As more sustainable design, construction, and operation means and methods spread across our industry and we begin dealing with greater resiliency to less predictable and more extreme weather, how populations use buildings and what they do in emergencies is becoming more important.
Those who use and operate buildings have a great deal of impact on how the buildings perform and how long they last. We can design many sustainable features in to buildings that can be circumvented by those who use the buildings. Overriding light and temperature controls, leaving exhaust fans on when not required, leaving windows and doors open when systems are working to control indoor conditions, exceeding plug load assumptions, exceeding the planned use of potable water for irrigation and maintenance, leaving clogged or failed filters in system, or disabling building automation alarms and notifications are only some of the ways the sustainability of buildings can be downgraded.
One avenue of addressing this issue is the USGBC announced initiatives to encourage educational programs on sustainability in schools (http://www.centerforgreenschools.org/nationalactionplan). Widespread education about how important sustainability is to everyone’s future and what each person can do to make a real difference will help greatly. With better background information on sustainable approaches and policy, people are likely to understand that their actions make a real difference and are perhaps more likely to understand sustainable policy issues as voters.
Similarly on the front of resiliency, a recent Johns Hopkins study found that the lack of training among volunteers during emergencies often places the volunteers and others at risk and can complicate emergency response (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140326141652.htm). Widespread education and even certification could make a big difference in the effectiveness of our overall response during emergencies.
Widespread general education on both sustainability and resilience could make a big difference in how effectively we meet the energy and environmental challenges we all face and how we deal with the inevitable increase in challenges climate change has already begun throwing our way.