Eco-Friendly Construction: Innovative Options for a Greener Tomorrow
Construction and building materials can have a much bigger environmental impact than you might imagine. As a whole, they can contribute to resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, species loss, and pollution.
That’s where there’s a dire need to think over some sustainable building options and adopt ways to limit material use, reduce waste, and recycle materials for usage. We can overall use techniques to make building construction less destructive for our planet. By managing construction waste, enhancing site environment, and modifying designs to incorporate eco-friendly choices and materials to build efficient and green structures.
Be it residential or commercial buildings, some sustainable strategies may have a more up-front cost but over time you can enjoy savings, have a positive impact on air quality, and well-being, and enjoy the sense that leads to a regenerative future.
Here’re some innovative options that must be on your radar while thinking about renovation or new construction for a greener tomorrow:
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) is among the high-performance material for building systems both for residential and commercial construction. These are panels made in factory where expanded polystyrene is sandwiched between OSB skins inside and out.
The idea behind SIPs is to eliminate as much structure as possible so that we're eliminating thermal bridging, we're eliminating air filtration and we're creating a very high R-value, and an energy efficiency that exceeds today's codes. The idea behind using SIPs in our building is to make our walls and the roof a high energy efficient structure.
The best thing about SIPs is that the panels are made in a factory. It is now a well-established fact that building a house or a structure right in the field not only makes things hard but also impacts the overall quality. You got to deal with rain, snow, mud, bugs, and heat.
But with SIPs, you’re doing everything in a controlled environment –the factory, and that’s a perfect place to build a house. This off-site construction technique also helps in reducing waste, limiting time, and precision with quality.
The off-site construction also helps us deal with labor shortages. That’s what most of the contractors are dealing with after the COVID layoffs. So, with SIPs, you require fewer skilled laborers to erect a house because most of the work is done in a factory.
Passive House Design
Instead of active house design where you focus primarily on creating energy by using active sustainable technology; there’s the other side of the coin – the passive house design. It’s a static technique where you try to use and manipulate the building fabric and use natural processes to make your house more energy-efficient.
So, rather than focusing on creating more energy; you try focus on conserving energy and enhancing thermal comfort of the building. Some common passive design techniques involve using efficient insulation, going for skylights, and roof windows to optimize daylight use, with ventilation and airtightness.
So, a passive sustainable design involves considering optimizing the use of natural resourcing on site like sunlight, wind, and vegetation to enhance and support the building’s heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation systems.
Experts believe green roofs are one way of offsetting the impact of urbanization. Conventional roofs absorb and retain heat that can significantly increase the temperatures in urban areas.
On the other hand, green roofs not only improve the energy efficiency of a structure but also benefit the environment in many ways. They absorb pollutants thereby helping improve air quality, reduce stormwater runoff by retaining rainwater, and provide habitat for wildlife.
You can utilize the concept of a green roof and tailor the design to achieve a variety of aesthetic benefits. On commercial buildings, the design can provide a place for outdoor activities, and recreation and make the structure more attractive for occupants.
Rainwater harvesting involves collecting and conserving rainwater runoff for future use. The runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and other surfaces are directed into cisterns, barrels, or even underground storage tank. The stored water can be used for various purposes like irrigation, flushing toilets, and even drinking after filtration.
There’s a multitude of benefits to adopting this design in your building envelope. You can reduce your dependence on treated water from municipal sources and reduce the demand for water. This technique also helps in reducing the risk of urban flooding. In conventional design, the rainwater runs off the roofs and sidewalks into the street and low-lying areas, causing flooding.
But with rainwater harvesting we can direct this water to recharge underground aquifers, improving water quality and reducing the number of pollutants that are carried by stormwater runoff into nearby water bodies.
The best thing about rainwater harvesting is that you can easily integrate and incorporate this design with other sustainable features like green roofs, and passive designs.
If you’re living in a remote area or places with a shortage of conventional power sources, solar panels are a great way to improve your quality of life. It’s a practical and feasible way to generate electricity, reduce energy consumption, and decrease carbon footprint.
Solar panel designs are flexible and adaptable; so you can incorporate them in your homes and businesses to provide electric power for day-to-day usage. You can easily offset your energy usage from the grid and that can lead to significant savings on electricity bills.
Most of conventional power plants are responsible for emitting harmful by-products in the environment in one way or the other. With solar power plants, you can reduce the environmental impact associated with electricity generation.
Like green roofs, green walls involve using vegetation as a partial or complete covering. Depending on the design type; green walls can be freestanding or attached to an existing wall. Some modern design involves using modular panels or trays that contain a growing medium – mostly soil or soil substitute. You can incorporate this design both on the exterior or the interior of a building.
Incorporating plants in your house design help reduce energy consumption by providing insulation and shading. The plans and soil on the green wall act as insulation. So your home will be more comfortable to live both in winter and summers.
The walls act as a shade for the building thereby reducing the need for cooling in summer. Green walls are innovative and unique ways to improve air quality, reduce energy consumption, and provide aesthetic benefits.
Bamboo is a versatile material that finds numerous applications in construction from scaffolding, flooring, and furniture, to even structural elements. It’s a fast-growing stem and is best known for its renewable nature. Unlike hardwood trees that take decades to grow, bamboo can grow up in a matter of a few years.
Bamboo is a strong and durable material. When incorporated carefully in design, it can withstand high winds, earthquakes, and heavy loads. It’s a great choice for building in areas prone to natural disasters.
Overall, bamboo is a sustainable and versatile building material that offers a variety of benefits over traditional wood building materials.
It’s very fortunate that sustainable design and construction is now at the forefront of people’s mind. Homeowners and property managers are now shifting their minds to protecting the environment, and see for ways to cope with the climate crises, we all are facing.
While you’re planning new construction or are taking the plunge of renovating a house, it’s important to think about sustainable options. With such, you’re not only limiting your impact on the environment but are also saving the cost of living, increasing quality and improving the efficiency of construction processes.