Critical Elements of Sustainable Construction

Sustainable construction is a term that we are hearing and reading about more often and with just cause. As our cities become more densely populated, our planet continues to suffer the effects of climate change. Indeed, the density of our urban areas risks making a tough situation worse.

Our whole way of life depends upon the infrastructure within which we live: if it fails, our society fails. Enter sustainable construction.

What does sustainability in construction mean?

Sustainable construction is a type of construction that seeks to reduce the negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of buildings. Sustainable construction methods are designed to accomplish several objectives. These include to:

  • Reduce the use of non-renewable natural resources

  • Increase the use of renewable natural resources

  • Reduce the amount of waste we produce

  • Reduce maintenance needs and costs

  • Improve social interactions within our communities

To deliver such benefits, we must construct homes, offices, retail, and other infrastructure with these goals in mind. From design through to delivery and beyond, we should prioritize sustainability. Therefore, when we are discussing what is meant by sustainability in construction, we must remember that it is not simply how we build our infrastructure, but our whole ethos and aims across the entire construction lifecycle.

How does sustainability in construction help to reduce pollution and waste?

According to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, our cities produce as much as 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the building and construction sector accounts for:

  • 36% of final energy use

  • 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions

More than 10% of the world’s total energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions result from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement, and glass.

The construction industry also produces a lot of waste and pollution, such as by-products from construction materials production and waste from demolition.

Sustainability in construction aims to reduce pollution and waste by using cleaner materials, better design, more efficient production methods, and recycling or reusing building materials. In short, it is the idea of designing, building, and managing buildings in such a way as to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To achieve all these aims, it is crucial that we employ the seven principles of sustainable construction.

What Are the 7 Principles of Sustainable Construction?

The 7 principles of sustainable construction provide us a framework of guidance to build better-quality, affordable homes, and infrastructure, while we reduce construction’s carbon footprint and deliver a more sustainable green build environment.

The seven principles are:

  1. Design for sustainability

As well as considering factors like energy use, we should also consider the durability of the materials we use. Greater durability means less need to repair or replace.

  1. Design for energy efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings will reduce CO2 emissions. But we must also consider energy efficiency while constructing ─ the equipment we use, the distances we travel, and so on. The materials we use, the technology we employ, and our building methods all have a part to play.

  1. Design for longevity

Building green is not only about the building materials we use, but it must also focus on the future ─ how the building will be used and maintained throughout its life. Environmental friendliness is not a one-time event, and adaptability of use should be considered ─ this will reduce the need to demolish and rebuild.

  1. Design to improve indoor air quality

Poor air quality is harmful to residents and indoor environments. When designing our buildings, we should ensure we allow for adequate ventilation and ‘breathability’. We must also consider temperatures and humidity.

  1. Design to conserve water

There are many ways in which we can design buildings to conserve water more effectively. From the materials, we use to construct pipes, to the equipment and appliances we install, to strategies such as green roofing and landscaping to improve wastewater treatment.

Water is essential for life, and we must start to treat it as a diminishing natural resource.

  1. Design to use sustainable building materials and more efficient construction methods

Some of the sustainable building materials designers use today include bamboo, straw bales, wood, hemp, and stone. These materials are better than those traditionally used because they require less energy to produce and are more eco-friendly.

Designers also take advantage of new construction techniques like prefabrication and modular construction to make buildings more sustainable. This reduces the need for heavy machinery on-site which results in reduced labor costs as well as reduced environmental impact from heavy machinery emissions.

  1. Design with community collaboration

We should design our urban infrastructure with the collaboration of the communities who will live and work there. It’s crucial that we build to encourage greater community harmony, and design homes and public spaces to improve quality of life. This includes considering how we can encourage walking, cycling, and the use of public transport while creating fully integrated neighborhoods in which all needs of today and needs of tomorrow are met.

Sustainable construction always starts with the process of design

The design process is the first and most crucial step in any construction project. It sets the tone for the entire project and determines how it will be executed. It is often where the decisions are made which will have a significant impact on the sustainability of a building.

And when it comes to designing in a sustainable way, designers should be mindful of the entire life cycle when designing a building. They need to consider not just what materials are used in construction, but also how those materials will be recycled or disposed of after use. Designers must also take into account how their building will affect the environment and climate change during its lifetime.

These seven principles of sustainable construction are crucial to achieving the aims and objectives of sustainability in construction.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed and created. To leverage our experience in sustainable design and construction, contact ACB Consulting.

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