By Makenna Morrison Gary
First off, what does “building green,” mean? When you search the definition on the web, it says something like: “eco-friendly buildings.” This leaves many unanswered questions. What does it mean to be ecologically friendly? How can you be environmentally sustainable when building a house or commercial building? Is it better to build green or not? What are the pros and cons of each side? How does building green affect the world? All of these questions will be answered in this paper eventually.
Tracing back to the roots of building green, the concept was taken a step farther in the 1970’s, when there was a transient fuel shortage in the US and Western Europe which caused numerous governments to set building codes to maximize energy efficiency. Multiple organizations established their own guidelines beginning in the 1990’s. “In 1998, a non-profit organization called the U.S. Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.” (Harvey Bryan, Ph.D.) This inspired many architects and builders to innovate and create new ideas. Sustainable architecture has no limits. The main purpose of sustainable architecture is to affect the rest of the world in a more positive way and minimize the carbon footprint each human makes.
In order to be eco-friendly, the buildings and the people in them have to minimize their impact on the environment based off of the byproducts of the way their building is created and what the people do in their building. When most think of the term “building green” their minds go to solar panels and green roofs, but those are only photographs in an entire collage. There are many other different ways to incorporate environmentally sustainable features into a building including rain-water catchment systems, insulation such as straw or recycled blue jeans, natural sun lighting, plants, reusing materials, energy-efficient lights, solar windows, light colored walls, etc.
Some believe that building green is unethical and does more harm than good. Many ways to add environmentally friendly aspects to your building are extremely expensive. From the beginning of modifying a building to be “green,” it costs a large amount of money. Especially since sustainable architecture is not that common yet, services will charge for more. Custom made houses will also be quite pricey. Environmentally friendly buildings also take more time and effort to make compared to an average structure. Many materials are in limited quantity and need to be shipped over long distances, contradicting the whole point of not wasting energy. Additionally, some features, such as solar panels won’t work in some regions, making a “green” building a harder goal to achieve. Sometimes, building green has some health concerns. For instance, some of the reused materials or items used inside a house can be toxic and potentially dangerous. Some energy-efficient LED lights can be dangerous, they contain toxic materials and they can damage your eyes. Manufacturing products like solar panels take a large amount of energy and can have harmful side effects. Also, solar panels contain harmful chemicals. Solar panel plants create waste harmful to the environment.
Others say that there are way more advantages to sustainable architecture than downsides. The best thing that building green does is the fact that it decreases the amount of waste put into the world and is good for the environment. Environmentally friendly buildings help clean the air and decrease greenhouse gases in multiple ways. Literal “green” buildings with green roofs clean the air by the plants absorbing the CO2.
Typically, the air inside a building is more polluted than the air outside. A way to make these building greener and more sustainable is to add plants. Some specific research concludes that the plants Areca palm, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and Money plant are the best plants for cleaning indoors. “Areca palm is a plant which removes CO2 and converts into oxygen. We need four shoulder-high plants per person… The third plant is money plant… and this particular plant removes formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals.” (Kamal Meattle) He said with the air they produce you could practically live in a bottle and survive.
Solar panels are called “renewable energy” because you could live off of the energy produced by the sun until it dies (which won’t happen for a long, long time.) The world’s supply of coal, oil, and gas, is equal to just two weeks worth of the sun’s energy. Having solar-powered features on buildings is important because a study showed that 68% of the country’s energy usage is from buildings (DOE 2002). The same study shows that over half that is from coal (DOE 2002). Coal is an unrenewable source of energy that pollutes the environment that we will eventually run out of. Other positive impacts building green makes include creating more jobs, improving health, and reducing long-term costs for families and businesses.
The research concludes that sustainable architecture is better for the world and adds to help create a healthier ecosystem. It is morally and ethically right to do it if it means helping to save the world. Even if something costs more, but you have plenty of money, you should go for the green alternative. There aren’t much fossil fuels left, humans are about to reach the end of using fossil fuels for power. Humans have only used fossil fuels as a primary source of energy for a couple hundred years when they took billions of years to create. Many studies have shown that we will run out of the world’s supply of fossil fuels in less than a hundred years and if we carry on the increasing population we will run out of oil by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal by 2088 (CIA).
Now is the time for action. The small things each person gives into in their life add up and deeply affects the entirety of the world. “And, remember, it’s sometimes the things that you are not expecting to be the biggest changes that are. (-Catherine Mohr).” Most people are inherently lazy and will take the easiest options they can in there life. The question remains: is this ethical if it affects the people of the world who are trying their hardest to save the world from peril? Is it ethical if it affects those who have no say in human’s decisions like animals and plants? People are entitled to their own opinions and to do what they want, and it would take away their freedom to tell people what they have to do, but because there is a way to save or at least delay the destruction of the ecosystem, they SHOULD do it. The world’s governmental figures have a high influence on the world and many are doing a good job with this problem, although there is always room for improvement. Some governmental figures understand what’s going on but refuse to do anything about it, and instead prioritize calling each other names over saving our ecosystem.
To end on a positive note, so many people are changing their perspectives on the world and devoting their lives to protecting it. Many career paths have opened to innovating the future and learning from our mistakes to put issues in the past. People are finding inspiration and joining together to create change. It takes one person to light a spark, it takes others to add kindle to create a raging fire.