Architectural Global Warming
by Susan Smith
When we think about the causes of "global warming," what commonly comes to mind are gas-guzzling cars and smoke-spewing industrial processes. But a lion's share of the pollutants that cause global warming are attributable to architecture.
Architect Edward Mazria of Mazria, Riskin Odems, Inc. in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been making a case for why his profession should take greater responsibility for the problem.
Residential and commercial buildings are conventionally thought of as consuming 38 percent of energy in the United States. But when he adds in industrial building operation consumption and the embodied energy of building materials, he calculates that architecture's share is actually closer to half the country's total energy consumption. Similarly, architecture is responsible for 46 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
When architects design buildings and specify construction materials, they are responsible for that building's energy consumption pattern for its lifetime. Rather than depending solely on technology to bring down building energy use, Mazria believes design strategies concerned with siting, fenestration, and material selection can go a long way toward energy efficiency.
Mazria's firm approaches all projects with such fundamental design strategies and with the goal of bringing energy consumption and cumulative CO2 emissions down to roughly half of what they would be in a conventional building. >>>
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The Rio Grande Conservatory in the Albuquerque Biological Park sets examples for low-energy, low-emissions design.
Photo: Mazria, Riskin Odems, Inc.
Building construction and operations account for nearly half of all U.S. energy consumption.
Image: Mazria, Riskin Odems, Inc. (data source: Energy Information Administration, US DOE)
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