does nature (and human nature) have on the growth of humanity and, by
implication, the construction industry?
If you are like me you will be just
as shocked when you read the following, that according to ICBE Carbon
Solutions, the building construction industry consumes 70% of the electricity
generated in the United States. It also uses 39% of primary energy resources,
produces 38% of CO2 gas emissions, uses 40% of raw materials, and
generates 30% of waste in landfills (136 million tons of waste per year). If we
don’t change our mindset when it comes to building and start using sustainable building
practices and techniques how long can Mother Earth keep providing?
Let’s start with earth’s population.
What is population growth? Population growth can be defined as an increase,
births, or decrease, deaths, in the population of humans or any other living
species. In terms of net gain (births minus deaths), we
are adding over 200,000 people to this planet every
day, or over 140 people every minute. That equals
over 75 million more people every year, about the same as the combined
populations of California and Canada. our current population is unsustainable1.
The current population of earth is estimated at over 7 billion people. Let that
sink in, we as humans have the greatest impact on earth than any other species.
With our population growing bigger and bigger every day and our resources,
which are finite, being consumed faster than they are being replenished we must
One of our finite resources are
trees. Trees at the physical level, provide oxygen, food and other
material necessities, such as paper and building materials2.
With our population continuing to grow so does the demand for food and
structures, be it houses, commercial building, schools etc. So, the demand for more
structures is a multi-fold problem. First is that we need trees for oxygen.
Trees take in CO2, which is a greenhouse gas that is
released into the atmosphere in great amounts and continues to cause global warming
produce oxygen. As the demand for new structures grow, trees and forests get
cut down to “make room” for these structures and they also are used in the
construction of them. Therefore, reducing our food supply and increasing CO2
levels. What happens if we cut down too many trees? How many trees are too
Another finite resource is land. Even with the earth is as big as
it is not all land is inhabitable. As the population grows so does the demand
for food. Increase in agriculture, the cultivation of products along
with raising animals used to sustain and enhance human life, is the
leading cause of deforestation3. With CO2 increasing due
to a growing population and deforestation causing global warming causing the
melting of the earths glaciers, sea levels are raising. This combination of effects has
played the major role in raising average global sea level between four and eight inches (10 and 20
centimeters) in the past hundred years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)4. What happens
as sea levels rise? That’s right land gives way to the ocean.
In closing what I’m trying to say is that one “check” that nature
has on the growth of humanity is that earth can only sustain a certain
population. In an over simplistic explanation, as population grows so does the
demand for structures and food, which leads to deforestation, that increases
greenhouse gases which cause global warming, that cause glaciers to melt, that
cause sea levels to rise, and that reduces the amount of inhabitable spaces. At some point we will reach a point where the
Earth can’t provide for the demand and population. If we don’t use sustainable building practices
now, we will end up at that point sooner than later.