Sunday, August 28, 2016

European green building is leading the way forward



It often seems like smaller countries are doing the most to tackle climate change; nations like Switzerland and Austria have some of the best recycling systems in the world, while the likes of Bhutan and Costa Rica are doing more than anyone to become carbon neutral nations. However, there are some major Western European nations that are making interesting attempts to improve their carbon footprints.

In 2015, France made it a legal requirement for all new buildings in commercial zones to cover part of their rooftops in plants or solar panels. This helps reduce the amount of energy it takes for these buildings to be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. The law could have gone further, and was watered down from original plans to cover the whole roofs of every new buildings in such a fashion, but this is still an inventive and hugely productive way to make buildings more energy efficient. 

The United Kingdom has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% come 2050. Currently, the UK Green Building Council is running an exciting project to refurbish its office in a creative, clever, and environmentally friendly fashion. 

It hopes this office will have the lowest measured fit-out carbon footprint in the UK, as well as to use 98% recycled materials over the course of the redesign. They have also worked to encourage major cities in the UK to take on environmental challenges, helping places like Manchester and Birmingham embrace innovative, refreshing green design. 

Some of the most impressive green buildings in the world are to be found in Germany. The city of Freiburg boasts several of them, including the Solarsiedlung (Solar Settlement) and the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship), which is a small, vibrant community powered entirely by solar energy in the city district of Vauban.  

What's particularly impressive is just how energy efficient the Reichstag (Germany's parliament) is- the building generates 80% of the energy it uses itself, and there is a special insulation system to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It all comes together to make the Reichstag one of the world's most energy efficient major buildings. 




Stefano Boeri's jaw dropping 'Bosco Verticale,' or 'Vertical Forest,' consists of two skyscrapers with trees planted on special platforms. These skyscrapers are tall enough to sustain more trees than an entire hectare of forest could. On a bright, sunny day, the Bosco Verticale really is one of the most stunning things in Milan, as lush vegetation springs confidently forth from the skyscrapers, turning the skyline a delightfully vivid green. 


Of course, there is a practical purpose to this as well, as the extra trees guzzle up CO2 and dust particles and emit clean oxygen, as well as bringing natural warmth to the building, and protecting people and houses from sustained exposure to harmful sun rays. Gutsy projects like this may make all the difference in the future in ensuring our cities remain appealing places to live.


Top 5 recycling nations - RANKED


Many countries pay lip service to the importance of recycling, but which ones do it best? Here are the five nations who recycle the greatest percentage of their overall waste...

5) SWITZERLAND: The Swiss national character places a high value on order and cleanliness- you can spend a couple of nights in jail simply for taking the recycling out on the wrong day- so it's no surprise they are among the best recyclers in the world. It actually costs a Euro to simply throw your trash away rather than recycle it. The government don't just bribe and coerce people to recycle though; there are also bottle banks at every supermarket, and free paper collections once a month. Switzerland are busy creating a culture where it is actively unusual not to recycle. 

4) SOUTH KOREA: South Korea spends 2% of it's GDP on a Green Growth Plan, hoping to deliver environmentally friendly economic prosperity. Its recycling industry is booming, and major companies are on board. Each apartment block has a fastidious recycling system similar to the Swiss model, where recycling is free but merely throwing items in the trash costs you a small amount of money. Wherever you are in the world, it seems economic incentives are an effective way of convincing people to care about recycling.

3) BELGIUM- 
Some people consider Belgium's recycling program to be the best in Europe. The Flemish part of Belgium has the highest waste diversion rate on the continent, with nearly three quarters of its waste getting recycled or composted. What's more, the Flemish economy has grown significantly since 2000, yet the level of waste generation has remained consistently low; usually economic growth goes hand in hand with a rise in the production of waste. 

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GERMANY: Happily living up to their stereotype of efficiency, Germany does the best job of recycling its waste of any country on the planet. An average house will have five different types of bin, with four of them dedicated to categories of materials that can be recycled. The system can often prove daunting for foreign visitors, which goes to demonstrate just how much more advanced Germany is compared to the rest of the world in its attitude towards recycling. Indeed, with four of the countries on this list being in Central Europe, it seems that area of the world is setting the best example for everyone else.

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AUSTRIA: Austria has taken a comprehensive approach to encouraging its citizens to recycle. The combination of economic incentives, the successful implementation of education and training programs, and memorable advertising campaigns have thoroughly convinced Austrian citizens of the value recycling, and helped turn Austria into the biggest recycler in the world.