Wellness of Green Building
Confronting Climate Change through Sustainable Architecture
In recent times, heatwaves have been wreaking havoc not only in Japan but also around the world. Europe, in particular, has been experiencing record-breaking heatwaves and frequent wildfires, as reported daily in the news. The data clearly shows that this temperature increase is not just a short-term or one-off event but a medium to long-term trend. For instance, an infographic created by Professor Hawkins of the University of Reading reveals that the world’s average annual temperature has risen by over 1.2 degrees since 1850, and the pace of global warming has accelerated since 1970.
The dilemma lies in the trade-off between comfortable living and energy conservation. I personally struggle with finding the right balance between effective air conditioning and environmental considerations. With the widespread adoption of remote work Tokyo Metropolitan Government Labor Bureau reported a telecommuting implementation rate of 62.5% for companies in Tokyo as of March 2022, improving the quality of our living spaces has become an important topic.
That’s where “Green Building” comes into focus. It refers to environmentally friendly buildings with high resource efficiency and low environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Green Building certifications such as the “LEED” program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and other evaluation systems consider water, energy, material efficiency, indoor environment, and location.
As of March 2022, Japan had 201 LEED certified buildings. While this is relatively small compared to countries like China (3,765), Canada (1,486), and India (1,171) [Green Building Japan], the attention toward green buildings is gradually increasing.
However, there are challenges and drawbacks to green buildings, including high initial costs, a shortage of experts, and the supply risks of eco-friendly materials. In the following opinion piece, we will examine the cost-effectiveness of green buildings from both environmental and well-being perspectives.
Changing the Game: Environmentally Friendly Building by a Start-Up
Green building encompasses environmentally friendly buildings designed, constructed, and operated with comprehensive consideration for the environment. While I initially envisioned green buildings with green walls when this topic was brought up during our editorial meeting, it seems that it is just one part of a broader initiative.
One noteworthy player in the construction industry is the Canadian start-up “Nexii Building Solutions,” which has become a unicorn company in just 2 years and 7 months, earning the title of the new star of green building.
Nexii’s strength lies in its unique assembly process. It manufactures wall parts measuring a few meters square in a factory and assembles them on-site, generating minimal waste. The increased confidentiality between parts is expected to reduce heating and cooling usage within the building by 30%. Moreover, Nexii is developing new building materials to replace concrete. While conventional concrete production emits significant amounts of CO2 during the manufacturing process, Nexii’s materials can reduce emissions by 20-36%.
Now, let’s consider green buildings in the context of residential spaces. Since 2005, Tokyo has mandated the display of five evaluation criteria, including insulation and energy efficiency, to building owners Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. However, upon reviewing actual properties, it appears that there are limited options, mainly consisting of luxury apartments, possibly due to floor area or new construction conditions. As we see new stars emerging in the commercial and office building sectors, we hope to witness the same in the residential field.
Constructing Spaces for Well-Being
Having returned to Tokyo from a life surrounded by abundant nature in Denmark, I find myself struggling in the hot and humid days. Recalling my favorite spot, the library at Aarhus University, where natural light poured in, and the greenery created a beautiful and clean atmosphere, brings solace.
Green buildings are known to have a positive effect on the well-being of those who inhabit them. While environmental impact reduction has been the main focus, the impact on people’s well-being is now receiving attention. Although there is no established Japanese definition of “well-being,” it is a holistic concept that considers health from physical, mental, and social aspects.
As an example, the Australian Green Building Council’s report cited in the article reveals that hospitals equipped with “green infrastructure,” such as green walls, experienced an 8.5% reduction in average hospital stays and a 22% decrease in the amount of painkillers needed. Such buildings not only invigorate the staff, including doctors, but also have positive effects on aesthetics, acoustics, and air quality.
Over the past few years, with the increase in indoor time due to new viruses, many have become more conscious of the excessive use of energy and are more attentive to their health. In this context, the potential for green buildings to be a framework that considers the physical, mental, and social impact on stakeholders, as well as the environmental burden, is highly anticipated.
Looking ahead, it is crucial for green building to go beyond a mere image and become something that more people consciously adopt, overcoming barriers such as initial investments.
Sustainable Living through Bio-based Architecture
Development of materials of biological origin, such as bioplastics made from cornstarch or sugarcane, instead of using limited resources like metal or fossil fuels, is progressing as architectural materials.
10 Airports Aiming for Sustainability
As criticism of the aviation industry’s environmental impact increases, many airports are striving for carbon neutrality.
Sustainable Cities Made from Mud
Traditional mud buildings with over 1000 years of history are prevalent in the Yemen Republic. Now, they are gaining attention as “future architecture” due to their warm winters and cool summers.