An Eco-Friendly building is defined as an enclosed construction or edifice that is not harmful to the environment. Many of these exist all around the world, including one in Singapore which is sponsored by the National University. This building is actually constructed of “photovoltaic panel”, which works to convert solar energy into electrical power. Using the solar-energy that is infinitely and naturally available is a very strategic way to generate electricity. We never have to worry about running out of it, as we do fossil fuels, because about 89 PW (petawatts) of it strikes the earth’s surface every day. That is thousands of times more energy than humans consume daily on average. This leads many people to predict a solar-energy-revolution that will substantially help eliminate pollution and impede global warming. Although solar power is currently about five times more expensive than “dirtier” energy such as coal and nuclear sources, this difference begins to recede as the latter resources run out and increase in price. The future of solar energy looks promising.

Another example of a prestigious piece of Eco-friendly architecture is “100 Park Avenue”, in New York. This building is silver certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) for its Eco-friendly characteristics. These include its green, water-recycling roofs which have been created by a company called “Xero Flor”. The American firm works to provide a water-recycling system that’s efficient, low maintenance and lightweight. Although the system is based off of a European design, the company has done a great job of adapting it to their own approach. Pre-vegetated mats are used to absorb any precipitation that collects on the roof. As plants grow atop the building, they help to insulate it internally (reducing need for electric insulation), filter the air around (eliminating some pollutants from the atmosphere), and create agricultural space as efficient use of available rain water. The list of further environmental benefits is both long, and diverse. This New York building in specific is also characterized by its abundance of windows, which means that less electricity is needed to light its offices during daylight hours.

Many other popular features are available for Eco-friendly construction; some of which are more Eco-friendly roofs. For example, it’s not uncommon to see a flat, rubber or white roof. Some people don’t notice upon observing them, however, that they’re designed to benefit the environment. Flat roofs are low maintenance, which means that a little material goes a long way through time, instead of being wasted. Rubber roofs are usually made of recycled tires and white roofs work to regulate a building’s temperature and eliminate the need for electrical heating and conditioning. Some may even install a solar panel in their roof to convert solar energy to electricity; again through the photovoltaic approach. I’m proud to say that the United Church in my own town (where I was baptized as a child), actually had solar panels installed in its roof earlier this year. It is great to see such a local enthusiasm for a healthy environment. Not once over my last few visits did anybody have to reach for a light switch!

One more common course of action for Eco-enthusiasts is to seek out Eco-friendly materials when building. This helps eliminate the green house gasses caused by substances such as dry-wall (the third leading producer of these fumes). Many replace the use of dry wall with something called EcoRock. This is a similar product that can be used the same way. The only difference is that EcoRock is created through a series of natural chemical reactions. This eliminates the many stages of environment-harmful production that are necessary in creating drywall.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet”. It seems that this truth becomes more and more difficult for people to ignore over time. Since Theodore Roosevelt’s speech on the use of renewable resources and economic awareness in 1910, we’ve watched as society becomes more and more conservative in their actions regarding the planet. I’m proud to see the development of companies that supply world-healthy building materials; amongst them TioCoat, Xero Flor, EcoWay Ltd. and Eco Building Resource.Ltd. I hope that these companies continue to grow in abundance and that our society proceeds in its forward motion towards a healthier relationship with the environment.

Written by: Hannah Simard

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