International Solar Construction
Solar construction, which implies the preferential use of regenerable forms of energy, seems to have established itself on an international scale in recent years. On 16 February this year, the Kyoto Protocol came into force, a supplementary agreement to the United Nations’ “Earth Summit”. The protocol defines mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which are regarded as the cause of global warming. Signed by 141 states, the protocol aims to lower the emission of CO2 by the year 2012 by an average of 5.2 per cent compared with 1990 levels. The signatory nations are subject to markedly different obligations, however, with all kinds of loopholes. #One asks, therefore, whether global agreements of this kind can really lead to sensible energy savings.# The disillusion grows when one recalls that threshold countries like India and China, with their enormous energy consumption, are exempted from the regulations and that the US and Australia have refused to ratify the agreement. Nonetheless, in many countries, increased efforts are being made to find pragmatic solutions removed from mainstream politics. In the US in particular, more and more architects are propagating environmental ideas through their teaching and their designs in a bid to increase public awareness. In addition, “green” buildings are regarded as politically correct company visiting cards (see page ??). In Brazil, planners and politicians in Curitiba are seeking to create attractive urban conditions by landscaping the city with 26 woodland areas and parks and effecting a radical shift from private transport to the use of a dense urban traffic network that everyone can afford. One of the largest OPEC states, Saudi Arabia, is erecting a new ministerial building with solar technology; and in China, the first areas of double glazing are being installed. In Europe, the solar industry has experienced a remarkable boom as a result of national subsidies. Often enough, these are granted for installations in single-family houses, which are certainly not a building type that helps to save resources. Modest construction measures on this scale, however, are comprehensible and provide rare scope for applying technical innovations, as well as for investigating and amending standards and energy labels. Only through ongoing research can solar construction be made so economical that it becomes standard practice at a national and an international level.