Materials and the Environment


Human species left cave building habitats elsewhere because there was not enough space to support the growth and the living conditions were unhealthy; lack of air quality due to activity within semi closed space. Even though they were protected from rain, wind, cold and wild animals, yet there was a need to build shelter to support human growth therefore, early humans had to use available materials within their surroundings. As we were developing our living and working places the intensity of extracting materials also increased and create agricultural communities and cities. At the mid 18th century, the industrial revolution taught us about mass production of products by extracting materials from the environment. Discovery of new forms of energy and industrialization fed Capitalism which in its turn, exploited and abuse natural and human resources for profit. Cites were the center of commerce and industry, nature was considered to be somewhere far in the prairies or wilderness.

It was only about six or seven decades that we became aware of the building environment that is not as healthy as we have expected. During centuries the same humans that once lived in cave have been building toxic environment and continue to do so.

Climate change and its devastating consequences force us to rethink of industrial production of materials and their use, we have to come up with making materials to avoid harming the environment, we became vigilant about the extraction and harvesting form natural environment rather than abusing it as we used to do that for a long time.Since the silence of nature sends messages such as floods, drought and the threat of extension, we have become aware and initiate understanding how ecosystems work and correct our behaviors toward production of material as a main concern. We should first investigate and discover the purpose of material use asking question such as what is the chemical composition, where it comes from, how it was extracted, what was the process of transformation from natural to artificial stage rather than ironically to consume the friendly labeled material and the most importantly considering the environmental impact of the material during and after production, once it is used to suite our needs, we should anticipate the maintenance of material during the life cycle and finally after the end use recycling or dispose it back to the earth and allow the nature itself to process decomposition of material in another words we should treat material like a living creature. In an abstract sense, we do not own extract material from natural resources, we borrow them like a long term loan without paying interest. Natural environment is a generous and wealthy bank that gives a way freely its resources, it would be unwise to deplete it sources wildly without respecting it. This is what we have done for about three centuries. Humans started to evolve when he discovered the potential of the natural materials and to modify it for another use, a simple stick became extension of his arm reaching spaces around him where he was not able with bare hands, by sharpening the stick tip created a weapon that he did not have before, therefore changing the nature of materials through construction action has been the vehicle of his evolution from living on trees, to migration to caves, and into forming agricultural community and building cities. We have indeed created materials to build the environment in which we all live, we are surrounded by materials, we live amongst materials, we work with tools made of materials, we made powerful tools to extract materials and with advanced technology of today we produce material beyond the perfection. The question remains what about the living environment. Since beginning of 19th century we have discovered that we have indeed transformed our planet into an unhealthy bubble in which all living creature have been captured with pollution and our living and working places is unsafe at global scale. The solution is a new challenge to human kind and surely we need to act all together as the community of human kind, the citizen of planet Earth since we are the cause.Education for a healthy living, starts with the creation of healthy environment; it is a must not a choice. We must continue to learn about the natural environment and natural laws and spread it into communities recognizing collectively the nature where we all come from as permanent social values. Also as first step we need to change our habits of wasting material overbuilding living spaces, statistic indicates compared to mid 19 century, area of living space have increased more than three times, meaning that we have wasted materials and energy impacting the environment therefore source reduction must remain the priority. We should consider using renewable energy since it is ready and available everywhere for free, solar energy has always been present.The implementation of Life Cycle Assessment remains a great tool for decision making and it should be prescribed without exception. Recycling existing structure rather demolition will help save materials, protect the environment, reduce embodied energy, save economic resources, and reduces carbon footprint. We have to revise the way that we use to produce toxic materials by inventing processes to make material free of toxic waste offering health in to human life. In the past we have built a lot of offices and headquarters that will soon be vacant since the majority of administrative tasks are performed through use of computer and internet therefore we should come up with creative use of this available spaces in dense urban environment. Adaptive reuse is another environmental approach for abundant warehouse, they could transform into apartments or art galleries since they are available across the cities. We should consider using natural materials such as vegetation and trees to protect building envelope for a better performance, nothing wrong to let grow cat claws on east and west walls as an additional skin to protect envelop form solar radiation and plant deciduous trees on south to provide shade in summer and using passive heating during the winter and the most important material should contribute to a safe healthy indoor environment.

Green revolution is a gradual changing process; it will not happen overnight by shedding green blood over street rather it is a continual procedure like the nature itself,it has its own path where we should stay on and participate in its reconstruction and maintenance for a mutual healthy living and perhaps we should include that as an integral part of Human Rights and make it a universal law.

The following is an attempt to create a new material such as a vegetated wall using engineered dirt and genetically modified lawn manufactured within 2’ x 2’ treated metal panel against oxidation and painted with clear tone high albedo. Using low humidity available in the air the panel become a living envelope secured to structure absorbing solar energy managing excessive heat absorption. The fine and light green texture within square grid pattern varies with direction of sunlight creating a dynamic visual.


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