Modern construction is all about the green, ethical approach to creating a sustainable, valuable piece of property, but what exactly is green building? Does being green come from the process or the outcome? Some contractors may believe that it is all about green materials and the ethics going into a project; others may be focused on the energy efficiency of the final build and the message that is created. In the best cases, a green building exhibits a combination of these factors. By considering the following five issues in green building – materials, location, renewable energy, environmental quality and the team around you – you can re-evaluate your approach to design and construction and gain a greater understanding of the building’s impact on the local environment.
Five key principles for green building:
Think about the materials you are using and the ones you are throwing away.
This is the first thing that many contractors and designers will think about when looking into a greener approach to their building projects. What materials are being used, are they ethically sourced and can they help to make the property greener in the long run? A great starting point is to use as much recycled or bio-based materials as you can and, where possible, to source them from local producers to minimise carbon emissions during transportation. Optimise the materials to the best of your ability to increase efficiency but also consider what will happen to the construction waste – will these leftovers be recycled to be used in other projects?
Plan your design around the location; don’t make the location fit the design.
The site of a building project plays an important part in its green credentials. If you can create a design that works with the natural landscape and doesn’t have a negative impact upon it, your building will be a lot greener. It is hard to minimise the impact a project has on green spaces when available land is hard to come by but there are compromises to make. Build higher to reduce the footprint of the building, be careful with the heating and cooling efficiency to reduce the heat island effect and take advantage of existing public transportation routes. Awareness of location also means awareness of wind and solar potential, which leads nicely to point.
Renewable energy and energy-efficiency are vital in modern construction.
Eco-friendly homes and commercial buildings that run on renewable energy are much more appealing in today’s market so it makes sense to install the best natural energy systems where possible. The main focus is of course solar, as the rise of more effective solar systems allows designers to fully harness the power of the sun, but wind, hydro and geothermal are also worth consideration where viable. Work on building orientation to maximise exposure, research power options and focus on high-efficiency HVAC systems when fitting lighting and appliances.
What about the environment quality of the air and water supplies?
It is easy to become fixated on energy-efficiency, energy creation and eco-friendly factors relating to the construction of the new build, but you also have to consider the other effects the building can have on the local area and the inhabitants. Maintaining a green water supply in the area is vital from an environmental standpoint so be sure to work with the natural flow of water, minimise soil disturbance and use native, drought-resistant vegetation to protect against damage. As for the quality of the air, ventilation is essential for indoor air quality and systems need to be installed that can deal with changes in air pressure and temperature.
Surround yourself with a green team for the best results.
The final point to consider is perhaps the most important of all because it allows you to deal with these other green issues more effectively. By surrounding yourself with a team of green-minded individuals you can not only ensure that everyone is on the same page about the outcome of the project, but also guarantee that each expert opinion has a green focus. This will help you implement all the ideas above: your green supplier will get the best materials, your green engineers can think about renewable energy and water preservation and your green architects can design the ideal solution based on the site.