sustainable building in South Korea

In an attempt to lower carbon emissions, South Korea has completed construction on an $8 million dollar eco-friendly building.

According to news sources, (they all say the exact same thing) South Korea calls it the ultimate eco-friendly business centre, emitting zero carbon and using only renewable resources. They say the building uses 66 kinds of technologies including energy saving techniques such as solar heating and geothermal energy.


What the news articles also state is that buildings are responsible for 25% of the carbon emissions that enter the atmosphere in South Korea.  I searched for a source that would tell me what the global percentage use is, and had a hard time finding anything.  Eventually I came across ClimateWorks Foundation that states the combined energy use of the world’s buildings and electrical appliances accounts for a whopping 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

That same site informed me that emissions from deforestation and other land use changes account for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  The burning of fossil fuels in cars, trucks, ships, airplanes, and other modes of transport is currently responsible for about 20%.  Power generation accounts for 20%. (I’m assuming the reason our total is higher than 100% is because of the overlap in the power generation category.  Some of that power must be accounted for in the first three categories.)

Human activity is currently responsible for the production of 27 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, and rising.  Scientists calculate that volcanoes produce about 130-230 million tonnes of CO2 each year.  That means humans create 150 times the amount of pollution that volcanoes do.  Think about that the next time you see footage of a volcano erupting . . .

China tops the list of countries emitting the most CO2 (they overtook the US in 2007), but this fact is a bit deceiving.  According to the Earth Policy Institute, a country’s emissions are calculated based on all of the fossil fuels burned within it’s borders.  22% of China’s emissions are spent creating goods for export.  Most of those goods are exported to the United States.  If emissions totals were adjusted to account for Chinese exports and U.S. imports, the United States is still the world’s leading emitter.

So I think its pretty cool that South Korea has a building with zero emissions.  Since most of us don’t have $8 million to spend on a new house, there are plenty of things people can do to cut back on their carbon consumption, and lower the emissions of less sustainable buildings.  We can turn off our lights and unplug our power-leaching devices when we leave the house (computer, internet, stereo etc.)  We can use a fan and blinds instead of air conditioning.  We can choose to live in places that get more sunlight, to cut back on power consumption from light bulbs.

The average person might not be able to live or work in a zero emissions building, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own concessions to decrease its environmental footprint!

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