Global warming refers to “the warming of the earth’s surface around the world, based on documented information on the temperature that has been maintained by humans since 1880″ (Nodvin, S. 2008).
There has been an increase in the news referring to Global Warming, March 27, 2008 the world woke up with a shocking event: the detachment of an ice sheet measuring 41 km by 2.5 km in Antarctica. Scientists argue that climate change is responsible for the rapid collapse of the ice cap that was detaching since the month of February, but global warming affects not only the polar icecaps, but also the fauna of tropical ecosystems, as this type of species “live to the limit of their maximum temperature, a slight increase in temperature is lethal” (Tewksbury, quoted by J. Tristan, R. 2008). Facts like these remind us that global warming is no longer an unknown subject and has become a problem that is part of our everyday life.
Despite the constant bombardment of the media with news regarding this issue, we are not fully informed about the factors of global warming, in fact, it is believed that cars are the largest producers of the negative impact to the environment; however, there is an even more damaging one: Buildings. These static works of construction are part of our daily lives, most of our work is mainly done within them, we spend 90% of our life in confined spaces and the concentration of population is much greater in these spaces than out of them (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2003. Quoted by Kats, G. 2003). However, we are unaware that they “produce nearly half (48%) of all emission of greenhouse gases which is much higher than what emitted by vehicles (27%) and by the industrial sector (25%) “(The American Institute of Architects. 2006).
To explain how the greenhouse effect occurs inside the buildings, lets imagine them as giant glass cubes in which the sun’s rays penetrate throughout the day on the surface, which implies that the objects found within them will warm , an in so doing they “give back the heat in the form of radiation. As the temperature at which they heat up is relatively low, the radiation emitted has a long wavelength; this means they emit an infrared radiation, not visible. Over the years, they will eventually give an equal amount of energy in the form of infrared absorbed in the form of sunlight, so their temperature will tend to remain constant (although, of course, they will be warmer than if they were not exposed to direct action of the Sun) “. (Greenhouse effect, 2007). Thus the same thing happens in a greenhouse, where you can cultivate flowers and plants even though the outside temperature reaches lower degrees in temperature.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) the decade of 1998-2007 was the hottest of which has ever been documented. The global surface temperature for 2007 was estimated at 0.41 ° C/0.74 ° F over the annual average of 1961-1990: 14.00 ° C/57.20 ° F. (WMO. 2008. Quoted by Nodvin, S. 2008).
To counter this, a novel form of construction has been created, masterminded by a new generation of architects, designers and builders, who have expressed interest in creating a kind of architecture that is “friendly” with nature and sustainable over time, allowing the reduction of damage that conventional construction has done to the planet. This new form of construction is known as Green Building and is to “create healthier and more efficient, in terms of resource consumption, models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. The elements of green construction are: the sources of energetic efficiency and renewable energy, water management, waste reduction, specifications and construction materials preferably organic”. (Taken from http://espanol.orangecountyfl.net/orangecty/enes/24/_www_orangecountyfl_net/cms/DEPT/growth/building/greenbldg.htm)
There is a perception that the construction of Green Buildings is much more expensive than conventional construction, and indeed this is true, however the long-term cost is significantly lower. Studies show that the amount of the construction of Green Buildings is substantially lower (2%) of what is expected and price increases are related to the costs of architectural and engineering that this type of construction requires. The sooner this type of practice of Green Building is included in construction; the increase of its costs will be less. (The United States Green Building Council, 2002. Cited by Kats, G. 2003).
However, despite short term cost increases, Green Buildings provide long-term benefits that conventional ones do not offer, for example: lower utility costs in electricity and water, environmentally effective use of building materials, enhancing the health and productivity, long term economic return, reducing environmental impact, among others. (Environmental Services, 2008)
Colombia has within its Green Building the Chamber of Commerce’s green building in Bogota, built in Salitre City. This magnificent building has 28 thousand square meters distributed in two basements, three floors of public attention, five levels for staff and 500 parking spaces. It has electronic accessories that allow the entry of people arriving in wheelchairs or who have some type of disability that prevents them from entering by stairs. On the second floor is the convention hall, which has a capacity for a thousand people, and has the possibility of being sub-divided into eight rooms, each for one hundred users.
Another example of Green Building in Colombia is the Family Compensation Fund Compensate, located in northern Bogota: Stands out the use of glass on the facade and inside there is a mixture of aluminum and wood. The building has 16,579 square meters and one of its most important features is an “evaporative cooling system that allows natural air collection, and after an interior process the air reaches the top and leaves the building, so that the installation maintains a pleasant temperature that can range between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius (Metrocuadrado.com, 2006), and within the building the services offered are: “multiple stadium, gymnasium, aerobics room, spinning, gourmet salon, spa area, pool, Turkish bath, sauna, Jacuzzi, game rooms, library, computer room (Internet) , VIP lounge, cafeteria and auditorium of 150 square meters, designed as a space for Film Society, with projection equipment, and a retractable tier; and – Medical care: 50 doctors, vaccination, laboratory, dental, radiology, psychology, rehabilitation, nutrition, gynecology, diagnosis, prevention, surgery and medicine in general “(Metrocuadrado.com, 2006).
In Latin America Argentina presents a very interesting Green Building: the building Malecon Buenos Aires. This is an office building of 125,000 feet ² which was built on an abandoned industrial area (his garage was built on the foundations of a warehouse dating from the nineteenth century) in Puerto Madero, an area of redevelopment in Buenos Aires. The construction was made as a long strait block in order to minimize solar gain in the structure and terminations of east and west sides of whom are united. The broad north facade, the first to be exposed to the sun, is shaped to follow the path of the sun and has many deep screens with umbrellas that virtually eliminate sunlight during peak cooling months. The south facade, which reflects the geometry of the northern facade, is equipped with the same system of high-performance curtain of the other facades, minimizing the solar gain; open floor plants and high floors provide flexibility for multiple office tenants or future uses. (From http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek02/tw0419/0419tw1cote.htm, May 2008)
In the U.S. this type of buildings have great technical and financial support from the public administrations; in Europe there are funding programs such as PAE (Fed-IDE), SAVE 3, Thermi &, among others, which in addition to providing aid, certify buildings that meet the exact standards so they are differentiated as Green Buildings, giving them green or eco-labels (LEEDS-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ISO 14001, EEA, among others).
Finally what is intended with this type of construction, grants and certifications is to reduce energy consumption and exploit natural resources, so as to achieve the prolongation of the service life of the planet and the reversal of the ecological phenomena as the greenhouse effect, among others.
By: María Angélica Pérez Corcho
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Filed Under: Environment
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