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Ecology - An Excerpt from The Natural Building Companion

Ecology - An Excerpt from The Natural Building Companion

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Applicable to building in climates that are cold and wet, hot and dry, or somewhere in between, The Natural Building Companion offers thorough coverage of straw bale, straw-clay, woodchip-clay, and cellulose wall systems--as well as earthen and stone wall systems. Integrating holistic design and permaculture principles, this fully illustrated volume informs professionals making the transition from conventional building, homeowners embarking on their own construction, or green builders who want comprehensive guidance on natural-building options.
Applicable to building in climates that are cold and wet, hot and dry, or somewhere in between, The Natural Building Companion offers thorough coverage of straw bale, straw-clay, woodchip-clay, and cellulose wall systems--as well as earthen and stone wall systems. Integrating holistic design and permaculture principles, this fully illustrated volume informs professionals making the transition from conventional building, homeowners embarking on their own construction, or green builders who want comprehensive guidance on natural-building options.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Feb 01, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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01/28/2015

 
 A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO INTEGRATIVE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION |
w i t h
 INSTRUCTIONAL DVD
 Jacob Deva Racusin
an
 Ace McArleton
Natural Building
COMPANION
the 
 
DESIGN/BUILD LIBRARY
 
to systems ecology are happening now, and are not  just potential future outcomes. In accepting this reality, we then must also accept responsibility for changing these outcomes. The primary cause of the current global warming trend is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; the gases prevent heat from radiating through the atmosphere into space, trapping the heat and raising global climate temperatures. As designers and builders we are part of an industry that contributes 35% of the greenhouse gas emitted in North America (Biello 2008), so we can play a big role in achieving significant greenhouse gas reductions. From material selection to energy efficiency detailing, much of what makes natural building a more ecologically favorable building practice relates to the fact that it contributes less to global warming than do other building practices. A critical consideration in gaining an awareness of the context of a building is appreciating the ecological impact of the structure as a whole and of its material components—from the extraction of the feedstock to the disposal of the building upon demolition—as well as the ecology of the proposed building site. There is far more on this subject than can be covered in this book; therefore, we will lay out the most significant ecological considerations and the role natural building plays in causation and/or remediation of these considerations, and we encourage you to engage in further research on the topics of greatest relevance to your project.
Global Warming and Climate Change
The largest, most complex, and most urgent social and ecological issue we face as a global community is that of the steady warming of our Earth’s climate,  which is the result of, at least in part, the release of anthropogenically sourced carbon compounds into the atmosphere. While there are still people who question the validity of climate change—the extent of its potential negative impact, or the human causation factors involved—the overwhelming majority of scientific research shows measurable evidence of rising global temperatures and shifts in climate, with direct human causation. Associated ecosystem degradation, biodiversity and habitat loss, phenological changes (how plant and animal life-cycle events are influenced by variations in climate), and myriad other changes
CHAPTER 2
E󰁣󰁯󰁬󰁯󰁧󰁹
The effectiveness of greenhouse gases in trapping heat in our atmosphere is measured as global warming potential (GWP); by association, the GWP of a material, product, or building is directly related to the emissions of these gases. Carbon dioxide (CO
2
) is the most common and most heavily produced by anthropogenic sources. However, methane has 25 times, nitrous oxide 298 times, and hexafluoride 22,800 times the GWP (Malin 2008). Since CO
2
 is used as a baseline, the value of these gases is referred to as CO
2
equivalent, or CO
2
e. For example, 1 ton of methane is represented as 25 tons CO
2
e. To have an effective impact on reducing CO
2
e,  we have to identify the contributing factors of CO
2
e in buildings. Given that energy consumption is a primary source of CO
2
e production, a common tool
 
The Natural Building Companion
󰀱󰀲
U.S. TOTAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN 2005(million metric tons CO
2
 equivalent)
CommercialResidentialIndustrialTransportation
Greenhouse gas production in the United States in 2005, by sector.
GRAPH BY JACOB DEVA RACUSIN; SOURCE EMRATH AND LIU 2007.
for analyzing the impact of a material is through its energy use. The amount of energy used to produce a material from raw feedstock extraction through production and manufacturing is called its
embodied 
 
energy 
; this period of analysis, or boundary, is referred to as
cradle-to-gate 
, and it is the common boundary
There are ecological impacts throughout a product’s life cycle, from cradle to grave.
ILLUSTRATION BY BEN GRAHAM.
used to calculate the embodied energy for materials. The
cradle-to-grave 
 boundary, by comparison, includes all energy used in resource extraction, manufacturing, production, transportation to site, inclusion within a building, and disposal (Hammond and Jones 2011). In analysis of a new construction

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