Posts Tagged ‘sustainable development’

What Makes a Building “Green”?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

What Makes a Building “Green”?

In this week’s episode, Architectural Technologies student Christina Sullenberger succinctly summed things up when she told us, “Everything now is becoming green.”

She was, of course, referring to today’s emphasis on “green building.” But what, exactly, makes a building “green”?

According to the website, in the case of residential homes, much of a building’s greenness boils down to the use of energy. For example, how much energy is used in the building materials themselves, in their transportation and assembling? And, once a building is constructed, how much energy does it require to keep its inhabitants comfortable?

“Green” buildings require less energy for a number of reasons: They are constructed from an area’s local materials, which means they didn’t have to travel as far to reach their destination and didn’t burn as much fossil fuel in the process. They are also less likely to be processed by industry. So, for example, in Colorado, local building materials might consist of rocks, sand and adobe. “Green” buildings also rely on recycled materials. By using existing materials, “green” builders keep materials out of landfills and keep them from being transported for further processing. And “green” buildings take advantage of the sun’s heat. Good passive solar design provides just enough sunlight to be absorbed by the room’s surrounding thermal mass (usually masonry materials) so that the heat will be given back to the room when the sun goes down.

Now, for a look at some buildings that more than fit these descriptions, check out Dedicated to “design that will save the world,” has come up with some fascinating examples of sustainable architecture: everything from a two-story pavilion in China constructed entirely of bamboo…

Bamboo German- Chinese House

Bamboo German- Chinese House

To a cozy Minnesota cabin made of used shipping containers…

Holyoke Cabin- Minnesota

Holyoke Cabin- Minnesota

A minimalist adobe brick home in Texas…..

Texas Adobe Home

Texas Adobe Home

And even a mixed-use building in Armenia literally covered in native plants which act to absorb heat and filter air and water.

Lace Hill: A Living Green Mountain

Lace Hill: A Living Green Mountain

Christina was right: Green really is everywhere.

The Coming Green Economy: A Q&A with ATE Conference Keynote Speaker Debra Rowe

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

One of the highlights of the recent ATE Conference was keynote speaker Debra Rowe’s presentation Education for a Green and Sustainable Future. Professor Rowe did a great job explaining the new jobs the green economy is going to create, why we need them, and how ATE programs can adapt to meet the coming demand.


Photo Credit:  MCPA

For 29 years, Professor Rowe has taught energy management and renewable energy at Oakland Community College.  She is also the president of U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, which coordinates sustainability initiatives among business, education and government.  Among many other projects, the partnership helps educators communicate their work in green tech to the general public. Read her full bio.

We asked Dr. Rowe to elaborate on some of the ideas in her speech.

ATETV: What changes in the green tech industry during the last 5-10 years are the most exciting for you? What additional ones do you feel are on the horizon?

Debra Rowe: The recognition that there are business opportunities that will simultaneously create healthier ecosystems and economies; the awareness that our economy is presently modified to support fossil fuel use — it is so easy to hook up to a dirty coal fired power plant, but if you want solar on your house, you have to pay the whole price up front. New policies can fix that, thereby increasing clean and domestic renewable energies that will create new jobs, less pollution, and more health as well.

ATETV: How do students from Oakland Community College, and other colleges benefit from the new “green economy?”

DR: We can infuse this green and sustainability understanding into all of our degrees and certificates, and engage students in solutions that will both benefit them personally and benefit society as well.

ATETV: How has this economy changed existing career options?

DR: There are over 100 new green job classifications, and many existing careers need an infusion of green and sustainability knowledge and actions. It has expanded career options and requirements to know green and sustainability principles for many jobs.

ATETV: Why is the demand for technical graduates so high with degrees in green tech?

DR: It is high in some areas and not in other areas, but it will continue to grow. It is high because we are finally getting rid of misinformation and bad local, state and federal policies that were in the way of a green economy.

ATETV: One of the most notable references from your speech was the term “arm chair pontificator” and your call to “educate to action.” For ATETV followers that were not able to hear you in DC, what does this mean?

DR: In higher ed, we have been emphasizing critical thinking. This can produce graduates who can analyze a situation but don’t have the skills and attitudes to go into the real world and make effective change. I call these people armchair pontificators, because they go on and on about what is wrong with the world but then don’t take action. We need to teach and give students chances to practice how to be effective change agents.

ATETV: What is your related advice for them?

DR: Change the curricula to work on real-world problem solving for sustainability, teach all students about our sustainability challenges, and give them multiple opportunities to learn change-agent skills and engage in solutions by incorporating this into courses in all disciplines. Many colleges are already moving in this direction.

For more information on the new categories of green jobs, check out this PowerPoint presentation by Carolyn Teich of the American Association of Community Colleges.