AMID global warming, measures to check excessive carbon emissions have become more pressing.

Recent findings from the US Energy Information Administration indicate that buildings are responsible for almost half of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. Not only that, buildings also consume six times as much fossil fuel energy and produce six times as much GHG emissions as all cars and trucks combined.

Hence, the urgent need for the building industry to go green.

Green is in

Green architecture is more than just surrounding a structure with plants and trees, although it helps to do so.

“One does not necessarily mean that designing green is designing the bahay kubo,” Manuel Maximo Lopez Del Castillo Noche, assistant professor and senior researcher at the UST College of Architecture (CA), told the Varsitarian. “We can still design a totally modern building but still be eco-friendly.”

From the building design to the building orientation, from solar path to wind directions, there’s a need to ensure a living space that is responsive to its surroundings. The choice of materials is also important since they may generate a lot of carbon from production to disposal.

Strictly speaking, green architecture sympathizes with the environment and tries to minimize any negative impact on the surroundings, says John Nicholas Ramos, architect and instructor at the CA.

It, however, is not a new concept. Architecture has been green from the very beginning and it is being reintroduced now because of climate issues.

“Man, prior to the 18th century, knew how to work with the environment and used nature only up to how much they needed,” said Noche. “Many industrialists, however, prioritized building comfort and destroyed everything along the way in the process.”

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Green architecture is an offshoot of the bigger “sustainable” architecture, which uses only what is needed, so that there will be resources left for future generations, Noche added.

And with technology advancing faster than one can say “global warming,” there are a lot of green options at hand, such as the use of solar panels and even small-scale windmills to generate electricity.

Gray water, which is a non-industrial waste water generated from domestic processes such as dishwashing and bathing, may also be collected in a cistern and can be later used for cleaning and watering plants.

However, green architecture entails a lot of money. The production of photovoltaic cells in the solar panels and the installation of windmills, for example, comes at a hefty price.

“Anything new in terms of technology is more expensive than traditional methods,” said Noche. “To promote the environment, the technology needs to come at a cheaper and much affordable price.”

High costs aside, the benefits in employing green architecture are priceless.

One example is Tokyo, which suffered from severely hot temperature until an ordinance required rooftops to be eco-friendly. With this effective yet expensive project, the city now enjoys a more comfortable temperature.

Greening the people

The drive against global warming requires a collective effort from people not only in the building sector.

“If some architects don’t know how to do it, then what more with the lay people?” said Noche. “An in-depth media campaign is necessary in disseminating information about how the environment can work against and for the people.”

Green practices can be as simple as garbage segregation or changing incandescent lights to compact fluorescent lamps.

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Fortunately, the country has organizations with green advocacies such as the Green Architecture Movement of the United Architects of the Philippines and the Philippine Green Building Council. These organizations promote the sharing of knowledge regarding green building practices, which include information on where to get eco-friendly supplies and techniques on how to build responsibly using available technology.

Their members include building contractors, developers, material suppliers, the government, civil society, the academe, and even individuals who are willing to get into the green lifestyle.

Design schools are also advocating green practices. Under UST’s College of Architecture, Natural Science is being taught and the topics run the gamut from the basics to hardcore environmental concerns.

Another subject recently included in the course’s new curriculum is Tropical Design, which aims to promote indigenous but responsible designs suited for a particular climate and environmental setting.

“Green architecture is not just a style of architecture, it is an attitude,” said Ramos. “With that as a starting point, we help alleviate concerns about global warming.”

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