As a structural engineer, sustainability for me means a kind of balance between structures and human being. For structural side, our goal is to build long-last and sturdy buildings. For human being’s side, we’re trying to make it more comfortable and economic. But at most time, these two sides can not be always satisfied. For example, people want their buildings to be always cool in summer and warm in winter. For most cases this can not be always achieved by just sun-lighting, so we must add in stuff like air-conditioner or warm panels as cooling or heating system. These can accelerate the energy consumption. But how should we do to find a balance point? I’m considering the following that we could learn from:
Life time energy impact
Aluminum alloy has about 6 times of embodied energy than steel, which means it’s 6 times harder to get than the steel. But in reality, aluminum alloy is treated as on of the most commonly used materials in the world. This is because aluminum alloy spends less energy in building and transportation process. From the whole material life, aluminum alloy consume less energy in total.
Environmental impacts and social impacts
Environmental sustainability is the ability to maintain an ecological balance in our planet’s natural environment and conserve natural resources to support the wellbeing of current and future generations. As an impact, environmental sustainability is hugely affected by human behaviors.
The emission of CO2, the amount of waste water and unnecessary lighting etc. are totally controlled by ourselves. For this part, I’m thinking necessary regulation are required to help us to build a sustainable environment.
Nowadays, the most commonly used method to generate energy is still burning coals because it’s the most cheapest and accessible. Due to the different geographical locations, the most suitable method to generate energy is also depending on local conditions. For instance, we can’t building a dam in desert area and the most suitable way to generate energy in this area maybe solar panels. Sometimes it’s hard to say what is the most sustainable resources for a particular area, but we can do is to downsize the negative impossible as much as we can.