From: Supriya Kumar, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published January 23, 2013 05:04 PM

From Light Green to Sustainable Buildings

As more people move to urban areas in search of economic opportunities, the number of buildings that are needed to house them continues to rise. It is estimated that by 2030, an additional 1.4 billion people will live in cities, of which 1.3 billion will dwell in cities of developing countries. The increasing number of buildings has long-term impacts on both the environment and natural resources. Fortunately, a variety of policy tools hold promise for promoting sustainability in buildings, according to Kaarin Taipale, contributing author of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. The buildings in which we live and work are a major consumer of energy, responsible for some 30—40 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, a similar share of total solid waste, and 12 percent of all fresh water used. With the rate of urbanization reaching record levels, there will be more construction and buildings than ever before.

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The introduction and enforcement of effective public policies can be the cheapest and most efficient method for promoting sustainability in the construction and use of buildings, Taipale says. The goal is to radically reduce buildings’ environmental footprint and long-term negative social and financial effects.

"Policies can control (via restrictive regulations), motivate (via incentives), or call for attention (via awareness-raising), and successful policy packages may combine all three characteristics," notes Taipale, an urban researcher from Finland. "In the rush to market everything as green, builders superficially label their buildings as such. But although a solar panel on the roof may look good in a photo, it is certainly no proof of the sustainability of a building."

Even modestly light-green buildings, as Taipale describes them, account for only a tiny fraction of total construction worldwide. She notes that the best way to move construction beyond greenwashing is through strict enforcement of ambitious building regulations and fulfillment of measurable targets.

For further information see Buildings.

Green Building image via Wikipedia.

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