Thanks for the wake-up call. I question the whether we really do know what to do. There have been huge strides in reducing operating emissions and a growing awareness and some progress on reducing embodied carbon, but these are still aimed at some version of business as usual, i.e. continue building. Yes we need new buildings, but you can argue that at least in the near term we also need to keep extracting and burning fossil fuels, and many of us don’t have a problem calling for banning fossil fuels right now.
I think it is time to consider a moratorium on new construction along with a massive investment in existing buildings and infrastructure. Lance Hosey, god bless him, proposed this back in 2014 and got hammered for saying it. But what was really radical about his proposal was his call to repurpose the entire building industry to renovate and upgrade existing buildings and infrastructure. This not only cuts all emissions from new buildings, it drastically reduces operating emissions from existing buildings, which are more than double all new building emissions.
Acknowledging that a total ban on new construction might be impossible, Lance noted two possible exceptions: 1. only build on brownfield sites - remediates toxic soils, increases density, preserves habitat; and 2. require all new construction to be net zero - makes net zero technologies more available and affordable
Check out the article: Stop. Building. Now – Lance Hosey, Huffpost
Repurposing the economy at this scale is not unprecedented, it happened during the Great Depression, during WWII and more recently during the pandemic where we came up with a vaccine in record time. Government definitely needs to step up, but if the construction industry called for a moratorium on building that might get someone’s attention.
And hey, it’s just a moratorium. Banning fossil fuels is forever.
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