Buildings Mitigation Opportunities with a Focus on Health Implications

Robert Thompson1, James Jetter, David Marr, and Clyde Owens

Abstract Addressing building energy use is the critical first step in any strategic plan for mitigating climate change. Buildings have a direct impact on estimated global climate change due to their large carbon footprint. Energy use in the building sector is the largest man-made contributor to climate change, and coincidentally a key sector to start mitigating climate change. To avoid revisiting problems such as sick building syndrome arising from aggressive building weatherization programs in the 1970s, it is critical that policy makers, regulators, and strategic planners remember that the primary function of buildings is not saving energy. The bottom line of why we build buildings is for safety and comfort in our homes, to enhance productivity in the workplace, and to ensure an optimal learning environment in our schools. The fundamental services of improving human health, comfort, productivity, and performance should not be compromised as we strive to minimize energy use in buildings. A one-dimensional focus on energy could result in unsustainable policies and practices. Much is understood about technologies, materials, and design techniques that can reduce energy use in buildings. However, much attention must be paid to recognizing how these approaches can enhance or damage human health and productivity as well as the environment. The focus of this chapter is not existing energy sectors and conservation technologies that have been extensively understood and considered in the literature, but on underutilized mitigation techniques that both increase the sustainability of our buildings while maintaining a focus on human health and the environment. A key intersection between climate change, buildings, and human health is building materials and products, and an effective testing and information transfer program is urgently

*The findings included in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute Agency endorsement or recommendation for use. t © US Government 2011

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division, Cincinnati, OH, USA email: [email protected]

F.T. Princiotta (ed.), Global Climate Change - The Technology Challenge, Advances in Global Change Research 38, DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3153-2_7, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

needed so that building stakeholders have the information and tools they need to make good decisions during the design, construction, operation, and renovation phases of buildings.

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