Look out your window. Chances are good that your view includes buildings, roads, trees - and perhaps if you are lucky - a garden, a park or an open field. Unless you live in the forest, along a shore line or at the end of farmers’ field, you live in an environment constructed to serve the economic, social and environmental needs of your community.
The “Built Environment” refers to the spaces we create to accommodate human activity with the physical environment – be they villages, cities or industrial parks. They include the transportation systems, the infrastructure, the commercial buildings, the houses, the churches and art galleries, the parks and all the spaces in between. How these spaces are designed and how they function have a great impact on our health, our sense of community, our livelihoods and our environment.
Buildings are a significant component of our built environment. In Vancouver alone, buildings account for 55% of the City’s total green house gas emissions. Municipalities and developers around the world, recognize that moving to greener buildings makes perfect sense, both economically and ecologically. With large-scale, integrated systems, improvements in building sustainability translate into major reductions in GHG emissions and energy bills and can also contribute to major upgrades in quality of life.
Roads, public transit, bike paths, marine routes, walkways, air and rail lines move people and goods in, out and through the built environment. In Canada, transportation accounts for 22% of our GHG emissions. Efforts to introduce energy efficient vehicles, redesign road space allocation to encourage alternative transportation methods, develop new air, ship and rail systems that rely less on fossil fuels, and encourage public bike sharing programs are among some of the initiatives that have emerged to lower the carbon footprint of our transportation system.
The Built Environment is one of the key programme areas for Carbon Talks. Whether it’s convening developers and architects with city planners in developing a plan for carbon neutral buildings in Vancouver by 2020 or working with engineers to plan the best way to move goods and people through a city, Carbon Talks recognizes the importance of our built environment and the role that cities and municipalities can play as change agents in the transition to the low-carbon economy.