Redesigning Buildings and Global Warming – Research Paper Example

Today, survival of human beings depends majorly on managing ecosystems to restore an environment which is healthy and productive. The urgency to dealwith the human dominated ecosystem is inspiring eco-pioneers to redesign buildings and communities that suits the environment. The way buildings are perceived today is changing dramatically because of the growing awareness among people about global warming and other environmental problems. These eco-pioneers are practical visionaries who are engaged in projects for creating models to tackle these problems and are themselves going into the field to put sustainable development into practice. In this paper, we shall discuss the aim and importance of the project, redesigning buildings, by Pliny Fisk iii; how it is a boon for reducing global warming; and about the technical and cultural changes required to adapt to these new developments.
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the buildings in U.S are responsible for more than one thirds of the carbon emissions and for consuming 70% of the electricity load (qtd in Chan). To be specific, building practices have majorly accelerated global warming mainly because of their use of greenhouse gas-producing energy sources for heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting, emission of gasses like carbon dioxide and use of building materials and equipment that contain ozone layer-depleting chemicals. One of the eco pioneers, Pliny Fisk, aims to reduce these carbon footprints by turning wastes into low cost building materials (Landman 8). In other words, his target is to make buildings using recycled materials, limited energy and water consumption, and thereby, design structures that will meet the adaptability requirements for new purposes and, most importantly are safe for the environment. Fisk generally experiments with agricultural and industrial wastes, for two primary reasons – one that he believes if there is no waste there will be no pollution and on the other hand, the concrete used for construction are brought from river beds which disturbs the river ecosystem. He utilized fly ash, considered to be a problematic waste product, from coal-fired power plant to make an alternative to Portland cement which is responsible for at least 9% of CO2 emissions on earth. This new product called Ashcrete was found to be stronger and cheaper than Portland cement and its use will prevent environmental damage since it reduces the level of emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main green house gasses causing global warming and also, shrink the use of Portland cement by two-thirds. Further, it will minimize the waste stream of fly ash that is being dumped into water bodies thereby preventing pollution. However, it is also true that the silica present in Ashcrete can cause respiratory problems for workers and secondly, making this material is not a simple task, therefore turning waste products into building materials like Ashcrete requires cautious planning (Lerner 19-20).
Furthermore, Fisk stresses that for making a building or city sustainable it is necessary to use locally available resources. This will not only reduce the burden of importing materials which are transported at great ecological expense over long distances but at the same time will contribute to the local economy (qtd in Lerner 28). It is a fact that local materials can be harvested without much environmental damage as it goes hand in hand with natural materials and also, can be purchased at very low prices (Milani 36). However, it cannot be denied that ascertaining which indigenous materials are available locally is a very difficult task. In addition, lot of meticulous research is required in learning the process of using these local resources. Moreover, this procedure is considered very slow and outdated in the construction industry; although Fisk argues that use of local resources will solve environmental problems, and simultaneously generate labour oriented jobs in the local economy (qtd in Lerner 28). In addition, he states that buildings which are made of imported materials are not only constructed in a ecologically destructive manner but at the same require much more energy to heat, cool and light than necessary, thereby contributing to global warming (qtd in Lerner 26). Therefore, by using local sustainable materials, misuse of heat, light and energy can be minimized and save the earth from damaging further.
Developing a low budget energy system, 1-kilowatt system, where electricity will be generated by solar panels and which can provide enough power for an average home in a developing country, has proved to be another milestone by Fisk. He further added that any shortage of electricity could be supplemented by a generator made of a hybrid electric car. However, there are two drawbacks in this system – firstly, the electricity produced by solar panels will not be enough for homes in developed countries like America and secondly, the idea of a hybrid car is not feasible as it is expensive and difficult to maintain (qtd in Lerner 25). Also, in the process of saving energy one should not build such a closed structure that the same air gets circulated all throughout the day in the house (Landman 19). Although, Fisk argues that improving the energy efficiency of the building will decrease the demand of fossil fuels thereby reducing CO2 emissions and help lessen global warming (qtd in Lerner 25). Further, Fisk recommends using vine covered trellis or other local plants to shade the walls of the house, construction of windows (for directing breeze inside the house), and second floor outdoor sleeping porches inside the house as these features will act as a substitute for air conditions, one of the major factors causing carbon dioxide emissions (qtd in Chan). However, daylight and natural airing needs to be designed carefully since its excessive use might result in increasing the demand for air conditioning in the process of saving from heating (Landman 19). However, for his theory to become successful various technological and cultural changes are required to be made in the community.
As discussed above there are four main factors causing global warming: energy used for household appliances; energy consumed for heating, lighting, hot water and air conditioning; land and materials used for building construction; and household water usage and sewage production. Therefore, the technological changes involve increasing the efficiency, health and wellbeing of our indoor environment to the maximum extent and simultaneously, reducing the negative health as well as environmental effects and resource usage related to buildings (Landman 7-8). As Fisk has stated that a building needs to be designed in such a manner that it spatially suits the natural environment by ripping the existing benefits, for example, light and heat from the sun (solar panels for heating), shading from trees like vine covered trellis to reduce the use of air conditioning, and the use of recycled renewable and waste resources as construction materials to reduce land impacts. The developments of Ashcrete in place of Portland cement by recycling fly ash, an industrial waste; a low budget energy system using solar panels; and use of local materials are some good examples set forward by Fisk for redesigning buildings and to stop global warming (qtd in Lerner 20-25). However, architect Andrew St. John states ‘sustainable building is not about technology or materials, as much as it is about attitudes and approaches.’ In other words, Technology can help us attain sustainability to some extent, but at times it might have a negative impact and therefore, it must be applied carefully (qtd in Landman 8).
As far as the cultural changes are considered, Fisk states that change in the thought of the people is important to redesign buildings in a way that is eco friendly as well as reduce global warming. According to him, people should change how and from where we are getting these building materials, reduce consumption of electricity, conserve water, and use proper sewage systems. Moreover, we should use locally available building materials for construction to build environmentally sustainable communities (qtd in Chan). Today’s designers need to think radically for example, they should not only assess how the elements like wind, water and soil will affect the integrity of the building structures but also consider how the buildings will affect these elements (Landman 7). Moreover, it is necessary for everybody to realize the importance of reaping natural benefits for example, procuring solar energy for electricity will save fossil fuels from depleting, storage of rain water for drinking purposes will reduce the burden of river beds, having windows and open porches will reduce the need for air conditioning and so on. However, this task may sound easy but is strenuous and challenging to perform as it requires lot of detailed planning such as search for appropriate local materials for construction; involves extra costs, needed for installing eco friendly technologies; and a major change in the lifestyle of the people although, it cannot be denied that all these changes will in turn reduce global warming and save the earth from further destruction. Therefore, it is clear that Fisk’s mission is to redesign buildings with environmentally sustainable materials and bring about an elementary change in the process we construct our homes and communities in order to protect our natural environment.

Work Cited
Chan, Michael J. “Building the Future.” CNN Tech. CNN Tech, 31 Oct. 2007. Web. 05 Nov. 2011. .
Landman, Miriam. Breaking through the Barriers to Sustainable Building:
Insights from Building Professionals on Government Initiative to Promote Environmentally Sound Practices. N.p, Sep. 1999. Web. 04 Nov. 2011. .
Lerner, Steve. Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Todays Environmental Problems. USA: Printed on recycled paper, 1998. Print
Milani, Brian. Building Materials in a Green Economy: Community-based Strategies for Dematerialization. N.p, 2005. Web. 05 Nov. 2011. .