We are living in an era of environmental degradation. Pollutants are poisoning our oceans, rivers, soil and air quality. Buildings emit over 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. This amounts to more than one third of the continent's greenhouse gas pollution output. The destruction and renovation of buildings results in a large amount of waste. Building waste includes concrete, metals, glass, plastics, wood, asphalt, bricks and more.
According to the Energy Information Agency, 45% of all energy consumption in the United States and Europe is from buildings. The U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates buildings account for an average of 41% of the world’s energy use. A building’s lighting, heating, and cooling systems and outlet use all consume energy.
Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. It is possible to create buildings that are inherently more sustainable, perform better, use less energy, and create less waste.
Three reasons why buildings should be connected in harmony with nature:
1. Increased Profits
A much criticized issue about constructing environmentally friendly buildings is the initial cost. Green buildings cost only 2% more than conventional buildings, but yield 10 times as much over the entire lifespan of the building (Greening Our Built World). The implementation of biophilic strategies are increasing profits even farther. This involves integrating plants, water, and animal life into a building. Greening and biophilic considerations for buildings continue to grow as the benefits become more prolific and proven.
2. Healthier Occupants
Many of us spend the majority of our waking lives within buildings. We live in an age where a building owner often has significant impact on an occupant’s health and wellbeing. Researchers interested in environmental health issues are taking a hard look at examining whether changes in indoor variables— carbon dioxide levels or amount of lighting, for example— influence our performance, behavior and health (Healthy buildings, productive people). According to a recent study, 10% of employee absences can be attributed to architecture with no connection to nature (The Economics of Biophilia). Humans evolved to spend time in dwellings integrated with natural surroundings. We're drawn to spaces that interact with nature. The more connected a building is with nature, the healthier its occupants will be.
3. A Better Earth
A reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants will positively impact local communities and the planet. Buildings are globally responsible for a huge share of energy, electricity, water, and materials consumption. The air we collectively breathe is becoming increasingly toxic. The building sector has the greatest potential to deliver significant cuts in emissions at little or no cost. Building green helps address the challenge of climate change because the technology to make substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions already exists. Our buildings will firmly stand as part of the problem unless we ensure they’re the very solution.
Urbanization will continue to accelerate at a never before seen pace. As this occurs, we have an increased responsibility and opportunity to make a positive impact. There must be greater awareness to how buildings are connected to the environment and our wellbeing. As we bring buildings in harmony with nature we will be rewarded with increased profits, healthier occupants, and a better Earth.