Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Every day we read about saving our planet by cleaning up the oceans, changing our lifestyles, protesting against inaction by politicians in our climate crisis. One thing we don't hear so much about is actually building a greener, more sustainable world, house by house, street by street. Welcome to the new world of green building!
Cities consume around 40% of global energy consumption, emitting enormous emissions and negatively impacting the environment in numerous ways. The good news is that buildings are changing fast - both new and old. From Europe to Australia, green buildings are popping up left right and centre. Its a real green revolution - coming to your street too!
The principles are easy to understand - starting by reducing demand - for energy and water. Green buildings are well insulated - not letting that precious heat out in winter and protecting us from the hot summer sun at the same time. Lighting and ventilation use firstly natural "passive" sources and then only where needed energy-saving LED lights and low-energy ventilation. They are equipped with water-saving fittings - which cut off when you don't need them.
Once the demand for energy and resources is reduced, we come onto the energy sources. You guessed it - they rely firstly on locally sourced renewable energy - solar, geothermal and heat pumps. Biomass is another popular option. Many green buildings go beyond passive-house or zero net energy (ZEB) but actually generate excess power for nearby buildings.
It goes beyond that even. Materials used in many green buildings are much lighter and eco-friendly. This reduces their environmental footprint. Inside they are healthier places as the air is richer in oxygen (replaced and filtered regularly from outside) and materials are healthier - not emitting dangerous chemicals.
Such buildings are classed as "high performance" - allowing humans to perform their tasks better - regardless if they are offices, hospitals or homes. The owners of such offices actually make more money as the buildings are occupied for longer by better tenants and receiving a higher rent. The energy, water and maintenance bills are of course significantly lower - a win-win!
The spread of such building techniques is championed by Green Building Councils - associations of professional builders, consultants, manufacturers, architects and engineers, working in over 100 countries. In Germany the Council is called the DGNB. Green building rating tools such as BREEAM, LEED and DGNB System ensure that buildings can be relied on to perform.
Lastly Green Building is infectious! I started reading about it 15 years ago and here I am today, running the GBC in Russia and spending much of my time with the community of likeminded greenbuilders across the world, looking at innovation and comparing results. Welcome to our world!
Guy Eames - a "Europeanised Brit" living between Moscow and the UK set up the Russian GBC (RuGBC) in 2009 and is a contributor to Caryzma