbalance and compensate the amount of electric lighting needed to light up a space (mostly in order to reduce energy consumption by dimming or switching electric lighting in response to changing daylight availability on site).
DDT: (short for Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, but let’s just stick to DDT), is a colorless chemical compound (chlorinated hydrocarbon) previously used as a pesticide. Ever since its early use in 1945, people had their fair share of concerns regarding the chemical. A book titled Silent Spring (1962) indicated that DDT, among many other pesticides, are carcinogenic and their use in agriculture harms the wildlife. Effectively, in 1972, the chemical was banned internationally.
Debt-for-Nature Swap: An agreement between two nations where a certain amount of a developing country’s foreign debt is excused in exchange for local investments in conservation matters.
Decomposers: Organisms that breakdown dead organic matter and turn it into minerals and heat for their physiological growth.
Deforestation: The transformation of forests into urban developments and wastelands. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture organization, almost 7.3 million hectares of forests are lost every year and almost half of the world’s tropical forests have been demolished already.
Dematerialization: Compromising or reducing a product’s material, while keeping its functionality intact.
Desalination: Removal of mineral components from saline water. Saline water is quite simply, salt water (water with high concentrations of salt). Soil desalination, on the other hand, is the removal of salts and other target minerals from soil.
Desertification: The transformation of a fertile land into a desert-like area, due to droughts, deforestation, and inappropriate human activity.
Detritivore: Plants and animals that consume decomposing organic material (detritus).
Detritus: In biology, detritus signifies dead organic material. In agriculture, detritus signifies any type of waste, gravel, sand, or any other material produced by erosion.
DfE: Design for Environment; which takes into consideration “cradle-to-grave” costs and benefits, manufacturing, and disposal.
DfM: Design for Manufacturing; designing products that are easy to manufacture and develop.
DfS: Design for Sustainability; A design approach which aims to achieve high environmental and economic quality.
DfX: Design for Assembly/Disassembly; Recycling, reuse.
Dieback (Arboriculture): A condition in which the outer tips and parts of trees and shrubs begin to die due to agricultural diseases or acid rain.
Direct Heat Gain: A passive heating technique used in cold climates which ensures optimum use of sun’s heat. Direct heat gain systems include glazed windows, thermal storage...
Direct Radiation vs. Diffuse Radiation: Direct radiation is a straight line trajectory of solar radiation from the sun down to the surface of the earth. Diffuse radiation is when the solar radiations hit the surface of Earth in a dispersed manner after they have been hit by molecules in the atmosphere.
Displacement Ventilation: An air distribution system which supplies cold air through a low induction air diffuser. These diffusers can be located either on a wall (wall-mounted), in the room’s corner, or free-standing.
Diversion Rate (Waste Disposal): An amount of recyclable material that has been diverted out of the waste disposal stream, and subsequently not directed to landfill.
Divertible Resource (Water Management): Water runoff that can be accessed for human use.
Domestic Water Heater: A water heating system used to provide hot water for the kitchen and bathroom sinks, tubs and other residential appliances.
Double Glazing: Also known as insulated glass, consists of two / three glass window panels separated by a vacuum or gas filled space to reduce excessive heat and sound filtration into the space.
Double Skin Facade: A system of building consisting of two layers, or facades, placed in a particular way that ensures air flow between them.
Downcycling (Waste Management): The reduction of an object’s quality whenever it gets recycled.
Drainage (Water Management): A natural or man-made grill-like unit that prevents excess water collection where water is transferred to an underground area through these openings.
Drawdown (Water Management / Climate): For water management, drawdown is the drop in water levels (wells, bores…), as for climate, drawdown is the declination of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
Dredging (Water Management): Excavating or scooping out mud / sand from water bodies.
Drip Irrigation (Water Management): A drip-hose (A hose with small punctures) placed near plant roots, either above the soil level or below the surface, which allows water to drip slowly, preventing evaporation or percolation.
Driver (Ecology): Any human-induced factor that causes change in the ecosystem (whether directly or indirectly).
Drop-off Centre (Waste Management): A location designated for piling discarded material, which are then transferred for recycling.
Drought: A critical weather condition, often considered a natural disaster, which includes prolonged shortage of water supply and agriculture production.
Dryland Salinity (Water Management): Accumulation of salt concentration in soil and groundwater, which causes a degradation in land.
Dual Flush Toilets: A water-saving technique where a toilet seat has two flushing buttons, one button gives a short flush and the other button operates the full flush.
E-Cycling: The recycling of electronic waste.
E-Waste: Short for electronic waste, and it includes discarded pieces from electrical devices.
Eco-asset: Providing financial benefits to private landowners when they maintain the natural state of their land.
Ecolabel: And green stickers, are stamps or logos which indicate that a product has met environmental and social standards. To ensure optimum consumer safety, some countries have enforced laws that force producers to stick an ecolabel (after having met required standards, of course) on their products.
Ecological Deficit: Is when the ecological footprint exceeds the ecological capacity of a region.
Ecological Footprint: It is the measurement of human demand on nature; in other words, the area or quantity of nature needed to support people or an economy (providing goods, resources…).
Ecological Impact: Quite simply, it is the effect of human activities and natural events on living organisms and their environment.
Ecological Niche: The habitat of a species in its ecosystem and the range of conditions necessary for it to survive.
Ecological Succession: It is the process of change in a species’ structure or an ecological community over a specific period (could range from decades, to centuries or millions of years, in the case of extinction).
Ecological Sustainability: Maintaining the biological diversity of an ecology without causing potential harm to future generations.
Ecology: The study of living organisms, their relationships to one another, and their role in the environment.
Ecoregion: Or ecological region, is a geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, and relatively, smaller than an ecozone.
Ecosystem: It is the entire community of interacting plants, animals, organisms, and microorganisms, and their physical environment.
Ecosystem Boundary: Zones of transitions between two adjacent habitats,characterized by an intense change in the composition of plant and animal communities.
Ecosystem Function: A technical term used to define the biological, chemical, and physical processes that take place within an ecosystem.
Ecosystem Services: In general, ecosystem services are benefits that humans can gain from a properly-functioning environment. Many academic sources have divided these services into four categories: provisioning (production of food and water), regulating (the control of climate and disease), supporting (nutrient cycles and oxygen production), and cultural (spiritual and recreational benefits).
Ecozone: Also referred to as a biogeographic realm, and is the largest biogeographic division of the Earth's land surface. Ecozones are subdivided into ecoregions.
Effective Rainfall: The amount of rainfall that is stored in the soil, and is sufficient to nurture the plants (the amount that won’t end up evaporating).
Effluent: An emission of gas, liquid, or other waste product into a waterbody.
EITI: Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, is a relatively international standard (includes 52 countries) for the good governance of oil, gas and mineral resources.
Embodied Carbon: The amount of Carbon dioxide discharged during the manufacturing, transportation, and construction of building materials.
Embodied Energy: Similarly, it is the amount of energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the development of a building, from the earliest stages of mining and development of natural resources, to manufacturing, transportation, and final product delivery.
Emergy: Not a typo. Emergy or ‘energy memory’, constitutes of all the amounts of energy that were required to to make a product, both directly and indirectly.
Emissions: As a term, emissions refers to discharges. In ecology and sustainability, it is the discharge of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Energetics: Also referred to as energy economics, it is the study of energy under transformation.
Energetic Consumption: It is simply the quantity of energy or power used.
Energy: The technical definition of energy is “the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work”, which is either in the form of heat, light, or motion.
Energy Accounting: A type of accounting that uses the measure of our impact on nature (energy input required for a good or service).
Energy Audit: An inspection or assessment of the energy needs and efficiency of a building.
Energy Conservation / Energy Saving: is the effort made to reduce the consumption of energy by using energy more efficiently, for example, using passive designs in architecture, using biodegradable material in productions, depending on natural light during the day...
Energy Costs: Financial and non-financial expenses (the environmental impact, for instance) related to the development, transmission, and consumption of energy.
Energy Demand: The total energy used and needed by all human beings. Energy demand is measure every year, and is the sum of all energy collected from every energy source, every industry, and every civilization in every country.
Energy Intensity: In economics, energy intensity is a amount of the energy inefficiency of an economy. It is calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP. In physics, it is the radiant energy per unit area, or in other words, radiant exposure.
Energy Load: An electrical load is simply any element of an electric circuit that consumes energy, such as light bulbs, appliances, electronics…
Energy Performance Certificate: EPC’s are a rating blueprint to summarize the energy efficiency of buildings (exclusively in the European Union). Ratings range between A (Very efficient) and G (Inefficient).
Energy Recovery Ventilator: ERV is the exchange of energy inside a building or space and using it to treat the incoming outdoor ventilation air. These ventilators are mostly found in residential and commercial HVAC systems.
Energy-for-Land Ratio: The total amount of energy that can be produced per hectare of a fertile, productive land, measured with gigajoules per hectare and year.
Environmental Flows: Are the quantity, timing, and quality of water required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems (found below as estuary).
Environmental Impact Assessment: The evaluation of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, or actual projects before making the decision to move forward with a proposed action.
Environmental Indicators: Environmental indicators are simple measures that tell us what is happening in the environment. Since the environment is very complex, indicators provide a more practical and economical way to track the state of the environment than if we attempted to record every possible variable in the environment.
Environmental Movement: Sometimes referred to as the ecology movement, including conservation and green politics, is a diverse scientific, political, and social movement for addressing environmental issues.
EPC: An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is an energy efficiency rating for your property, and is legally mandatory on all properties being rented or sold.
Epidemiology: Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution of health and disease conditions in defined populations, by identifying all the nation’s risk factors and aims for preventive healthcare.
Erosion: In geology, erosion is the removal or displacement of soil, rock, or dissolved material from the Earth's surface, caused by natural forces.
Escherichia Coli (E.Coli): Escherichia Coli, also known as E. Coli is a bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of human beings and animals. A few types E.Coli bacteria can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting, and some extreme situations, death. Warm-blooded beings can be exposed to E. Coli from contaminated water, raw fruits and vegetables, and under-cooked meat.
Estuary: An estuary is a semi-enclosed body of salty water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. They form a transitional zone between river and marine environments.
Ethical Consumerism: Ethical consumerism is practiced through 'positive buying' in that ethical products are favored, and 'moral boycotts', where customers stop ‘negative purchasing’, or company-based purchasing.
Eutrophication: Eutrophication is when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which encourage excessive growth of plants and algae.
Euxinia: Euxinia or Euxinic conditions occur when water is both anoxic and sulfidic, meaning that there is no oxygen and an increased level of free hydrogen sulfide.
Evaporation: The transformation phase of a liquid as it changes into gas.
Evapotranspiration (ET): The total value of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth's land and ocean surface into the atmosphere.
Excavate: In archaeology, excavation is the “digging” of a site for the exposure, processing, and recording of ancient archaeological remains.
Exhaust Air / Exhaust Air Heat Pump: An Exhaust Air Heat Pump extracts heat from the exhaust air of a building and transfers it to the supply air, or heated water (tap water, showers..)
Exploratory Well: An exploratory well is a test hole dug by oil / gas companies to locate reserves of recoverable gas and oil.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): EPR is a strategy used in the field of waste management to add all of the environmental costs of a product throughout the its life cycle to its market price.
External Insulation: An external wall insulation system is a thermal insulation cladding which involves the use of expanded polystyrene, mineral wool, polyurethane foam or phenolic foam, covered with reinforced cement, wood, synthetic finish, or plaster.
External Shading: External shading can either be solid or perforated shading devices or panels mounted on the outside of the building to prevent direct sunlight.
External Water Footprints: The external water footprint of a country is measured by the annual amount of water resources used in foreign countries to produce goods and services imported into and consumed by the initial country.
Externality (Environmental Economics): In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to acquire it.
Fertigate: Fertilize + Irrigate; by adding fertilizers to the water source.
Fertilizers: are materials of natural or synthetic origin that are added to soils to supply plant nutrients that are essential to their growth.
Filtration: Filtration is any physical, biological, or mechanical procedure that separates solids from liquids by adding a medium that allows only the liquid to pass.
Flaring (Gas): A gas flare, also known as a flare stack, is a gas combustion device used in industrial plants, natural gas processing plants, as well as at oil or gas production sites.
Floor Heating: Underfloor heating is a form of central heating system which attains thermal comfort by indoor climate control using conduction, radiation and convection.
Fluid Connection: Elements used to connect various parts of fluid systems (hydraulic and pneumatic fittings) with a range of connectors, quick couplings, and rubber and thermoplastic hoses. These pieces are available in a large range of materials such as stainless steel, brass, thermoplastic, and rubber.
Fluid Dynamics: In engineering, fluid dynamics are a subcategory of fluid mechanics that describe the flow of liquids and gases.
Food Miles: The distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer, and is used to assess the environmental impact of food (including its impact on global warming).
Footprint: The range of operation or surface area covered by something.
Forage: Historically, the term refers to plants eaten by animals directly as crop residue or premature cereal crops, but can also include similar plants cut for barley, hay, or silage.
Fossil Fuels: Fossil fuel is a term for buried combustible deposits formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, or natural gases over millions of years.
Fossil Water: Fossil water or paleowater is an ancient body of water that has been contained in undisturbed spaces and sub-glacial lakes, like groundwater in an aquifer, for instance.
Fracturing (Hydraulic Fracking): The process of hydraulic fracturing involves the high-pressure injection of 'fracking fluid' into a well to create cracks in the deep-rock formations allowing natural gases and petroleum to flow more freely.
Freshwater: Fresh water is any naturally-occurring water except for seawater and brackish water. Fresh water are found in ice sheets, glaciers, icebergs, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.
Front (Water): The waterfront area of a town, or the area alongside any body of water.
Froogle (Frugal): People who live low-consumption life-styles, aiming towards waste-reduction and sustainability.
Fugitive Emissions: Emissions of gases from over-forced equipment due to leaks or irregular releases of gases (mostly from industrial factories) which contribute to air pollution.