What drives the need for sustainable development?
The global human population has doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion within our own lifetimes. We are conscious of the ever increasing pressures population growth places on society, resources, infrastructure and the environment. The human race has a responsibility to the future generations of all life on Earth. We need to learn how to do more with less. In the construction industry we need to aim to achieve buildings that are not just sustainable, but productive: buildings that contribute positively to their surroundings.
Buildings can achieve the following with some thought, careful design and existing technologies:
- Harvest more water and energy from their immediate environs than they require.
- Minimise energy, water and space requirements with good design.
- Implement cogeneration, such as harnessing excess heat from mechanical plant to heat water.
- Recycling waste streams, such as collecting cooking oil for converting to fuel.
- Recycle and upcycle existing built components and materials from elsewhere.
- Contribute to food security with edible gardens.
- Transform degraded land into sites that positively contribute to community, environment and improved biodiversity.
What impact do buildings have on the environment?
"Buildings have a significant impact on the environment, consuming 32% of the world's resources including 12% of its water and up to 40% of its energy. Buildings also produce 40% of all waste going to landfill, and 40% of air emissions." (Green Building Council of Australia, Green Star office design V2, 2007)
Holistic "triple bottom line" sustainable building
- Environmental sustainability is about enabling a space to run optimally and comfortably, causing minimal ecological impact, and with very little reliance on non-renewable natural resources.
- Economical sustainability is about ensuring buildings are affordable, resilient, flexible, adaptable, enduring, low maintenance, and are inexpensive to operate
- Social sustainability is about providing amenity to services, transport and infrastructure, ensuring buildings are safe and accessible for everyone in society. It is also about creating places that respond appropriately to cultural imperatives; socially sustainable design contributes positively to urban spaces and our shared sense of community.
The benefits of building sustainably
- Have lower operating costs
- Enhance marketability
- Are healthier places to live and work
- Provide future-proofed assets