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Building Ecology: Relation of Buildings to Environmental and Societal Issues

In the 1960s, commercial buildings became more isolated from the outdoor environment and were built and filled increasingly with synthetic materials. In the 1970s, concern for energy conservation drove ventilation rates down, and indoor air quality and climate problems proliferated.

In the 1980s, we learned that we had to address thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and energy management in an integrated fashion. When satellite observations helped scientists confirm the seasonal appearance of the ozone hole over the Antarctic region, it became even more evident that, as the ecologists have said for decades, 'everything is connected to everything.' The corollary is: 'you can't do just one thing.'

Growing awareness of the sensitivity of the environment to human activity by today's global population accelerated efforts to address environmental issues around the world. In Europe, it is easier to come by awareness of resource and land limitations and the ability of the environment to absorb pollution; Europeans have lived with "limits to growth" for centuries. America developed with a frontier mentality -there is always more land, more mineral resources, more energy, and more space. If we can't do it here, we will just expand, we even do it in outer space.

Presented at Johnson Controls, Inc.: Quality Building Environments Workshop
January 16, 1996; Milwaukee, WI.

 


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