Are you prepared for the coming increase in sustainable construction projects? According to the EPA, construction and demolition create over 530 million tons of landfill waste each year. To put it in perspective, that’s double the amount produced from municipal solid waste. This growing problem is predicted by the United Nations Environmental Program to impact some habitat and natural resources over as much as 70% of our land surface by 2032.
To combat this issue, contractors are turning to greener, more sustainable construction practices to reduce waste. Let’s take a look at some green sustainable processes and benefits, as well as how you can begin to implement green construction in your company.
What is Green Sustainable Construction?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sustainable construction refers to processes and practices that ensure resource efficiency and environmental responsibility throughout a building’s life cycle. This last part is especially important.
Sustainable construction takes into account profit, people, and the planet equally. It provides a comfortable environment for the long term that does not adversely affect the health of our planet. From building design to eventual deconstruction, sustainable construction allows companies to create structures that will never fully go to waste.
Green construction is slightly different, with a specific focus on the environment, not on people and profit. It’s more concerned with creating completely sustainable practices that can be reliably upheld and integrated forever.
Some examples of this are converting to entirely renewable energy sources and reducing a building’s carbon footprint. The ideal outcome is to produce net-zero waste, which means that a building produces exactly as much as – or preferably less than – the energy it consumes.
Green sustainable construction, then, is the practice of designing, building, and maintaining structures that help create a more environmentally friendly world, while still considering people’s comfort and the financial health of the companies involved.
Sustainable Construction Benefits
The US is certainly moving toward more sustainable practices, including construction. Progressive states like California will require new construction beyond 2020 to be entirely green and sustainable. Others are following in their footsteps.
This makes survival the main benefit of switching to green, sustainable construction practices in more progressive states. Construction companies that remain inflexible and unwilling to implement sustainable processes in these states will eventually be eclipsed by green-based companies.
Sustainable construction certainly costs more on the front end, but those costs can be mitigated over time with lower operating costs. Sustainable construction has other benefits to consider, including a reduced carbon footprint, and a healthier environment for those using the building. For example, employees working in a sustainable building are 15% more productive than those who are not working in an environmentally friendly space.
How to Achieve Green Construction
You don’t need to change all at once, but it is essential to consider how you can begin to move in a greener direction. Here are several key ways you can use to start transforming your current practices to those that are more sustainable.
Deconstruct Rather than Demolish
Rather than demolish and throw away every scrap of material from an old building, identify recyclable components to use in your next design. This will reduce the amount of waste going into landfills each year.
Reduce Energy Waste
Plan for LED lighting, design for solar energy, and be smart about the ventilation system. It’s also good to focus on the insulation of the building. There are many recyclable materials you can use to ensure an airtight seal on your structure. Using these materials helps to control energy expenditures over the life cycle of a building.
Use Green Materials for Sustainable Construction
Some green materials include bamboo, straw, recycled copper, steel, stone, and wood from responsibly managed forests. Make use of other non-toxic materials, especially those reclaimed from other building sites and projects.
Top Sustainable Construction Technologies
Now that we’ve seen some practices you can start to use, let’s look at some emerging and established technologies that will help your company’s projects achieve greater sustainability.
Green construction uses both active and passive solar power. Active solar power uses panels to absorb the sun’s light and heat in order to provide electricity and heating in buildings.
Passive solar energy places windows in strategic areas to warm and cool a building with the sun’s rays throughout the day. It also means placing heat-absorbing and cooling materials in locations that will work best with the sun. This affects the overall temperature of a building.
Use non-traditional insulation materials to eliminate the need for non-renewable products. Denim, wool, and even newspaper can properly insulate a residential or commercial building.
A building’s roof can be up to 40% hotter than any other part of the structure. This doesn’t mean the rest of the building is cool. While the roof may hold the highest temperature, it raises the temperature of the entire building right along with it.
Cool roofs divert heat and sunlight away from buildings. This keeps structures at a standard temperature by lowering the amount of heat absorbed and emitted from the roof. In hot climates, or in the middle of summer, a cool roof can make the difference between a miserable experience and a comfortable one.
With time, attention, and care, you can transform your future projects into energy-efficient, cost-effective buildings that support the sustainability of your business as well as our planet.
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