Humans, over the course of generations, have generally been wasteful and detrimental to the earth’s resources. Especially in the United States, people are used to living a “larger than life” attitude by having big houses, cars and more materialistic items than they ever need.
To me, sustainability means minimizing your use of resources in the first place, rather than coming up with more green and environmental friendly items to buy. In the R3 - we have focused more on the Reuse and Recycle and less on the Reduce. We have successfully brought Tesla’s to our roads, but the rate of increase in number of vehicles in operation continue to soar.
In the built environment, this means improving existing infrastructure, rather than building more new infrastructure. ASCE rates America’s infrastructure at a D+, so it certainly needs more attention than a new fancy mass timber building.
It starts with sustainable urban planning - we need to move away from large suburban dwellings that are dependent on automobiles for commute from homes to work/school, but rather focus on mixed-use zoning for work and living that are integrated well within public parks and spaces.
For a new build, here are certain ways buildings can be made sustainable:
- Use of sustainable materials - use recyclable steel, timber and minimize use of concrete (use fly ash, slag as additives where possible)
- Ensure building is energy efficient - choice of building enclosure, choice of energy system, good quality construction
- Maintain adequate daylight so that use of artificial lighting is minimized
- Good air quality and ventilation
- Modularity can help reuse parts of the building.