The earth’s supply of sources used to support life
“Natural resources” refers to the earth’s material supplies, such as water, land, forest products, minerals, and fossil fuels. The use and misuse of these resources can deplete diminishing supplies and harm delicate environmental conditions such as soil acidity, water nutrients, atmospheric radiation, concentrations of materials in food chains, and biodiversity. We are consuming certain resources more quickly than they can be replenished.
In the construction industry, the significant resources consumed are energy, materials, and water. In the US, buildings are responsible for:
- 41% of energy use
- 45% of carbon emissions
- 75% of electricity use1
- 30% of raw materials consumption
- 30% of waste (136 million tons annually)
- 12% of potable water use (15 trillion gallons annually)2
Looking at the urban planning scale that factors in land use and transportation, which accounts for another 28% of energy consumption, the built environment can have an even greater impact on resource use.3 For these reasons, design is a vital field for creating a more responsible use of resources.