Eco-friendly buildings are gaining popularity for their positive impact on the environment, but are some of us left out when it comes to the locations and costs? Ariana Perez and Ecem Hepçiçekli report.
To Dr Gerlind Weber, a professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, eco-friendly buildings are not the most important factor. Instead, constructing the buildings on the right location where people can live without any need to have a car is more essential. “Before we ask how we can improve our buildings, we must ask where these buildings will stand,” she said.
We often see these tall new structures in the centre of major cities, where people can depend on just public transportation to reach their destination. The so-called push towards going green consists of taller buildings, luxurious reception areas and high tech architecture which all add to the new standard. However, can we all afford to pay this high lifestyle?
According to Manuela Brandstetter, Social Sciences lecturer at St Pölten University of Applied Sciences near Vienna, this contributes to an unequal society. “Eco-friendly, I suggest another term, it creates more space for controversy,” she said. “It creates space between two different people in terms of their wealth and undermines gentrification.”
Ms Brandstetter said that old buildings could be redeveloped into new eco-friendly houses and still be used, making it more economical for those who cannot afford the costs. Instead of investing the money in creating brand new eco-friendly structures, Dr Weber suggested it would be better to save that money and renovate old houses.
“Society must reserve money,” she said. “You can take 70 per cent of the money that is used to construct new buildings and correct the mistakes that we have done in the past by building bad houses, such as from the 50s to the 90s.”
According to Petra Hirschler, University Assistant at Vienna University of Technology, renewing the existent structures is the best approach for rapid improvement while still adding positively to the environment. “When you have new constructions, they just calculate the cost of the building and not the cost of the materials which are reused,” she said.
“If you were to get the whole picture again of what’s constructed and of course reorganise it, the location is already there, the infrastructure is already there and so you don’t have these external costs again.”
Analysing the strategy, many of these old buildings are in locations that are economical for people with lower salaries, without necessarily being in a central location. If money can be redressed to modernising timeworn buildings instead of starting from scratch, it would benefit residents that have purchased property years ago.
“It’s far better to stay in there,” Ms Hirschler stressed. “If you move in to a new eco-friendly flat and if you rent it now, you would pay far more than when you were paying for your old renting contract.”