The importance of buildings

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The importance of buildings

“Only 4 Percent of U.S. Adults Know That Buildings are Leading Source of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions” according to a recent survey. The press release is here, but not the full report. I’m a little hesitant about posting this – a press release isn’t verified data – but the topic is so relevant to the armchair environmentalist that I’m going ahead.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), buildings are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, but in a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), only 4 percent of U.S. Adults were aware of this fact. Autodesk, a leader of design innovation software and technologies, is one of more than 1,000 companies coming together in Boston at the 2008 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo to raise awareness about this important issue and present solutions to help the building industry decrease carbon emissions.

Here’s an extract from my book Eco Living, published in 2000, on just this subject:

The Energy-Efficient Home

Our buildings are the most wasteful energy users in industrial countries. Turning down the heat and insulating the attic may seem mundane, but these steps are important and there are many others that you can take.
Architects are increasingly conscious of energy efficient design. There are a number of model building projects around the country where energy use is as little as a quarter of that in similar but conventionally built houses, thanks to advance insulation and materials and careful orientation. We can also choose energy efficient appliances and products.

Better home insulation led to awareness of the dangers of combustion by products, which include formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and a host of other vapours and gases, because in a well insulated house they invariably build up more than in a traditional draughty British home. Contrary to expectation, studies have found that colds and ’flu are less likely in draughty buildings. This may be because there is a build up of viruses in well-sealed buildings or because fresh air is needed to keep our immune systems functioning effectively (see also Chapter 4).

A high-tech super insulated building will need mechanical ventilation, and indoor air pollution control will be essential. Be especially careful to ensure that gas appliances have plenty of ventilation – to the outside! – while in operation. They must be correctly adjusted in order to burn efficiently. In the summer, a small ceiling fan helps to keep the place cool and in winter it circulates the warm air which would otherwise rise to the top of the room and stay there.

Tips for Reducing your Carbon Contribution

  • Choose the smallest home that is reasonable for you or your family. Consider sharing or renting out excess space.
  • Minimise your heating, cooling and hot water costs.
  • Maintain efficient lighting and appliances.
  • Use non-electrical equipment whenever possible.
  • Buy certified organic produce (organic food is grown without energy-intensive chemicals).
  • Plant trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetable (plants absorb carbon from the air).
  • Use local shops and ask for locally grown products.
    Choose a power company that offer renewable energy – more options are coming and Friends of the Earth can help now with a list of greener electricity companies (see Resources).

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One Comment

  1. Josh Maxwell 14 December, 2008 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks

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