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Green Architecture, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1566

Research Paper

Overview

Green architecture is also commonly referred to as “sustainable architecture”. The concept behind either usage, however, is the same: a mode of building homes, offices, factories, or virtually any structure used by mankind in a way that most serves long-term ecological concerns. It is a movement in building and design in keeping with the needs of a world increasingly aware of its own precarious natural resources, and one that addresses the most efficient and ecologically-sound means of heating, cooling, generating power, and disposing of waste that may be utilized.

Not unexpectedly, the concept is relatively new, as a widespread awareness of how modern, urban life was both exhausting the natural energy sources so long thought to be in no danger of disappearing, and greatly reducing the scope and and health of natural ecosystems and environments. Once interest took hold, however, support for green architecture grew quickly and is rising today: “The last ten to fifteen years have seen the creation of a number of green building organizations: the U.S. Green Building Council, the Building Research Establishment, Energy Star, the Green Building Initiative, and many others… They have brought the concept…into the mainstream and have created a market-based movement” (Sarte 24).

This last observation is a pivotal factor in the continued adoption of green building strategies. All building is a costly process, and the perception that green building is far more expensive has served to hamper its progress. This, however, is changing already. Architects and planners now accept that “…spending more money in construction to create an energy-efficient building can end up saving huge amounts of money through the life of the building” (Snell, Callahan 582).

With builders increasingly competing to achieve sustainability in their work, a prohibitive cost factor which was a major challenge within putting the concept into action is dramatically lessened. As green architecture becomes the standard, rather than the exception, green builders will have less difficulty in obtaining the materials and equipment for the systems they require, and the price will be more practically based upon these products as being the most consistently created.

Importance of the Green Concept in Building

If there was a time when those directly influencing architecture trends and building methods on all levels were dismissive of green building, those days are over. Recent and devastating examples of how fragile and limited natural resources are have been glaringly obvious. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010 carried with it resounding evidence of how one such catastrophe could impact on sustainability in ways not immediately apparent, from the harm done to the fishing industries to the financial losses from the impact to tourism. In a very real sense, the sustainability of even non-green hotels and other business structures was greatly in danger from an energy-related, ecological disaster.

Beyond this, the sheer costs of proceeding in non-green modes of building serve to make that option not a reliable practice, but a risky proposition in itself. The massive raise in gasoline prices of 2007 and 2008 was an extension of oil cost escalations everywhere; residences in the Northeast U.S. faced monthly heating bills in winter which had doubled from only a few years earlier. Resources of all kinds dwindle, and short supply translates to higher cost. Ecological considerations aside, green building is quickly emerging as the most economical way to go.

Then, since the 1960’s, awareness of natural environments has become widespread. Originally perceived as a fringe movement of fanatics, the very concept of safeguarding the earth’s natural systems and environments from man-made pollutants has become integral in mainstream culture and ideology. If this movement required further reinforcement, another look at the impact of the Gulf spill is all that is needed. Over a period of months, daily news reports brought home to viewers how an accident seemingly isolated deep under a vast body of water could jeopardize business and life a thousand miles away. Tourists were disgusted by oil beads on the beaches, as the dead sea life washing up on the shores carried with it a double message: the spill was killing natural life, and this was also destroying a vital food industry.

The lesson strongly told came late, but lost none of its effectiveness in the timing. Sustainability is not an issue limited to a gentle, marginal desire to preserve rainforests far away. It is a crucial factor in the chain of life, and one that is manifested in some sense in everything that concerns human beings. Moreover, should any sense of real support for green architecture seem to be lacking, there is this fact: “Of all the organizations involved in green building efforts in the USA, the federal government is both the largest customer and arguably its greatest proponent” (Kilbert, Sendzimir, & Guy 4). Obviously, green architecture is not the province of a few fanatics anymore, if ever it actually was.

Green building is not, however, effortless. The greatest negative aspect to it lies, federal approval notwithstanding, in overcoming permit difficulties, and typically at local levels. “Local officials may be unwilling to approve of technologies they view as risky or bound by outdated laws” (Mellaver, Mueller 273). Given how recent the advent and rise of green architecture is, this is a not unexpected issue. It is, however, one which must fade as green building becomes more a fixture in every landscape, and the technologies themselves become more familiar.

Green Building in Action

The U.S. Green Building Council, in operation since 1998, created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, and obtaining this recognition has become the standard  for green builders and architects everywhere. Completed in 2001, the Whitehead Biomedical Research Laboratory in Atlanta’s Emory University became one of the first major structures to receive this certification and remains today the largest such certified building in the Southeast. It is as well exceptional in that “greening” of the building actually began after it was almost completely designed.

There was initial resistance to the increased costs of altering the design, but careful research and projections won the decision. It was made known to the university administrators that dispensing all the cooled, inside air such a building generates up and into fume hood would be enormously wasteful. An “energy recovery wheel” was installed, and this merges outside and inside air in a far more efficient manner, cutting cooling and heating costs in the process. Also: “By recovering water from the air-conditioning condensate and pumping it to the cooling towers…the project also saved 2.5 million gallons of water per year” (Yudelson, Fedrizi 18).

On the other side of the world, the Henry Deane Building in Sydney, Australia is a prominent example of that country’s determination to support green architecture. Completed in 2002, a wide variety of sustainable systems were implemented in the design, from using recycled materials for its base, to sophisticated, high-tech windows and lighting designs with “electronic ballasts”. The Henry Deane has since gone on to serve as a template for current and future projects in Australia, as well as globally.

Supporting the Green Building Concept

The advantages to green architecture, and on every level, are hard to deny. The ecologically-conscious individual is gratified by its respect for natural systems and environments, as the person perhaps less concerned with such things is drawn by the sheer practicality of it. Green building saves money, and in a manner that “sustains” itself, as energy reductions always mean lower energy costs.

The best means for the average person to both support green architecture and to benefit from it is on a small scale. That is, while a delegation of green advocates at the workplace may effect change in this direction, each person must also realize that they have as much power to “go green” themselves as they choose to exercise.

The apartment dweller, for instance, serves the community at large by selecting a residence built in keeping with green codes. Such buildings and complexes may be perceived as more expensive to rent, but business is always concerned with sustaining itself under any circumstances, and these apartments typically fall into normal ranges of rent because the owners face reduced running costs. Meanwhile, the homeowner planning on building his own house makes a huge mistake if they do not pursue green design. A home is a commitment, a commitment means time, and the more time in a green residence means greater savings, year after year.

In all of this, the point is inescapable: sustainability sustains itself, in that the advantages to green building are reflected in every aspect of living. Be it office building, restaurant, shop or massive factory, the benefits of green design cannot fail to give a return in proportion to the nature and size of the structure, easing the lives of the people within it and doing the least possible damage to the natural world outside it.

Works Cited

Kilbert, C. J., Sendzimir, J., and Guy, G.B. Construction Ecology: Nature as the Basis for Green Buildings. New York, NY: Spon Press, 2002. Print.

Mellaver, M., and Mueller, P.  The Green Building Bottom Line: The Real Cost of Sustainable Building. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Books, 2009. Print.

Sarte, S. B. Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010. Print.

Snell, C., and Callahan, T. Building Green, New Edition: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2009. Print.

Yudelson, J., and Fedrizzi, S. R.  The Green Building Revolution. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008. Print.

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