Born in the waning years of the Baby Boom and growing up during the oil embargo of the 1970’s; I witnessed the long lines at the gas pumps and instances of the subsequent violence stemming from the fear. So, if asked I would have told you that transportation was the sector that consumed the largest amount of energy and emitted the most carbon in the US.
Much to my surprise it’s not transportation but the building sector by far. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as reported in 2015, when compared to industry and transportation buildings consume:
- 47.6% of the energy consumed in the US
- 74.9% of the electricity generated in the US
EIA projections indicate this trend will only increase. You can view these reports, and more, at their website located at eia.gov.
This information was astounding and basically called me out as a professional. I considered myself doing “my part” by driving vehicles with high mpg but, as an architect, I was contributing to this hardening of the earth. It was how I was educated and trained.
My answer to this call launched a journey that allowed me to look at how we design, construct, and maintain buildings to create such energy hogs. It eventually, led to my obtaining a Masters of Sustainable Design, then more importantly, how I could change my practice to mitigate the impact on both the built and natural environment.
First, I need to know what was the target or goal – how were sustainable buildings determined. I investigated Net Zero Buildings and the Living Building known as the Omega Center. No matter one’s definition of a sustainable structure both were incredible resources to provide examples of sustainable structures.
However, with 87 billion square feet of existing building stock in the US, as reported by the EIA, it wouldn’t matter how sustainable future buildings were. Unless we addressed our existing stock we couldn’t build enough to make up the deficit! I felt “greening” the existing square footage required further investigation.
I’ll continue my journey in my next blog post. Until then, you can always email me or comment below and ask questions you would like answered. I look forward to building a platform for discussion with you.
Until next time,