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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Building A Greener Japan

We hear a lot of words tossed around these days about sustainable this and sustainable that, and few people have any notion as to what it really means, except that’s it’s a catchy phrase that is meant to inform you that they are into being green. 

Back when I was a kid, the term was ecology… a catch-all phrase that mean you were into the environment in a way that showed you cared… and were trying to do something about it…

The flag above was the old ecology flag… used by environmentalists.

My best ever science fair project was my display on ecology, showing how long it took for different products to break down naturally in the environment, should the Earth last long enough for any of us to still be there to see it.

Styrofoam, was one of those biggies… and along with the Styrofoam cups, we used to get our McDonalds' Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in them—and when McDonalds finally switched over to a paperboard container, the planet breathed a little easier. 

Nowadays, we know about Earth Day… - that was this past Sunday, though I doubt any of us did anything about it.

I wish I could afford an electric car. At least here in Canada, I would feel a lot better about driving such a vehicle knowing that the electrical power comes from cleaners sources… for example, not coal, than the United States, or as we call them Central North America.

I have nothing against the folks who worked their butts off in the coal industry, and I am sorry it has created massive economic problems in those areas due to closings, but dammit, the black lung… the health concerns for the workers/miners just numbs my brain. 

While certain Central North Americans seem to have zero interest in protecting the environment, and refuse to believe in such things like the planet is suffering due to man-made intervention, I at the very least am able to think for myself and don’t feel I have to toe the party line and sacrifice my soul just to realize that the world is not in the best of shape, and failure to look after things now means future generations are going to be fugged.

An inability to realize that is just selfish.

So… what is sustainability?

Wikipedia actually offers a decent definition:

It is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.

Japan is hardly a country that pops to mind when discussing “sustainability” and “environmental greenness.”

While much of Japan is covered in greenery… much of it… and yeah, school kids do go out once a year into towns to clean local communities… and yeah, waste separation and pick-up is ahead of many countries… there’s still a negative vibe around Japan and “green” … or maybe that’s just me, and my past prejudices from 28 years ago.

Forget I said that crap about Japan.

I have no idea how I cam across this web page, but I did: the Japan Sustainable Building Database.

It’s a website that wants to try and introduce sustainable building information that could be used for upcoming architectural projects, with advice on building techniques and policy frameworks, etc.

It’s a guide for “best Practices”, which means that future architects and builders looking to design and construct a sustainable building need not go in blind.

Now the term sustainable building is a bit of a misnomer here.

Sustainable implies diverse and productive indefinitely. 

According to the AIJ (Architectural Institute of Japan),  “A sustainable building is one which is designed: [1] to save energy and resources, recycle materials and minimize the emission of toxic substances throughout its life cycle, [2] to harmonize with the local climate, traditions, culture and the surrounding environment, and [3] to be able to sustain and improve the quality of human life while maintaining the capacity of the ecosystem at the local and global levels.”

See? Point 1 merely says to SAVE energy and resources… to MINIMIZE… that’s not exactly sustainability so much as it is REDUCING the impact of the building’s lifecycle on the environment.

Look… that’s still better than a kick in the nuts, but it’s not sustainable… and thus not sustainability… it’s merely a reduction of material use which reduces costs, and generally makes the consumer feel better about themselves… as well they should.

You can see the Japan Sustainable Building Database HERE… it’s all in English, though I believe other languages are available.

Oh wait… is this still viable if the most recent thing on there is from 2010?

Fug… I wish I had noticed that before I began writing.

Well… make of it what you will… Japan was more interested in sustainable architectural things eight years ago… so what happened?

Sighhhhh. Too bad… I love architecture, have a non-fanatical passion for the environment (I’m not getting up in anyone’s face about things)…

I guess I’ll have to come up with a much better subject tomorrow. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: I wonder if I wanted to write this because I'm wearing a green shirt today? That's a stupid reason to write something... sorry.

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