There are various types of buildings, some that produce materials and send their gaseous bi-product into the air. Other buildings are for office use and really only pollute through their electricity consumption. Considering that coal still amounts for almost half of the energy produced/consumed in the US, using large amounts of electricity does contribute to significant coal pollution. An example of a type of building that produces materials is a paper mill. A paper mill will produce pulp pollution into the surrounding air as a bi-product of making paper.
Buildings are harmful for the environment in three separate stages.
The first is if the building is going to be built on an area of land that is not been developed yet. Obviously cutting down trees or filling in a swamp is going to be bad for the environment. Building the structure itself takes natural resources and energy.
The second stage is while the finished building is functional. Providing heat and power are the main ways that existing buildings pollute. Heating is usually provided through oil or natural gas. Power is through electricity, which usually isn’t particularly green.
The final stage buildings pollute is when they break down, are abandoned, or are torn down. As a building ages paint and roofing shingles fall of the walls and roof and flow down storm water drains. If a building is torn down there is lots of material that is thrown away.
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