Buildings

I am adding pages regarding the three necessities in life:  food, water, and shelter.  Buildings, work or office, are what we shelter in, and, in the developed world, we spend 90% of our time indoors (REF).  So shelter is a good page to start with.

Imagine what the least environmentally-imposing shelter would be like.  One day, while I was helping pick up trash in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, which is a large, very wooded, very lovely park, we followed a lot of trash within a creek to what turned out to be a homeless encampment within a cave under a massive tree’s root systems.  It was a very large cave for a creek bed, and probably slept at least four people.  They had pots and pans and laundry hanging outside to dry, but the cave itself was completely natural and did not even look like it had been enlarged.

It is the only place I can think of where I know humans aren’t impacting the climate by their need for building and living in a shelter. (Although stream pollution is a different story.) 

People are trying to build zero buildings though, and this example tries to come close:  https://www.greenmatters.com/home/2018/08/08/Z235p8K/nolla-neste-tiny-cabin.

Anyway, this page is going to evolve over time to include more ideas and helpful actions to fight climate change regarding your home.  But please consider that every single NEW home built today is increasing climate change, even if you have renewable energy and give back to the grid:  there is the process of designing a home (computer use and meetings, etc), of manufacturing any new materials to build with, of transporting the materials, and of putting the house together — all of this produces CO2, even if locally sourced. Think umpteen times before building a new place.

Yet we need places to shelter – so what do we do?  The two main steps you can do to fight climate change as regards your shelter are:

  1. Move into an existing place and make it more environmentally friendly, or in this case, just more friendly.
In New York State, USA. Copyright CHRIS BERNACCHI.ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

OR, if you must go to a newly-built place or build a new house….

2. Choose small and efficient, in an environmentally friendly location that is way above sea level AND use salvaged materials.

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This fan, in the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta, would go with any decor.

There’s more of course, see the Sections below, as well as these articles. Especially the first one.

A very important thing to keep in mind is the ‘behavior contagion’ principle, i.e., that what you do will affect others, especially your neighbors. Neighbors take cues from other neighbors, for what is allowed . A study by [] found that once someone installed solar on their rooftop, another neighbor started the process within four months, and then more, etc… within two years 32 neighbors were getting solar. [REF}

Energy Use in the Home and Office.

So many possibilities here, but let’s start with ones that have a ripple effect, i.e., potentially win other people over too. That’s a few in the home, and many in the office.

  1. Most impactful – at home, switch out energy hogs and/or CO2 producers, for energy efficient appliances – while telling the seller, the installer, and your neighbors WHY you are doing so. It impacts the producers and everyone else in the chain. You become a change-maker.
    1. Replace any old, single-paned windows with at least double-paned, if not triple-paned fiberglass (avoid vinyl due to toxic fumes [REF]), or add on storm windows. I wouldn’t say brag to your neighbors about it, but do try to let them know that your house was bleeding energy, and you needed to do something about it.
    2. Remove your gas appliances and replace with electric. Replace gas water heaters with tankless water heaters, gas dryers with energy efficient dryers – or better yet, a clothesline, gas stoves with electric (and solar), etc. There might be some hesitation, due to the manufacturing and shipping of heavy new appliances producing CO2, but it helps fund the creation of energy efficient appliances, and your talking about why creates a chain reaction among others. Second, one may worry about electricity coming from coal. Find out where your electricity comes from, and see if you can purchase clean energy; some places now have that option. Your city either purchases electricity from renewable resources and it gets ‘piped’ to the city, and your money goes toward that, or they may purchase offsets. Further, renewable energy is rapidly, rapidly increasing, so if you can’t change now, then you may be able to soon. Finally, if you purchase electric stoves and water heaters, etc.., you are less likely to breath toxic fumes yourself.
  1. Take an Online Energy Audit.  https://engage.energysavvy.com/report/ed2e8377-5e7d-4c25-a9d8-0b773972eaa8/. Again, tell neighbors you are doing so. Perhaps even do a small bet with a close friend, to see who has the most efficient home.
  2. At the office, if you are lucky enough to have a window (I was, but it immediately looked into the window of a neighboring building only eight feet away), first off, keep the blinds mostly closed on really hot days and really cold days.
  3. Get to know your facilities manager(s) – make a suggestion or two.
  4. Start a Green Team at the office, including the facilities manager, and then research what can be done to improve the building.
  5. Home or Office – research solar power. Some cities even have solar companies that will lease your roof to produce solar – giving you free electricity (possibly some money too), while they sell the extra. I bought solar myself because I was thinking long-term profits. After about 15 years, I will have made roughly $17,000 net profit. (Note: that is because terms are very favorable for solar in Washington DC.)
  6. INSULATE! (more to ccome, but also see Green Roofs below.)

Don’t Forget the Lawn!

Please check out this overview of all the different types of yard coverings and plants you can replace the boring, bee-killing grass lawn with! https://climatesteps.org/2020/03/20/change-lawns-to-actual-life/.

“Native plants require less water and maintenance than nonnative varieties and provide more food sources for birds as our warming planet changes their habitats,” said John Rowden, director of community conservation at National Audubon Society. “A great thing people can do for the environment is stop mowing — which produces carbon. ….. Use Audubon’s Plants for Birds guide: Type in your Zip code and get a list of trees and plants suitable for your area.” (Washington Post, 2018)

Green Roofs

They. Rock. They provide shelter to you in the form of insulation and provide shelter and food to insects; they slow down rainwater, preventing floods; and they prevent that rainwater from heating up as it would from hitting asphalt shingles – thus saving downstream wildlife.  They are estimated to last 60 years.  They do require a strong structure underneath, though.

I blogged about green roofs in the Washington Post in 2012 and 2013 – summarizing different steps in the process.  You can check it out here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/where-we-live/wp/2013/08/14/a-petworth-homeowners-green-roof-one-year-later/?utm_term=.101cd0d0a091. (see the link in the article for the earlier posts.)

Other green roof references:

1. Nice pretty video….https://www.facebook.com/WeCanSolveThis/videos/1680880988687383/

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A “tiny” house in Washington DC.

Thank you for every action you take.    

One thought on “Buildings

  1. Pingback: Stuck at Home, Yet Saving the Climate…. | Climate Steps

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