Monday, November 8, 2010

Part of the Solution

So we've overdeveloped ourselves into a climate crisis, now what? That's the major, major problem going forward for the entire world: how do we cut down our demands on a natural system that is crumbling under the weight of human habitation? One of the first steps, and the easiest, is to follow the lead of the IPCC guidelines and reduce the energy demands created by the built environment. This built environment accounts for nearly half of all energy and resource consumption, so it's the logical place to begin to reduce our impact.

Examples of this kind of approach are emerging in projects around the globe. They are projects that are moving towards "zero carbon" footprints in response to this challenge.

Architecture 2030 identifies that buildings are the problem, as well as the solution. It lays out a strategy of carbon reduction over time, with the idea that older, inefficient structures will be recycled or replaced with structures that minimize this carbon cycle in its construction, operation and maintenance. This approach is being most effectively implemented by three organizations, USGBC, AIA and Architecture 2030.

What kinds of development and building structure emerge from these requirements? Eco-Structure showcases three buildings that have completed the first full set of third-party audits for the Living Building Challenge from the International Living Building Institute. A slideshow of these buildings show a very sensitive placement in their environments, and these structures exhibit very simple use of materials and systems.

The approach to our human systems must be that they function in concert with natural systems, and that the entirety of our human systems doesn't exceed what the natural systems can support. We've passed that point with the cumulative extraction of coal, oil and gas, and must now move quickly to put this in reverse and live within the means of energy and water that can be sustainably used. The mindset has to change when the net demand of human societies is greater than the air, water and food sources that this planet can support. The mindset must necessarily shift from consumption to putting money in the bank and not eroding principal. The same thing every parent should be teaching their kids, but which capitalism pitched out the window in an overweening assault on people and ecology for little pieces of green paper.