There are many environmental issues facing the world and a lot of governments and industries are starting to take notice and act. Various governments are putting in place measures to stop the production of new petrol and diesel cars in the future, as more car manufacturers introduce electric and hybrid vehicles, for example. One industry that gets less attention for its green ambitions is the construction sector. Yet there are many ways renewable and sustainable materials and techniques are seeing a rise in eco building.
Renewable Building Materials
Sustainable buildings are those designed to use the minimal amount of energy possible, based on their location, design and material construction. Strong insulation, efficient water systems and low emissions are just some of the standards set out in the code for sustainable homes, which can categories a property as sustainable.
More homes are being constructed using renewable materials, which includes those that have a low environmental impact, are renewable and non-toxic. Locally sourced materials is another key element of eco building as less energy is used and fewer emissions are released in the process of acquiring and transporting materials to the designated site. Importing bricks, timber and more materials uses an incredibly amount of fuel, as does transporting from one end of the country to the other.
Timber is one of the most popular sustainable construction materials, yet there are fears that due to massive deforestation it should be avoided. However, as long as it is from a sustainable source then there are many benefits of using timber in eco building:
It is truly renewable, as trees take 25 to 80 years to grow and harvest
Durable and easily maintained for various structures and purposes
Non-toxic with low embodied energy
Timber frames allow for more space for insulation than brick building
Creates a nice aesthetic
Along with structures, timber can form part of sustainable roofing materials, which can be even more eco-friendly when turned into roof gardens and designed to insulate.
There are many different techniques which can be employed when eco building. Sourcing local materials is one key focus point, but so is reusing materials which avoids unnecessary energy and resources being expended. Reclaimed materials from dismantled buildings such as steel beams, columns, paving stones and slabs, tubing and pipes offer some of the best places to start. Crushed glass from broken windows can make good bedding material for paved and blocked surfaces.
Reusing or converting an existing building is another renewable way of building. Rather than knocking it down and starting again, using the materials already in place and turning it into a home avoids wasting a lot of energy and financial expense. Even if it’s just part of the structural frame or a retaining wall, it all helps.
Challenges to Green Construction
If eco building was perfect, all construction firms would be doing it. As always, there are a few challenges holding it back. The issue of deforestation means using timber from non-sustainable sources isn’t that green. It can also be difficult to source local materials in some cases, depending on where the building project is based.
Another common issue is that of cost, as finding and purchasing some of the best renewable materials to use in any construction project is often more expensive than the regular bricks and mortar approach. Unless a construction firm or individual is focused more on the green aspects than profit, this can hold eco building back.
On the whole though, there seems to be more attention paid to green building these days than previously, with plenty of prospects for it to grow even further and have a real positive impact on the industry and environment.