We Have a Toxic Relationship With Buildings

Let’s break this down.

We know that the built environment — buildings and all the related structures that connect and support them — is one of the largest contributors to climate change emissions. The way we build and operate buildings has, and continues to, cause our climate to change in significant and disproportionate ways.

We seek shelter from climate impacts in spaces that negatively impact our health; yet these spaces also cause climate impacts, by releasing a significant amount of climate change emissions (GHG).

So what do we do?

To break out of this “risk loop” we first need to recognize our own confirmation bias towards the assumption that sustainable buildings are somehow “riskier.” This just isn’t true: whereas innovative, sustainable technologies and strategies can sometimes lack clear precedent, when balanced against the well-documented risks of a rapidly changing climate, the balance tips towards innovation. And as the body research that solidifies the negative impacts “traditional” buildings have on health and wellness continues to grow, the risk of maintaining the status quo — excessively high indoor pollutant levels as just one example — is outweighed by the benefits of innovation.

In this new paradigm, some of the up front “costs,” a term that also needs to be redefined, flow to other entities, as climate does not respect property lines or jurisdictional boundaries.



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Nicole DeNamur

Nicole DeNamur


Attorney + sustainability consultant. I write about how we can drive deep green innovation at scale. https://www.sustainablestrategiespllc.com