Friday, September 28, 2007

Saving energy ... by building like a beetle …

  Which steps will be the most successful in cutting greenhouse gas emissions?  While the media focuses on low-emission vehicles and technology for power plants, one of the most promising trends is the development of new technology for the most voracious category of greenhouse gas users –- buildings.  This article in the Economist explains how designers are using techniques and lessons from nature to develop building systems that use much less energy and impose fewer adverse environmental impacts.  It may become an integral part of “green building.”

Beetle   Among the techniques are ventilation systems based on anthills, which during warm days draw in cool air at the bottom and vent warm air out the top.  Lessons from beetles allow buildings to capture condensed water from humid air.  And a system of gills, modeled on camel nostrils, can desalinate saltwater without the huge energy costs of traditional desalination systems.

   Law could foster successful techniques through a judicious combination of requiring “best practices” and setting up a system for trading energy savings.  As energy prices continue to rise, expect to see more governments stepping up to help the market advance these energy-saving measures in our built-up world.

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