Green Buildings Will Sustain the Future Health of Billions

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By 2050, the world’s population is expected to hit nine billion. And, by that year, scientists have projected that 80 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments. In the United States alone, research indicates that people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, as noted in a TriplePundit article.

Unfortunately, buildings can have concentrations of some pollutants that are two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These pollutants can come in the form of aging infrastructure, portable air conditioners, poor ventilation or other forms.

Because of this, more buildings will be needed to meet the increasing demand for high indoor environmental quality (IEQ) for growing populations, especially in developing nations and urban areas like Bangkok, Jakarta and Istanbul.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) defines IEQ as the quality of a building’s environment in relation to the health and well being of those who occupy it. Buildings with a high IEQ are also generally energy efficient, which can dramatically reduce the total operating cost of residential and commercial buildings.

Taking all of this data into consideration, what will influence future buildings around the world? How will builders plan for more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient buildings to enhance work and residential spaces for future indoor populations in urban areas around the world?

Here are some key trends that will have an impact on the buildings billions of people will occupy:

A growing opportunity for renovation

A move towards more energy efficient buildings can start with existing buildings. According to the EPA, existing buildings account for nearly one-third of the electricity consumed, and generate up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is that the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences, states that “IEQ improvements to an existing building can occur at any point during the use of a building.”

Not only is renovating and reusing the existing inventory of buildings around the world an environmentally-friendly decision, it’s also an economic opportunity. Typically, building renovations require more labor and use less material, which is a benefit for the environment and local economies.

An article from Middle East Climate Control also points out that in the “Foreseeable future, the greatest energy, operating and service performance-improvement opportunities can be found in the world’s inventory of existing buildings.”

LEED-ing with best practices

In the United States alone, more than 44,000 buildings are LEED-certified, while 48 percent of new building construction is green. That percentage is expected to rise 10 percent by 2015. And, according to recent reports, green building is being increasingly viewed as a standard best practice among architects, engineers and contractors.

One example of a first-rate LEED-certified building in the United States is the offices at Sony Pictures Entertainment in California. Built in 2010, the environmental performance inside and outside of the building is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 300 tons annually over Sony’s previous offices. The building also features sensor lights and low-flow toilets while more than 95 percent of waste was recycled during the construction process.

Air quality awareness

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that 3.5 million people die each year from indoor air pollution. This alarming number calls attention to indoor air quality and what Eco-Business.com called the ‘sick building syndrome.’ People who work in aging and poorly maintained offices and commercial spaces often suffer from ailments like tiredness, headaches, sneezing, coughing and other illnesses related to difficulties from the environment.

In recent years, many organizations and green publications have worked to bring more attention and awareness to indoor air quality, including the EPA, the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) and dozens of environmental media outlets. To help people get a better understanding, the EPA has readily-available resources like “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality” on its web site.

In addition to renovation, best practices and an increase in awareness, software enhancements are providing builders with the ability to analyze and predict the long-term implications of energy-efficient alternatives during the design and construction phases.

As builders begin to tap into the potential of green building and the world population adds billions in the coming decades we can expect to see these trends influence the future of the buildings.

Article by Amber Arneson who is an athlete through and through. She has competed in triathlons all over country, and loves to write about health, wellness and green living.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • http://www.spree.net.au/about-us/sustainability/sustainability-initiatives Ben

    The future of urban design and architecture should really be molded with sustainability initiatives if we’re to hit 9 B at 2050. Great article, thanks for sharing!