Individuals who are concerned about the future of the environment will be glad to hear that many construction companies in the U.S. are becoming more sustainable. The construction industry consumes a lot of energy, and sustainable practices are focusing on everything from building processes to the materials used. Renewable energy is a large part of the initiative, helping commercial buildings as well as residential homes to be built and updated in greener ways.
The barrier to entry can be high when it comes to sustainable construction, which is why adopting eco-friendly construction practices may be slower than some people would like. Costs are often higher for sustainable construction, causing individuals and businesses to veer away from it. However, lifetime costs have to be considered in order to see the true return on investment. Energy savings outweigh the initial costs of an energy-efficient building.
So how is the construction industry embracing eco-friendly practices and renewable energy? Let’s explore the issues at hand:
Energy-Efficient Building Design
Construction companies are realizing the sustainability implications of using renewable energy when designing and creating buildings. Architects are designing energy-efficient properties across both rural and urban areas, from barns to skyscrapers. Here are some building features designed to maximize energy efficiency:
- Charging stations for electric cars.
- Compost systems so homeowners can reuse waste.
- Dual-pane windows, which keep heat or cold air from escaping to regulate the temperature.
- Energy Star HVAC systems use half the energy of traditional heating and cooling systems. Natural ventilation can also reduce energy consumption and improve health.
- Skylights and windows that let in natural light reduce the need for high electricity usage during the day.
- Solar panels placed on rooftops collect solar energy, which can then be used to heat water.
- Space-efficient buildings have rooms that are compact — not just large for the sake of being large. Smaller spaces means fewer resources for lighting and heating.
- Systems for collecting and recycling rainwater provide water for gardening or toilets.
- Windows that have UV-blocking capabilities keep harmful rays away from your skin and also extend the life of your furniture by preventing fading. They can also keep your home cooler during the summer, preventing energy waste.
Additionally, construction companies and homeowners may take efforts to reduce air pollution, a common focus of sustainability minded individuals. These efforts can include:
- Using electric appliances rather than those with gas-powered engines during construction.
- Surrounding the property with varied plant life to absorb carbon dioxide.
- Using whole-house air purification systems or portable room air cleaners. There are many types of air purifiers, and the types selected may depend on the severity or type of pollution in the area.
Design is so important when it comes to sustainability because it has long-term impacts on each building’s carbon footprint. For example, a building that’s insulated well will warm up and cool down without wasting energy. Energy-efficient home systems will conserve natural resources and cost less to operate.
Sustainable Construction Materials and Methods
Low-impact construction materials use less energy to manufacture, making them ideal for use in sustainable buildings. These materials may be recycled or repurposed, and they may also be locally sourced to reduce their carbon footprint. Sustainable materials are used in the initial construction of buildings as well as when replacing elements, like roofing or garage doors.
Modular construction also reduces how much transportation and waste is associated with the construction of a building. With modular construction, the building is fabricated off-site, which takes approximately half the time as constructing the building on-site. Guidelines and requirements are adhered to as normal, and the building is the same level of quality as if it were built on-site.
Additionally, construction companies are finding new ways to reduce the waste that’s produced on a construction site. One home can produce up to five pounds of waste per square foot. This includes cardboard, drywall, glass, insulation, metal, and roofing. Waste minimization efforts include storing materials properly so they can be used as intended, reusing older materials and storage containers, and recycling whenever possible. Construction companies may also work only with sustainable suppliers. These suppliers allow unused materials and containers to be returned and don’t overuse packaging materials.
LEED-Certified Buildings and Sustainable Education
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it’s a certification created by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED-certified buildings use efficient and environmentally sustainable resources and practices during construction. In addition to building LEED-certified buildings, many construction companies are also operating out of energy-efficient buildings.
They also seek out the advancements in sustainability. The Associated General Contractors of America Environmental Services, for example, has an annual conference to educate construction professionals about the latest sustainable practices.
As businesses put more of an emphasis on environmental protection, the need for environmental scientists and specialists is growing. These professionals find ways to prevent environmental problems and also advise government officials about changes that should take place. Businesses, including construction companies, can also hire or consult a specialist to find new ways to be more sustainable.
There’s a perception many people have of construction companies: They’re thought of as hugely wasteful and a drain on natural resources. The truth is, though, that we need these structures. Thanks to environmentally focused construction companies, new buildings don’t have to have such a negative impact on the earth. If business owners and consumers continue to choose sustainable or LEED-certified buildings, they may become the norm.
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