A thought on Development
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

November 7, 2010

  Looking out over Vancouver downtown from the hills of Kitsalano leading into Kerrisdale, I see the skyline almost seem to float in a gentle mist. The rain of winter is here; the kind where moisture saturates the sky and flows with the wind, swirling in downward spirals, sheets of water. The lights of the Shangri-La shine high in the sky, followed by a myriad of spires reaching into the clouds almost breaking through to the starry sky. Somewhere down there, the beautiful Dominion Building sits with an archaic record for the tallest building in Vancouver, holding the record back in 1909. I can’t see it now behind the always-reaching skyline. Development as a whole is a remarkable accomplishment of human kind replicated across more and more cities as city centers and residential neighborhoods pop up everywhere.

 Here is the crux though; a 17-story apartment building with 3 stories of basement parking is forever…

          Even if the building falls down, that piece of earth is unlikely to ever be turned back into the soil and space that was once there prior to the building’s existence. Nor should it be. The cement industry is a leading producer of carbon dioxide (CO2), creating up to 5% of worldwide man-made emissions of CO2.1 When we spend so much energy and materials ranging from steel and rebar to wood and concrete, it should be a lasting endeavor. With 900 kg of CO2 emitted for the fabrication of every ton of cement, it is crucial that we build only when we need to and with forever in mind. 2

         This time for forethought on building is vanishing quickly as it becomes cheaper, easier, and faster to build. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, or tallest building in the world was built in just over 5 years. As of 2006, about 7.5 cubic kilometres of concrete are made each year—more than one cubic metre for every person on Earth.3 This highlights the fact that we are quickly paving the earth over. Development will continue, buildings will keep going up, we will continue to lay pavement but if concrete is forever, let it be a lasting project. Let us build with sustainability, environmental awareness, and green technologies as our pillars for the future. Do we need to pave every connecting walkway? Are wood chips an option? How energy neutral can we make this building? Is there a green solution?

Or are our children going to be known as the jack hammer generation. A thought on development.


1.Mahasenan, Natesan; Steve Smith, Kenneth Humphreys, Y. Kaya (2003). “The Cement Industry and Global Climate Change: Current and Potential Future Cement Industry CO2  

2. The Cement Sustainability Initiative: Progress report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, published 2002-06-01

3. Minerals commodity summary – cement – 2007″. US United States Geographic Service. 2007-06-01. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/cement/index.html. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

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