Climate change is a grave threat that is unique in that it impacts every living thing on our planet, representing an existential crisis for humanity. Despite continued discussions around the goal of limiting warming to 1.5ºC to forestall the most dire impacts of climate change, we are not even close to making the significant changes required to make this possible - in fact, our emissions continue to increase today.
If we do not reduce emissions by more than 40% by 2030 and completely stop adding emissions entirely by 2050, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC will likely be impossible, so time is a critical component of this issue. If you stop to really reflect on these numbers on a personal level, you can envision how challenging it may be to reduce your own emissions by almost half in the next handful of years. Then thinking about that at the scale of corporations and countries, the extreme urgency of the situation and the challenge in meeting this goal becomes stark.
Why are architects talking about this?
Buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global emissions that contribute to climate change. About 30% of those are due to building operations and about 10% are due to the emissions that are generated in the production of materials and the activity of construction (often referred to as embodied carbon).
What can we do?
While the enormity of the task may seem daunting, we as architects, and you as building owners, have the opportunity to make an important impact with the choices we make during the course of your project. We can create buildings that require little energy to operate. We can make simple material substitutions - for example, one type of insulation for another - that do not necessarily add cost but can result in a substantial reduction in emissions. One of the wonderful things about buildings is their longevity - it can be a gift to those who come after you. The choices made in this process will have lasting, generational impacts.
Did you know?
Sustainable buildings are typically more comfortable - warm, bright, and quiet; and healthy - with good indoor air quality and non-toxic materials.
Buildings can produce enough energy to offset their energy use and be “net-zero”.
Buildings can also be “net-zero” for embodied carbon because some materials actually store carbon. Buildings can even be “net-positive” and act as carbon sinks!