It would not be an exaggeration to say that 21st century human beings have leapt into an age of luxury when comparing the living standards and opportunity available for a sizeable portion of the global population over past centuries. This has been brought by taming resources for energy creation and usage.
Energy is at the core of all forms of life but with artificial energy generation and consumption an inescapable dependence on energy has been created for sustenance of this lifestyle. This creation and consumption cycle has fallouts which threaten the survival of Homo sapiens on the blue planet. The fallouts like greenhouse emissions, global warming, overuse of resources, environmental degradation and pollution all take a dig at making earth unfit for human dwelling.
These dangers have been identified and are being targeted at for finding solutions.While economic forces would have straightened things, they are complicated by desire for remaining in power which in turn leads to bending rules.
A measure taken by leaders worldwide was introducing environmental sciences as a part of curriculum of school going students, to make the future leaders of the society more aware about challenges and keep them prepared to take up the issues. This was a commendable step, one that brought about massive awareness in the school going population, at least due to the fact that most of the subject matter remained same in all the grades and it was mandatory to study them each year so it became their favorite :rote and scoring. At least in India I can say people discussed about preparing for it in the same vein as that for literature.
The other significant effect of this was that they more often switched off the lights and fans (me too). And that is a welcoming development, but the problem is it stops there and they feel they have done their part in escaping the glacial meltdown, at least delayed it by a few years.
However, these actions are not complete to ward off the effects nor are they people completely energy aware.
Our energy conservation decisions should be based on these 2 factors: operational energy and embodied energy. Operational energy is what we are more generally concerned with (mostly due to the underlying economics): the energy required to operate the equipment as switching off TV sets when not in use or AC when temperature is bearable.
Embodied energy goes unnoticed by masses and is limited to the esoteric circle of industry.
Embodied energy (EE) is the energy that goes into the making of product available for consumption. It is the sum of energies that are required for producing and transporting to destination. While the energy utilized during production can be accounted within the boundaries of the factory, it is difficult to answer for the transportation cost.Embodied energy is what transforms the raw material into product and cannot be entirely zeroed. Lesser the extraction, processing and refining lower is EE and greener is the product.
Armed with this knowledge we can make energy-wise decisions to choose among the options.Bricks, cements and steel are major components of the building cost and there share cannot be reduced much, but when it comes to floor we can make decisions between vitrified tiles and stone. Similarly, fly ash bricks are greener than stabilized earth blocks but they lose their green edge when they are transported for more than 50 kms; embodied energy weighs in.
But the durability and recyclability of the product should also be considered before investing. It is wise to invest in durable high EE product than low EE products requiring frequent maintenance.|
Since the natural resources have been left for exploitation without accounting for the consequences the generated products will have on the planet, the economics does not kick in and there is an imbalance.
Buildings are responsible for one-third of resource consumption of the world, it should be wisely regulating buildings material. Indian regulators are trying to employ ECBC: energy-efficient building code for making buildings energy efficient but they too overlook the intangible EE involved.
These imbalances must be rectified by employing policies.
This is a high time for us to reduce the carbon and energy footprint by taking EE and OE into account and maybe change the school’s environmental education syllabus to make it more challenging.