Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 3.46.46 PMOf industry, transportation, and buildings in the U.S., which do you think consumes the most energy? The answer: buildings. This answer may come as a surprise to you. After all, you don’t here enough about carpooling, making use of public transportation, or even making other lifestyle choices like shopping at the farmer’s market, all to help reduce carbon emissions from transportation. But in reality, buildings account for 48% of energy use while industry and transportation make up 25 and 27%. This is why sustainable architecture is important in our environmental movement.

So buildings are energy suckers. How? Our non-efficient buildings began during the Industrial Revolution with advances in technology including lighting, heating, cooling, hot water, and other energy-sucking equipment. Interestingly, the homes produced before these new advances were more energy-efficient, equipped with sources of natural lighting and operable windows for natural ventilation and cooling.

Back during the Industrial Revolution we headed down a path that will compromise our ability in the future to meet our own needs. Did you know that of the electricity that is consumed in the U.S., building operations account for a whopping 76%? While CO2 emissions for the transportation and industry sector remain steady, emissions produced by architecture are soaring.

Lately you have heard about sustainable architecture and new green buildings being built. While these are great architectural achievements and will make our buildings more energy-efficient, reducing their impact on the environment, creating new buildings is not the most sustainable form of architecture. In fact, reusing existing buildings is the most sustainable architecture today; they are a valuable resource that should not go to waste. Historical buildings can be rehabilitated using appropriate energy-saving techniques such as improving interior day lighting, repairing and maintaining windows, and installing low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Demolishing and rebuilding requires extreme amounts of energy and materials. Waste from demolishing buildings and the construction of them has a big impact on our landfills, making up about two-thirds of all non-industrial waste that is produced in the U.S. It is expected that by 2030, we will have demolished nearly one-third of our building stock; that’s a lot of valuable resource gone to waste.

Start spreading the word about adaptive reuse and support building projects that make use of already exiting buildings and their materials!