Much of the rhetoric around climate change is violent: the war on carbon, the fight against global warming, and frontline battles against fossil fuels. Articles refer to slashing emissions as though we had machetes. And although these terms convey the gravity of what we face and the tightening window of time to address global warming, they do little to inspire hope.
Which is why we’ve launched this new journal series, entirely focused on sharing powerful innovations from around the world that have one common goal: to begin the reduction of greenhouse gasses in order to reverse global warming.
Articles refer to slashing emissions as though we had machetes. And although these terms convey the gravity of what we face and the tightening window of time to address global warming, they do little to inspire hope.
From the telling of these solutions in a way that skips out the impenetrable science that underpins them, we hope to inspire a sense of empowerment over and excitement towards the future. One that we can all be a part of, shaping it towards something better than where we’re currently headed.
So, to kick off the series, we're celebrating the architects, designers and developers involved in net-zero buildings - building that have zero net energy consumption, producing as much energy as they use in a year. In some months they may generate excess electricity; at other times electricity may be required. On balance they are self-supporting.
Traditionally, buildings have been seen as parts and pieces designed and engineered to fulfil functions - not as the system they are. Thanks to a paradigm shift, initiated by the work of write Jane Jacobs, the building, the site, the weather, the arc of the sun, and the building's occupants are all seen as one system. Buildings breathe like creatures; they inhale and exhale air. They require energy, but as in nature, no waste - the right amount at the right time and place.
Once seen as architectural oddities, these alternative construction methods are now available all over the world. And one of our favourites is the Brock Environment Centre, built by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Since its completion in 2014, it has become the first commercial building in the US to treat and process rainwater to federal, portable standards. In fact, it uses 90% less water for a building of a similar size while all drinking water is the filtered rainfall. Additionally, it achieves net-positive energy by generating 83% more than it consumes to operate.
Net zero buildings demonstrate that rather than being a source or cause of degeneration, our built landscape can be simultaneously informed by and regenerative towards the environment and human well-being.
Words by Kate Richards.