Eighty per cent of the energy that fuels the world comes from fossil fuels, which are formed through natural processes that take millions of years. These fuels, mainly petroleum, gas and coal, release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat within our atmosphere and causes global warming. Since 1880, the average global temperature has increased by 1° Celcius, which is not good news as warming above 1.5° Celcius risks further extreme weather, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, food scarcity and poverty for millions of people.
Scientists are advocating for a mass switch to renewable energy; and energies such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal power are being explored further by universities, industries and businesses.
This has resulted in the debut of new innovations, among which is The Observer – the world’s first hydrogen-powered boat. Launched in 2017, it got people excited about the future of renewable energies. The Observer’s team planned a worldwide scientific expedition scheduled from 2017 until 2022, with ecology and technology goals of reducing our impact on the environment.
The silent 30-metre ship traverses the wide ocean using zero fossil fuels and has visited 50 countries so far. Its power is generated from 168 square metres of solar panels, as well as twelve-metre-high “Oceanwings” that harness energy from the wind, and hydrogen and oxygen derived from the sea water.
While this is happening at sea, on land, the architecture world is redefining town planning, bringing eco technologies into new buildings and integrating efficient design and moderation in the use of materials, energy and development space.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers building, for example, is dubbed as the most environmentally friendly building in London. It features an integrated IT system which lets individual workers control their light and temperature in their own space.
In Malaysia, the iconic Perdana Putra building housing the offices to the Prime Minister in Putrajaya was refurbished in 2010 to incorporate technology that reduced the building’s energy intensity by 38%, its water usage by 40% and its carbon dioxide emissions by 30%. Perdana Putra achieved the highest Platinum Green Building Index (GBI) ranking, consequently setting an example for the nation.
Established in 2008, the GBI is a national ranking system with set guidelines for green development. The rating metrics cover site planning, operations and social welfare, among others, to determine a building’s ranking. The better the score, the higher level the GBI certification earned, and the more green tax incentives a building can take advantage of.
Also in Putrajaya is Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, an acclaimed international university. It has been proclaimed a “green campus” with the first living grass roof of its kind in Malaysia. Its main campus in the UK also has plans for a unique new Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC) to drive the UK’s delivery of net zero emissions.
Today, green technology continues to be a popular research topic in the areas of engineering, manufacturing, environmental science and energy, resulting in many more innovations that promote alternative energy and changing the way we run the world. Sustainability is here to stay.