What Impact Do Design Choices in the Building Industry Have on Our Destiny?

The global population of Homo sapiens reached four billion in 1974, five bil­lion in 1987, six billion in 1999, and seven billion by the end of October 2011. It continues to soar at a rate of 1.1 percent per year and is expected to reach eight billion sometime within the time frame of 2025-2027, and nine billion around mid-century1.

Whilst the population has increased by a factor of about 2.7 during the past 60 years, the global annual primary energy consumption has grown by a factor of 4.5, a trend bearing the signs of a typical runaway process. A worry compounding this symptom is that only a small share of the global population, some 1.2 billion people (approximately 15 percent of the total population) located in the OECD countries, accounts for the lion’s share (47 percent) in global energy consumption23. The developing countries are now eagerly adopting this historically ‘proven formula’ for success.

The biosphere, and hence the environment, of planet Earth is self-regu­lating. If humankind is not capable of simultaneously halting or reversing population growth whilst drastically reducing its average footprint of energy consumption per capita, this runaway process will result in an environmen­tal implosion, which will be aided by increasing demand for water, produc­tive land (food) as well as waste generation[1] [2] [3] [4]. The ensuing starvation and environmental disasters will drastically decimate our population to a level that again can be sustained by Earth’s fragile (and then damaged) environ­ment. Assuming that we are able to quickly and effectively minimize our impact on the environment, we are still facing an environmental bottleneck in this century.