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Sustainable construction goes beyond recycling

10 November 2010 No Comment

Sustainability is more than a buzz word.  Everyone wants to be seen to be creating environmentally friendly buildings using materials that have had a former life. However sustainable construction isn’t just about the materials used in building the structure, but also the long-term affect that the building will have on the environment.

Sustainable construction

Short-term design, long-term consequences

Sustainable construction starts with the design of a building.

  • Will the design recommend materials from buildings that have been demolished?
  • Will the manufacturers chosen to provide new materials be as green as possible when it comes to getting rid of their waste?
  • How far will the materials need to be transported to the construction site and how will this be done?

All of these questions, and many others, involve short-term issues, which will be of little consequence once the building is complete. However, the overall design needs to consider that the building may be used for many decades to follow, and therefore the design must take into account the carbon footprint consequences that the building itself will have on the environment long after the construction is complete.

Saving energy for a cleaner and greener future

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One particular area where a substantial sustainable construction design can plan for a more environmentally friendly future is through the use of under floor heating.  Not only will buildings with this form of heating release fewer harmful emissions into the air, but they’ll also be more financially viable as less heat is wasted.

A simple way to conserve energy, whether with heating, or air conditioning, is to ensure that the building is completely insulated.  In colder temperatures, if the heating is kept within the building, and the cold out, then less energy will be used compensating for what has escaped through inadequate insulation materials.

The opposite can be true in the heat of the summer when air conditioning would not need to be as high if the building’s insulation prevents heat from seeping through the walls in the first place.

Efficient insulation of the building

A sustainable construction design should make detailed recommendations for the efficient insulation of the building so that the energy needed to provide a good living or working environment is provided with as little impact on the natural environment as possible.

What about the cost?

Sustainable construction projects aren’t cheap.  Many companies want to make a pledge to be “green”, but often it comes down to cost.   Currently the costs involved in an environmentally friendly construction are higher than they are for non-sustainable construction projects. 

Long term however the additional costs will be seen in reduced overheads in terms of energy costs, as well as reducing the building’s overall carbon footprint on the environment.

In conclusion:

It’s not just about the use of recycled materials that makes sustainable construction projects environmentally friendly, it’s also the effects that the building will have on the environment in the years that follow.

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