Afforability, performance and environmental impacts both external and internal to buildings are the challenges.
The construction and use of modern buildings causes substantial environmental damage, creating a range of toxic emissions. Buildings create 50% of greenhouse gas emissions and considerable ecosystem degradation. Buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions.
Some of the causes and effects of the environmental damage and health impacts from construction and across the whole life-cycle of buildings are summarised below:
|Aspects of Built Environment:||
Siting, Design, Construction, Operation, Maintenance, Renovation and Deconstruction
Energy, Water, Materials and Natural resources
Waste, Air pollution, Water pollution, Indoor pollution, Heat islands, Storm water run-off and noise
|Ultimate Effects:||Harm to Human Health, Environment Degradation Loss and destruction of Resources|
The overuse of modern design rather than sensible use of traditional architecture or materials with recognised Environmental Product Declarations creates risks with toxic health implications. For example ‘modern’ houses over heat in sunny weather/climates and demand air conditioning, whilst the more traditional buildings have evolved over centuries a comfortable level of living with no need for energy intensive cooling. Product selection is another key issue, eg., choice of inappropiate insulation that causes environmental damage through resource depletion and/or toxic emissions.
The reduced use of locally available resources increases environmental impact through transportation of materials from afar.
The health of people and communities and the quality of the environment are closely linked.
By consideration of the isssues above and more and building in a self-sustaining manner, the quality of the environment can be improved immeasurably with an increase in both the well-being of people and nature. Key to health is consideration of building biology factors and Environmemental Product Declarations and certification from recognized bodies.
Slow government action
Governments worldwide agree the need for action to address unsustainable environmental and health damage. However, Governments/large organisations suffer from political conflicts, competing needs and a lack of knowledge/coherent information plus an unwillingness to change. National governments and International groups have demonstrated the problem very clearly with an absence of unified plans of action to address speedily the climate change agenda as well as the wider impacts from pollution (esp. poor air quailty) and biodioversity loss.
SSB practices 'joins-up the challenging dots' of afforability, performance and environmental impacts both external and internal to buildings to help address these challenges.
Whilst the practices and technologies for Self-Sustaining Building (SSB) are available now, their adoption is slow. SSB practices enable prompt practical
action towards a sustainable future.
The adoption of the best SSB practices will not only address the environmental impacts of buildings but will also help to reduce location vulnerabilities as well improved security, affordability, life-style comfort and health.
To accelerate world-wide adoption of SSB practice for both new build and retrofit , the SSB Programme offers the following opportunities:
The focus of activities will be as follows:
|Developed nations||Reducing the environmental damage of buildings in advanced economies and improving energy security with significant contributions to climate change targets and agendas|
|Developing nations||Improving health standards through better building design, structure and material use including water and energy supply, waste management; mitigating environmental damage and climate vulnerabilities|
|Structures:||Homes - single or multiple|
Workplaces & Communities
|Condition:||New build or Retrofit|
|Sites:||Rural, Peri-urban and Urban|
The emphasis of activities will include: circular economy. eco-efficiency and resource demand, climate or specific risks, such as earthquake zones or flood.
With thanks to US EPA for some of this information -www.epa.gov/greenbuilding. This url may no longer be available following the election of President Trump and his anti-sustainability thinking. But the Obama-era EPA website survives on EPA servers at 19january2017snapshot.epa.gov,