Architects in a new covid environment

At JEA we often talk about the environment and noticed a lot of little changes due to covid -19 during the lockdown, changes such as less traffic, more wildflower growth, household changes such as recycling and gardening and using our cars less. When we add all these little changes together, it has a massive change in the landscape and our environment and our general well being.

 

Pardon the pun “it’s a lot greener” in our local communities and there is a dramatic reduction of traffic on our roads, in the air and on the sea. This all contributes to the increase in air quality, the increase in wildflower and hedgerow growth in our communities. Humans are working less on cutting hedgerows, grass verges etc. which is helping the natural growth wild grasses, flowers, trees and hedgerows. Due to the lockdown people are taking advantage of the guidelines to exercise locally and this has been an eye opener for most of us and that we appreciate our natural communities more, we have observed these increases and the beautiful natural growth, cleaner air.

 

When it comes to humans, we space ourselves from toxic friends and family. We quit jobs that make us feel unhappy or stressed. We avoid events that are boring or anxiety inducing. We understand the impact of our environment on ourselves, and on our health and wellbeing.

So why do we treat our planet differently? During this pandemic we have seen changes in the air, the landscape, we hear more animal life and less traffic. We have even adopted little changes to our lives that help our environment such as gardening and recycling. This is down to the fact that during this crisis we value life and our health even more as we fear it is threatened, we also have more time to reflect and implement those changes we seek but never do.

How it is effecting us globally?

Due to the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on travel and industry, many regions and the planet as a whole experienced a drop in air pollution. Reducing air pollution can reduce both climate change and COVID-19 risks.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reported that methods to contain the spread of coronavirus, such as quarantines and travel bans, resulted in an average of 25% reduction of carbon emissions worldwide.

 

One scientist estimated that this reduction may have saved at least 77,000 lives

Between 1 January and 11 March 2020, the European Space Agency observed a marked decline in nitrous oxide emissions in northern Italy, coinciding with lockdowns in the region

NASA and ESA have been monitoring how the nitrogen dioxide gases dropped significantly during the initial Chinese phase of the pandemic. The economic slowdown from the virus has drastically dropped the pollution levels, by 25-40% which would be the biggest drop since World War II according to the researchers. They ascribe these decreases mainly to the reduction of transportation usage and industrial activities.  Societal shifts caused by the coronavirus lockdowns – like widespread telecommuting and the use of virtual meetings and conferences using technology may have a more sustained impact beyond the short term reduction of transportation usage. Trains cars planes, ships all contribute to a reduction in fuel burning which has a ripple effect on the reduction of air pollution. Fuel prices have fallen dramatically due to the lockdown and the significant reduction of commuters.

 

Waste is another huge problem with the impact it has on our planet. The primary sources with dealing with this issue are landfill and Incinerators leaving recycling as a minor and sometimes insignificant alternative. However, we are changing and society is more aware of the effects recycling have to our environment. Now we are quarantined this allows us to effectively filter our rubbish. We need to use recycling as a primary source of dealing with rubbish such as plastics, metal tins, paper and decomposing matter like food ect. Industry will also need to change dramatically to effect change for example farmers have an ideal opportunity to change the operations by converting to biofuels.

 

Wildlife

Demand for fish and fish prices have both decreased due to the pandemic, and fishing fleets around the world sit mostly idle. German scientist Rainer Froese has said the fish biomass will increase due to the sharp decline in fishing, and projected that in European waters, some fish could double their biomass.

As people stayed at home due to lockdown and travel restrictions, some animals have been spotted in cities. Sea turtles were spotted laying eggs on beaches they once avoided, due to the lowered levels of human interference and light pollution.

On the flip side, conservationists expect that African countries will experience a massive surge in bush meat poaching. When people don’t have any other alternative for income, the prediction is that poaching will go up for high-value products like rhino horn and ivory.

The pandemic also encouraged disruption for illegal deforestation operations in poorer countries.

This was observed by satellite imagery showed deforestation of the Amazon rainforest surging by over 50 per cent compared to baseline levels. Unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated the recruitment of workers. The estimated global annual net loss of trees is 10 billion trees over the span of 5 years.

Bees may be tiny in size, but their impact on the natural world is profound: An estimated 80 percent of flowering plants and one-third of the world’s food is pollinated by bees. Without this insect, our environment would look drastically different.  Bees and other pollinating insects have a Massive global economic value. We are now learning their true value to industry and to our environment.

In recent years, the bee population has been threatened. But with the universal growth of wildflowers during the pandemic, we will see an increase in the population once again.

The current lockdown is helping to reverse the sharp decline in bee populations in two ways. Less traffic on our roads means fewer fumes and pollution particles from automobiles. This means that bees can more easily smell floral scents that lead them to plants that need pollinating. Another reason that the bee population may be recovering is that, Fewer cars on the roads means other benefits for bees too

As Architects, we make buildings that are friendly to the environment and more green which can be adaptable to the surroundings, in other words, we need to create buildings that are energy efficient, buildings which are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and nature.

 

So they need to take into consideration:

  • Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
  • Protecting residents’ health and improving people’s productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation

Green buildings (green architecture) are a trend these days for their positive effect on the environment because they take landscaping into account. Green buildings also managed in the construction process to make sure that any waterways remain unpolluted with construction by-products.

 

Under current building regulations we are required to design new houses to meet or exceed an A2 energy rating. In most instances this requires two energy efficient systems to be installed, if it’s solar energy, Heat recovery or Air (to water to name a few) to meet this standard. The effect this has is that homeowners rely on less fossil fuels to heat their house and rely less on electricity for 2 reasons, the increase in insulation and airtightness means that we now need very little to heat our house and with systems like solar this helps produce natural heating and electric systems. These assist on reducing our carbon footprint and help Our planet.

Every little helps and if lessons are to be learnt during this pandemic, everyone and every industry/government needs to embrace change and implement action to help the planet

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