United Nations estimated that 7.7 billion living humans are walking on earth as of today. This world population builds houses, offices, and infrastructures. With buildings alone, 40% of global energy, 40% of the global resources and 25% of global water are being used according to the European Energy Centre. Approximately 1/3 of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions result from it. In the U.S. alone, Earth911 estimated that 251 million tons of consumer solid waste are generated annually in which 40% of it comes from construction projects. Not to mention, the massive build-up of unused building materials in the process. Understanding these numbers could mean only one thing. Earth is deteriorating.
On the verge of such a realization is a campaign for sustainable infrastructure.
What is sustainable infrastructure?
Designing, building, and operating structural elements to diminish the energy needed for the ecological, social, and economic processes of sustaining the life and functionality of natural systems is what sustainable infrastructure is all about. It aims to rehabilitate, optimize existing infrastructures, and encourage upcoming projects to be built smartly. Its ultimate goal — to prevent the earth from dying.
Who can put it to action?
More and more people are getting concerned and committed to preventing climate change and global deterioration. Interventions such as minimizing the usage of plastic, carpooling and recycling can go extensively that when done massively could resonate effectively.
To set a responsible standard of sustainable design, both in the short and long term, all of the 7.7 billion should take their part in protecting the earth for future generations. No matter how small the effort, that holds a significant impact on the world.
Therefore, planners and engineers have a big responsibility in setting standards of design that will benefit the environment and the people living in it. Meanwhile, the government and the higher-ups act and collaborate with infrastructure engineers to propagate the renewal of the existing ones after a careful economic analysis. In consideration of low costs, required energy use and protection from environmental degradation, projects are critically planned.
How to build sustainable infrastructure?
- Responsible Planning
There are engineering companies that continuously research and innovate on how environmental concerns could be immersed with rising projects. Nowadays, they don’t just look for ground-breaking designs but responsible infrastructural design. Responsible design can be considered so only if it can balance the economic, social, and environmental issues.
- Choose materials for its sustainability, durability, quality, and ability to conserve energy. In doing so, optimize them fully while minimizing waste output. In light of global climate change and redevelopment of environmentally damaged soils and waters, at least, a percentage of waste generated should be cured to be somehow reused.
- In planning, apply the ‘triple bottom line’ for adopting sustainable infrastructure which is economy, equity and the environment.
Two standard agencies are dedicated to helping organizations that aim to get seriously involved in conserving energy. There is Envision, developed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), and LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED was offered through the United States Green Building Council. Both lead in embracing sustainable practices.
Recently, a LEED study about delivering urban resilience found that adopting a green infrastructure could be one solution.
What is Green Infrastructure?
Green Infrastructure, also known as blue-green infrastructure, is an adaptation of the natural water cycle applied in an urban setting. It is an economical, effective approach in managing water supply by planting trees and restoring wetlands instead of building an expensive water treatment plant. Simply put, it is a more affordable way of providing an oasis in a metropolis by following returning and recycling practices.
Envision sees to it that an infrastructure project contributes to the propagation of the triple bottom line from using energy and water resulting in waste production and how it is managed. It offers a rating tool that organizations going green could use on top of its resources for best practice and supportive programs that they can adopt concerning sustainable development.
Examples of these strategies would be:
- Urban Forestry
- Green Roofs
- Permeable Pavements
These strategies could help cities save a lot of money if deployed wisely.
- Align with the latest research and findings.
- The best way to innovate is to follow the crumbs of those who had done it ahead of you. In Colombia, Bogotà’s Metro Project marked their stride to “ecological transition” for the city. This electric-powered metro is said to pollute less than a diesel bus system. It also built to provide an eco-friendly way of meeting mass-transit demand.
- Using Autodesk software and the help of BIM, Hong Kong’s MTR Shatin to Central Link Hong Kong Section involved the construction of the new exhibition station with a 1.8km twin railway tunnel. The team committed to reduce waste and minimize excavation became possible.
Though it still is at a slow pace, sustainable infrastructure is slowly convincing the whole world to allow transformation for a better greener future. According to a report by Dodge Data and Analytics, 47% of the industry professionals are expecting that by 2021, 60% of arising projects will adopt such a trend. 90 cities and communities across the globe are using LEED to make way for the creation of these smart cities. If only provided full support, improvements may be applied sooner than later.