While climate change is a colossal threat to all humanity, women suffer from its consequences most disproportionately and dramatically — and many of these consequences interact with our built environments in some way.
According to the United Nations, women make up approximately 80 percent of the people who are displaced from their homes by climate change-related factors, such as extreme weather events, natural disasters, and environmental degradation. Women and children are overwhelmingly more likely to die of indoor air pollution. Likewise, as around 2 billion people worldwide experience energy poverty, women and girls bear its brunt.
Therefore, without a doubt, green buildings can play a significant role in facilitating gender equality by addressing various aspects of the built environment that impact women’s lives.
What’s Ecofeminist Architecture?
Ecofeminism in architecture is an approach that combines ecological and feminist principles to address the interconnections between the built environment, nature, and gender. It recognizes the significant impact that architecture and urban planning have on the environment and social structures, particularly in terms of power dynamics and the exploitation of both nature and marginalized communities.
Ecofeminist architecture seeks to challenge and transform the dominant patriarchal and capitalist systems that contribute to environmental degradation and social inequality. It emphasizes the need for more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive architectural practices putting the well-being of people and the natural world first.
How Can Ecofeminism in Architecture Facilitate Gender Equality
Improved Health and Safety
Green buildings prioritize indoor air quality, natural lighting, and the use of non-toxic materials. These features can enhance the health and well-being of all occupants, including women, who are more vulnerable to indoor air pollution. Additionally, well-designed green buildings can incorporate safety measures such as well-lit pathways, secure parking areas, and access control systems, creating a safer environment for women.
Green buildings often emphasize universal design principles, making them more accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and genders. By incorporating features like ramps, elevators, wider doorways, and barrier-free spaces, green buildings can ensure equal access and mobility for women with disabilities, elderly women, and caregivers.
Energy Efficiency and Affordability
Green buildings typically prioritize energy efficiency measures such as insulation, efficient appliances, and renewable energy sources. These practices can reduce energy costs, making housing more affordable for women who are often disproportionately affected by energy poverty. Affordable and energy-efficient housing can alleviate financial burdens, enabling women to allocate resources to other important needs.
Green buildings can support work-life balance for women by incorporating amenities such as flexible workspaces, childcare facilities, lactation rooms, and recreational areas. These features can enable women to balance their professional and personal responsibilities more effectively, fostering greater gender equality at home and in the workplace.
Community Spaces and Social Interaction
Green buildings often incorporate communal spaces, such as parks, gardens, and shared facilities, that promote social interaction and community engagement. These spaces can provide opportunities for women to connect, collaborate, and participate in decision-making processes, thus empowering them within their communities.
Local Economic Development
The construction and operation of green buildings can contribute to local economic development and job creation. This can particularly benefit women who may find employment opportunities in green building industries, such as renewable energy, sustainable construction, and green technology. Access to green jobs can help reduce gender disparities in employment and income.
“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all,” says Vandana Shiva, a prominent Indian environmental activist.
Green buildings contribute to climate resilience by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Green architecture can help protect women’s lives, homes, and livelihoods by creating resilient and sustainable buildings.