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In this module, various ways buildings affect the environment and the characteristics of sustainable buildings are discussed.

Learning objectives

After reading this module, students should be able to

  • understand the various ways buildings affect the environment
  • describe the characteristics of sustainable buildings


Buildings present a challenge and an opportunity for sustainable development. According to the most recent available Annual Energy Outlook from the U.S. Environmental Information Administration, buildings account for about 39% of the carbon dioxide emissions, 40% of primary energy use, and 72% of the electricity consumption in the U.S. Additional information from the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that 14% of the potable water consumption occurs in buildings.

Globally, buildings are the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, above transportation and then industry. The construction of buildings requires many materials that are mined, grown, or produced and then transported to the building site. Buildings require infrastructure including roads, utility lines, water and sewer systems. People need to be able to get to and from buildings to work, live, or take advantage of the services provided within them. They need to provide a safe and comfortable environment for the people that inhabit them.

Impacts of the Built Environment Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/pubs/about.htm

Aspects of Built Environment


Environmental Effects

Ultimate Effects

Siting Energy Waste Harm to human health
Design Water Air pollution Environmental degradation
Construction Materials GHG emissions Loss of resources
Operation Natural resources Water pollution
Maintenance Indoor pollution
Renovation Heat islands
Deconstruction Stormwater runoff

It is possible to design and construct fully functional buildings that have far fewer negative environmental impacts than current norms allow. Beyond benefitting the environment, green buildings provide economic benefits including reduced operating costs, expanded markets for green products and services, improved building occupant productivity, and optimized life-cycle performance. Green buildings also offer social benefits that range from protecting occupant comfort and health, to better aesthetic qualities, less strain on local infrastructure, and overall improvement in quality of life.

In 1994, a group of experts was brought together by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a pathway and specific principles for sustainable development. According to these principles, building should be:

  • Ecologically Responsive : The design of human habitat shall recognize that all resources are limited, and will respond to the patterns of natural ecology. Land plans and building designs will include only those with the least disruptive impact upon the natural ecology of the earth. Density must be most intense near neighborhood centers where facilities are most accessible.
  • Healthy, Sensible Buildings: The design of human habitat must create a living environment that will be healthy for all its occupants. Buildings should be of appropriate human scale in a non-sterile, aesthetically pleasing environment. Building design must respond to toxicity of materials, care with EMF, lighting efficiency and quality, comfort requirements and resource efficiency. Buildings should be organic, integrate art, natural materials, sunlight, green plants, energy efficiency, low noise levels and water. They should not cost more than current conventional buildings.
  • Socially Just: Habitats shall be equally accessible across economic classes.
  • Culturally Creative: Habitats will allow ethnic groups to maintain individual cultural identities and neighborhoods while integrating into the larger community. All population groups shall have access to art, theater and music.
  • Beautiful: Beauty in a habitat environment is necessary for the soul development of human beings. It is yeast for the ferment of individual creativity. Intimacy with the beauty and numinous mystery of nature must be available to enliven our sense of the sacred.
  • Physically and Economically Accessible: All sites within the habitat shall be accessible and rich in resources to those living within walkable (or wheelchair-able) distance.
  • Evolutionary: Habitats' design shall include continuous re-evaluation of premises and values, shall be demographically responsive and flexible to change over time to support future user needs. Initial designs should reflect our society's heterogeneity and have a feedback system.

Questions & Answers

Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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