Sunday, May 20, 2012
Sustainable Design: For a Greener Tomorrow
The Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse is a federal courthouse located in Eugene, Oregon. The groundbreaking ceremony of the project was held on April 7th, 2004 and construction was completed in November 2006. The building was designed to be sustainable, with features such as a highly efficient HVAC (Heating, Cooling, And Ventilation), a lot of natural lighting, a landscape designed to reduce rainwater runoff, as well as the use of drought-resistant plants, which greatly reduce water use in irrigation. The Courthouse achieved LEED Gold status by the U.S. Green Building Council and was the first U.S. Federal Courthouse to do so.
Sustainability is often talked about on the news, in our communities, and even in our classrooms, but many of us don’t understand the true reasons that sustainability is an important part of species conservation and biological diversity. The rate of species decline has been increasing. Many of the reasons and actions tied to species decline can be linked to human actions, such as habitat degradation, pollution, and construction. Sustainable building is a method of construction that is designed to reduce energy, materials used, as well as the impact that the building has on the environment.
In an effort to reduce the further decline of our environment, we must make an effort to reduce our need for energy. The continual and excess use of energy forces the mining and burning of fossil fuels in an effort to replenish the used energy. Burning fossil fuels also leads to increased pollution, as the fossil fuels are burned they release Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. While many different corporations are implementing the use of renewable and green energy such as solar panels, wind turbines, and hydropower there is still a lot that needs to happen in order to reduce our impact on the environment in order to obtain energy.
Prior to the construction of the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse, the materials of a demolished building which previously stood on the construction site was 90% recycled. Recycling materials and using them in the construction of a sustainable building not only reduces the need for harvest of our finite resources, but also removes the materials from landfills. Although construction companies attempt to minimize the disturbance of their presence on an environment, there is always some level of negative impact that is present. Conservation of biodiversity in the built environment attempts to combat these factors by encouraging the timing of construction to avoid sensitive times of the year such as breeding seasons for present species. Construction sites should also be highly monitored in an effort to prevent pollution to the areas surrounding the construction site.
Migratory birds fly long distances during their migration. The migratory pattern of many bird species often cross a few large cities, where many birds lose their life by flying into glass windows in large buildings. The birds cant see the glass as a barrier, and flying into a window at high speeds often leads to the birds death. It is estimated that around 1 billion birds are killed in the U.S. from flying into glass panels. More and more sustainable buildings are being made with bird-friendly glass, it is seemingly normal to the human eye, but allow birds to recognize it as a barrier. The U.S. Green Building Council, which determines the sustainability of buildings in the U.S., offers credit for bird friendly constructed buildings. The design of the bird-friendly windows was inspired by the construction of a spider web.
There are many types of sustainable designs that aid in biodiversity. Some buildings have been designing rooftop gardens, which aid in removing carbon dioxide from the environment and return oxygen to the atmosphere. These rooftop gardens also help to keep he building cool during warm months by evaporative cooling from the plants. The gardens also provide aesthetically pleasing environment with could be used for relaxation and stress relief. Fly ash is a product of coal burning, which is often recycled and used in the manufacturing of cement; this recycling process reduces the need to make more concrete from new materials.
Rainwater runoff is a large concern to conservation biologists. Rainwater runoff often picks up harmful contaminants such as chemicals, plant fertilizers, and oil from automobiles and deposits them into streams, rivers and oceans. These contaminants cause habitat degradation, and loss of life to aquatic species of plants and animals. In an effort to minimize this, sustainable buildings are often designed to minimize water run off in order to prevent the spread of pollution to clean environments.
The construction of a new building often disrupts the living environment of surrounding wildlife. Many sustainable buildings often attempt to create a suitable living environment for the surrounding wildlife in an area around them, in an effort to reduce habitat disturbance.
Human beings as a species have had a much larger negative impact on the persistence of other living species more than any other organism. Our expansion and construction causes stress on the surrounding environment. Building requires resources from rivers, forests, and mines, which removes ecosystem services from the environment. Harvesting timber removes the trees as a converter of carbon dioxide to oxygen. With a limited supply of freshwater on our planet, the pressure to reduce water usage is something that impacts human beings, but also effects aquatic habitats, which are already largely effected by our harvest of ocean species and pollution. While the expansion of human beings further into uninhabited wilderness may be unavoidable, it is important to make as little of a negative impact on the environment as possible, if we continue to build without thought to the environment, there will be little biodiversity which leads to fewer ecosystem services provided. We depend on ecosystem services to purify our air, water, and to provide materials and energy needed to survive.