Buildings contribute nearly 40% of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, so the push is on to “get to zero” on many fronts. What happens when ambitious goals like zero energy meet a conventional building industry that’s structured on repetition and cost, in a market that struggles to keep up with massive demand? This is often—too often—our challenge.
The first lockdown brought most of the world to a standstill, and many were quick to point out the silver lining: the significant drop in carbon emissions. However, this pollution reduction was short-lived, and past crises indicate that we might be standing at a crossroads when it comes to our climate goals. What has this unprecedented year meant for the efforts to curb climate change and protect the environment?
The concept of “decarbonization” has been in vogue recently in political speeches and global environmental events, but it has not yet gained enough attention in the field of architecture to profoundly change the way we design and construct the world of tomorrow. Buildings are currently responsible for 33% of global energy consumption and 39% of greenhouse gas emissions, indicating that architects must play a significant role if we are to stop or reverse climate change. With carbon acting as a universally agreed upon metric with which the greenhouse gas emissions of a building can be tracked , one of the most important ways through which this goal can be achieved is therefore the decarbonization of buildings.
The 20th century was an era of unbelievable change, with more revolutionary ideas and scientific developments than perhaps any era before it. But among the many developments in the material sciences, one stands as perhaps the most revolutionary: plastics. An experimental group of materials at the turn of the century, artificial plastics are so ubiquitous now that it's almost impossible to imagine life without them.
However, in the 21st century plastics have gained a bad reputation; commonly produced from oil, plastics are a non-renewable resource and, after spending decades or even centuries polluting our environment, most plastics will eventually degrade to release their carbon into the atmosphere. Recycling plastic will go some way to slow this problem, but with so many modern products relying on plastic - and our tendency toward increasing consumption showing no signs of slowing - recycling can only do so much.
But what if there was a way to use plastics to actually reverse the release of greenhouse gases? That's exactly what Newlight Technologies is attempting to do with their carbon-negative plastic, AirCarbon.
Which cities are embracing the green revolution? This infographic compares the efforts of six leading cities - New York, Vancouver, Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam and Stockholm - in the race to drastically reduce global C02 emissions. Based predominantly on 2009 statistics, Stockholm seems to be leading the way in carbon reduction. Continue reading after the break to see who claims the blue ribbon for renewable energy, efficient water consumption and rigorous recycling.
Enthusiasm for water and energy data collection for commercial and residential buildings has been growing strong across the U.S. in major cities such as Austin, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. It's no surprise to learn that Earth-friendly Seattle is ahead of the game when it comes to tracking its buildings; reports show that the city is receiving data for a whopping 87% of its commercial and multi-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet, which totals to 1,160 individual properties covering over 200 million square feet of the city.