Can We Make Sustainable Construction Practices the Norm?
Achieving global sustainability requires cooperation between governments, communities and industries. Here are some ways the construction industry is doing its part to lower its environmental impact with technology and mindful practices.
Using Sustainable Materials
The construction industry heavily depends on steel, timber, glass and concrete. While these materials are great for building quality structures, they are primarily non-sustainable. They can also cost a lot of money and leftover materials can create waste disposal problems.
Construction companies switch to sustainable materials to build houses, buildings and other structures to support environmental initiatives. Materials like engineered wood, recycled plastics, bamboo, cork and precast concrete slabs are just a few examples.
Greener construction materials like hempcrete offer a sustainable alternative for insulating homes. Hempcrete is made of the wooden core of the hemp plant and offers excellent insulation and rigidity for light structures like houses and small buildings.
These sustainable materials have a lower carbon footprint, can cost less and are easier to procure than traditional building materials. Cement alone accounts for at least 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Reducing Carbon Footprint
New manufacturing technologies pave the way for reduced carbon footprints in many industries, including construction. Heating and cooling can require a lot of energy, especially with big buildings.
Construction companies can use advanced materials like triple-pane glass for windows to increase the energy efficiency of homes by up to 40% or more. Closed-loop geothermal systems can also help cool hot air and vice versa using the ground’s stable temperature.
Construction companies are also finding new ways to convert old structures into green buildings. Retrofitting existing structures can help improve their energy efficiency and sustainability.
Most buildings have outdated systems that can drive utility costs and emissions up. Using modern technologies, construction companies breathe new life into old buildings and welcome them to a more sustainable future.
Building Sustainable Systems
Aside from making homes and buildings comfortable to live and work in, construction companies are also figuring out ways to improve their sustainable features. Water collection, smart disposal and recycling systems in structures enable residents to be more mindful of the sustainable living revolution.
Water is essential in any residential or commercial structure, making water conservation a worthwhile effort in sustainable construction. Rainwater collection allows residents to use the water for non-potable purposes like flushing toilets and gardening. Recycling systems like compost bins and blackwater treatment facilities can make soil amenders, fertilizers and recycled water for lawn irrigation.
Using solar panel systems is also a widespread sustainable construction practice. Even with a high initial cost, studies show that 37% of consumers will pay more for sustainable products like solar panels.
This renewable energy source can power homes and buildings while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Some systems can even assess energy needs and patterns to adjust power levels based on current usage.
Practicing a Circular Economy
The construction industry produces emissions from the manufacturing, building and demolition processes. Manufacturing building materials contributes to 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a prime pollution source. The construction industry aims to reduce emissions by mindful manufacturing, recycling and repurposing construction materials.
Materials recovery facilities can now separate reusable construction materials from unusable ones. Demolished buildings create waste and the discarded materials are typically sent to furnaces for incineration or landfills. Using advanced robotics and waste management technology, these facilities can breathe new life into scrap materials through recycling.
Using Smart Technologies
The construction industry is also beginning to think ahead by integrating intelligent systems into building plans. Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and maximizing its potential, smart systems use interconnected devices to improve living and working conditions in homes and buildings.
Automated heating and cooling systems sense the number of occupants in a specific room and independently adjust the temperature to comfortable levels. On the other hand, adaptive lighting adjusts lighting levels based on room use and occupancy patterns. These technologies help save on energy consumption while simultaneously reducing buildings’ carbon footprint.
Sustainable Construction: A Tough but Worthwhile Challenge
Change can be challenging, especially for an industry with the size and scale that construction has. But as the industry responds to the global need to make strides in sustainability, these new practices will continue to be refined, improved and normalized – laying the foundation for a greener future.