Humanitarian Architecture and the Conundrum of Climate Change

In order to be even-handed as a humanitarian architect, I feel discussions about climate change ought to, at least, begin with the recognition that the topic itself is a conundrum.

The impetus for my present reflections is the ongoing 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference where the obstacle for reaching an agreement about limiting greenhouse gas emissions stems from the diverse range of assessments of this topic. At one extreme, several Latin American countries, some African countries, and low-lying island countries consider global climate change a very serious problem while – at the other extreme – China and some Eastern European countries consider it to be less serious.  Relative to these extremes, the United States stands somewhat in the middle.1

In drilling down a bit, it is useful to recognize that as of 2014, 39% of Americans acknowledged their concern about global warming and their belief that it is human-induced while 25% of the population is solidly skeptical of global warming, contending that if it exists at all it is due to natural causes.2

The lack of societal agreement within the US about climate change creates a challenge – and numerous opportunities – for humanitarian architects as there is not a clear societal mandate regarding sustainable design in the construction and maintenance of buildings. With so few of the houses and commercial buildings in the US identified as sustainable – clearly less than 1% – this lack of direction is likely to be disconcerting to 39% of Americans and yet to the 25% at the other end of the spectrum this situation is acceptable and even somewhat natural.3

Given this conundrum, what are humanitarian architects to do as they optimistically design buildings to serve as the interfaces between our fragile body and the powerful forces of nature and between an individual client’s beliefs and the diverging perspectives of society?

Having used this blog posting to briefly describe the present situation, I am looking forward to exploring in my forthcoming blogs the numerous, albeit counterintuitive opportunities for architects and homeowners to consider while contemplating new construction or renovation project in regards to the global conditions of climate change.

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1  See:   http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/11/05/1-concern-about-climate-change-and-its-consequences/climate-change-report-40/
2  See:   http://www.gallup.com/poll/168620/one-four-solidly-skeptical-global-warming.aspx?g_source=CATEGORY_CLIMATE_CHANGE&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles
3  Presently, only 2/10 of 1% of the houses and commercial buildings in the US are recognized as sustainable by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). See https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/reports/2012/buildstock/   http://www.usgbc.org/articles/usgbc-statistics and Jerry Yudelson’s article addressing this issue: https://www.djc.com/news/en/12075060.html

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