With the warm weather finally here, many of us are thinking about new home projects. But how often do we think about projects that can reduce our ecological footprint and increase the health of our community, or the impact of the materials we use when we build?
We can contribute to a global effort to increase the number of green buildings in our communities. A green building refers to one constructed by using any method that will minimize or eliminate adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Multiple ideas can apply to green buildings, ranging from the use of solar panels as a way to increase energy efficiency to the installation of a simple rain barrel to reduce city water consumption. The concept of a green building encompasses the analysis of how materials we use in our projects will have an impact on the environment over their lifetime. This means looking at them from the planning and design stage through to the construction, operation, maintenance, and demolition of the project.
The green building concept has gained traction because conventional buildings have massive ecological impacts throughout their life cycle. For example, buildings account for one quarter of global carbon emissions and more than 10 per cent of global water consumption every year. By incorporating several measures to reduce our footprint, we can conserve precious natural resources. The green building concept is not only for houses or apartment buildings, you can also apply it to your garden or backyard, such as in the construction of a small greenhouse or a plant wall made of recycled materials.
Green building projects can include issues such as water resource consumption (efficient management and recycling), energy efficiency, material efficiency (by using sustainable, non-toxic and locally sourced building materials), health and well-being of occupants (better ventilation, natural light, improved indoor air quality), and waste reduction (reduce, reuse and recycle).
Green buildings offer a multitude of benefits for the environment including the preservation of natural resources, enhanced ecosystem health and biodiversity and lower waste generation. Green buildings also provide economic advantages, such as lower operation and maintenance costs that mean savings on water and energy bills due to increased efficiencies.
In the Niagara Region, green buildings have a high potential to address many long-term sustainability targets while simultaneously providing solutions to pressing economic development concerns such as resilient infrastructure. In upcoming articles, the MEOPAR team will focus on some aspects of green infrastructure and the various certifications that exist to certify buildings as sustainable.
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at email@example.com
Photo caption: Greg Redden, Principal Architect at Macdonald Zuberec Ensslen Architects Inc, stands in the DSBN Walkers Living Classroom, in the Woodend Conservation Area. His firm designed this green space, or living classroom, to engage all senses in the learning environment while also utilizing natural light and space so that no utilities are used and energy costs are reduced.