Get a Job as a Green Building Professional
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But such innovation comes with a tradeoff, and much of that fallout is environmental. In the United States alone, according to the Energy Information Association, buildings account for more than 30 percent of the waste output of the country, up to half of the energy usage, and almost three quarters of the nation’s electricity consumption.
Large impacts abound, many of which are created—or contributed to, in large part—by the built environment. Three of these key issues are air pollution, energy consumption, and water scarcity.
Air pollution: One can survive a few days without food or water, but only minutes without access to air. An easy problem to ignore by virtue of its typical invisibility, poor air quality in buildings often takes the form of ﬁne particulates, toxic emissions, and mold. A common contributor to poor air quality is increased volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) are emitted as gases by everything from paints to building materials to furniture to cleaning supplies. Energy production, consumption, and leaching of toxic building materials can affect air quality as well. All of these air concerns can cause serious health problems, such as asthma, upper respiratory illnesses, developmental issues for children, and even cancers.
Energy Consumption: Energy is central to the mechanics of most buildings. Air cooling and heating, lighting, cooking, and electrical needs all require energy to function. Environmental energy concerns range from the limited resource of fossil fuels to climate change impacts, which many have argued contribute to rising sea levels, changing food supplies, and the eventual specter of displacing millions of people.
Water Scarcity: Water is one of the most essential elements for human survival, used for everything from drinking and hygiene to cooking and tending crops. And indeed, a person can only live for two to ten days without water. But the planet’s supply of fresh water is rapidly dwindling, and our needs for it are quickly expanding. A 2009 report by consulting ﬁrm McKinsey & Company showed that global water needs will increase by 40 percent by the year 2030, while shrinking watersheds, droughts, and rising sea levels are at the same time resulting in decreasing worldwide supplies
A Reason to Care
As a collective group, human beings can—and should—be the solution leaders for a sustainable environment. As Anthony D. Cortese, Sc.D., president of Second Nature, explains:
To make this a reality we must realize that the road to sustainability is one of culture and values as much as it is about scientiﬁc and technological development.
It must be guided by the arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, religion and other spiritual inspiration as well as the physical and natural sciences and engineering, in other words, through the fundamental framework of learning and culture. It must also be guided by commitment to have all humans have their basic needs met and have the opportunity for a life of fulﬁllment.
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