Any parent of a 6-year old can vouch for the fact that children at that age are quite curious and sensitive. While waiting for the school bus (a place where we’ve had the best of conversations) my 6-year old asked me a seemingly simple question

“How are buildings made?”

I tried looking at the building around me to try and explain how the process of construction starts and while I mulled to try and articulate my response to his first question his next question directed me towards the real pain point he wanted to address.

He asked me “Mama do they cut trees to build buildings?”

To which I kept silent.

Then he probed further and said “Mumma do you know if we cut all trees and build buildings, the air will get bad and the north pole will get warm and then polar bears will die.”

His small mind had effortlessly made simple and perhaps far lucid connections which adults find hard to get their head around. So, that day I came back to my work desk and applied my adult mind to the task and being a Lean expert started to look for methods and ways which cut down on the GHG (Green House Gases) and construction would then no longer be responsible for the imminent death of Polar Bears and humans in the process.

What I found was that as per EPA, on an annual basis, buildings consume 36% of energy and 65% of its electricity. Furthermore, buildings emit 30% of the carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas associated with climate change), 49% of the sulfur dioxide, and 25% of the nitrogen oxides found in the air.

Image Source : Pexels Photos

While the US government is all set to pull out of the Paris accord — sad enough, climate change does not comply by rules — which means summers will get hotter, cyclones would get much worse and polar bears will perish and so would human beings.

Applying the Lean philosophy, the brain-child of Taiichi Ohno (Toyota Production System) which targets on lowering down the ‘Wates’ and increasing the efficiency in the system, any system, in this case the construction system — to move towards a Net-Zero or Green Solution seems the most logical thing to do. What Net-Zero construction simply entails is harnessing non-conventional sources — solar, wind, water etc. and moving away from conventional sources of energy like — fossil fuels, to produce as much energy which the building needs to sustain its energy needs thus lowering the carbon-footprint in the process which would perhaps make life more sustainable on our planet — Earth and not to forget the lowered or next to zero utility bills for a lifetime.

The good news is that lots of work has been done in this regard however, it still feels like a drop in the proverbial ocean given the damage we have made to our planet.

A little known Danish town of Sønderborg which is almost surrounded by water, and is no stranger to flooding from both seawater rising along its coastline and heavy rainfall. With climate change ensuring more of both, Sønderborg is learning to tackle the immediate problems of adapting to a warming world while becoming part of the broader solution.

They initiated a ‘Project Zero’ plan, launched in 2007 as a joint venture between the people, politicians and businesses of the municipality of Sønderborg (an area including the towns of Nordborg, Broager and Sydals, as well as Sønderborg town itself), which aims to enable the region of approximately 77,000 to become zero carbon by 2029.

The towns’ elaborate plan showcases how a small unit can make a big difference contributing to its own success just like the lean philosophy which talks about making small but sure improvements towards the goal.

Originally published at