Green construction offers eco-friendly solutions that can drastically reduce the carbon footprint created by traditional building methods. From changing how we manufacture building materials to using eco-friendly construction management software, construction is becoming a greener, more sustainable industry.
All buildings have an impact on their surrounding environment. As customers become more environmentally aware, the push for green design and building concepts is increasing. From individual homeowners to major corporations, more people every day are demanding that construction become increasingly eco-friendly (mostly in the form of LEED certification).
The ultimate goal of green building and design is to create sound structures that possess environmental sustainability without the sacrifice of the kinds of modern comforts people expect. Both architects and builders of eco-friendly buildings follow a comprehensive reuse, recycle, and repurpose model in as many facets of construction as possible. Here are four ways that modern construction is making strides to decrease environmental impact both during and after the construction of new homes, buildings, and other structures.
1. Generating clean energy
One of the most effective ways to decrease the impact of a building on the environment is to make sure that it is constructed in a way that generates a high percentage of the energy it consumes.
Structures that generate energy on their own do not draw as much power from power plants, many of which are fueled by either coal or other forms of fossil fuel. The reduced draw on these resources means fewer polluting fuels need to be burned in order to generate the energy needed to run the systems within the building. These are called “net-zero” or “zero-energy” buildings. There are currently 29 net-zero buildings in the United States, up from eight in 2011.
Scientific American reported on this trend a few years ago. They profiled a building in Florida, explaining just how it gets to net zero.
Solar panels on the roof generate energy, although the building still draws from the grid when it needs to. Other energy-saving mechanisms include using Energy Star-labeled appliances, using equipment to shade the inside from Florida’s hot sun and applying high-performance insulation to further reduce solar heat gain. A utility bill in October of last year confirmed the net-zero claim when it found that the building was generating more power than it was using. Forty-five percent of the energy produced in the panels goes back into the grid.
Of course, you won’t necessarily be making your green building in the exact way detailed here, but it does provide a peek into what buildings would look like if they really went “green.”
2. Going solar
Many of today’s homeowners are opting for things like solar water heaters for new construction homes. These heaters are just one component that allows environmentally conscious owners and builders to reduce their carbon footprint and to save money on electricity. They understand that solar systems consume far less energy to heat water than would a traditional water heater.
As an additional bonus, solar water heaters can be added to many older homes, making renovations and installations a good opportunity for consumers to upgrade their homes to be more energy efficient.
3. Increasing HVAC system efficacy
Eco-friendly construction companies also seek to make the heating and cooling systems of the structures they design and build environmentally sound. A large amount of energy is required to heat and cool big office spaces, homes, or other types of structures, so making them more efficient consequently reduces the amount of energy it takes to effectively run heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
But it doesn’t stop with the HVAC system. New construction homes and buildings with double- or triple-paned windows have become more common and are more environmentally friendly. They reduce the amount of heat lost during winter and help retain more cool air during the summer. Eco-friendly insulation is also becoming a more popular choice among builders. In addition, some construction companies also plant trees close to windows in an effort to keep houses cooler during the summer months.
4. Choosing the right construction location
Eco-friendly building and design principles take not just a building’s construction into account, but its location as well. For example, preventing suburban sprawl reduces the number of cars on roads and highways.
When deciding where to place new homes or buildings, consider how their placement will affect how their residents can make eco-friendly adjustments to their routines. Some of these adjustments could include riding a bike or walking to workplaces, shopping centers, and entertainment venues instead of driving.
A new mindset
Green construction and design continues to expand as awareness of the impact of new construction on the environment grows. Over time, even more eco-friendly processes will emerge with an emphasis on greater sustainability and higher efficiency in waste management.
Does your construction company take steps to be “green?” Are you LEED certified? Do you have a green home, or have you worked on a green construction process? I’m interested in your stories; leave a comment or two below about your green experiences, tips, and tools below!
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