What does it mean to have sustainability at the back of your mind? Why is it so important? To put it in simple terms, sustainability is the opportunity of humankind to progress as a civilisation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By placing such importance on it, you simply cannot ignore the issues it tries to resolve and hope they will go away.
There are plainly so many aspects that need attention, from the second impacts of building (changes in landscape, production of building materials) to the significant consumption of precious natural resources such as freshwater, timber, or minerals. There really is no shortage of areas that can benefit from some of the teachings of sustainability.
Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, there is an unhoped-for opportunity to shake things up and redefine how we view sustainable building and really make a difference in the construction industry. With this in mind, we wanted to highlight the trends that are slowly emerging and discuss how these might transform sustainability into an area of focus for the construction industry.
This particular movement is not new; what is new is the greater accessibility to the technology and the decrease in the costs of installing it in your existing or newly built home.
Companies such as SolarCity (a subsidiary of Tesla) have made great strides in increasing the access of the greater public to durable solar panels that promise significant reductions in the use of electricity from the grid. If you throw in the mix the prospect of no longer depending on the national grid for electricity, there is no denying that more and more customers will be tempted to make the switch to solar energy.
However, this is just one way of promoting the virtues of renewable energy. Another option is the involvement at government level in the construction of mega-solar power generating plants or wind farms. This is seen as a pivotal factor in the struggle of minimising our reliance on more traditional sources of energy such as coal.
New gadgets being developed will also encourage homeowners to consider the switch to solar-powered energy. Google’s Project Sunroof, for example, is making use of the 3D mapping of Google Maps and it combines this with a location’s historical weather data, utility prices, and local incentive schemes. These give the consumer a clear understanding of the potential savings from the installation of a photovoltaic system as well as a transparent rundown of the costs of setting one up.
Environmentally-minded contractors will pioneer and experiment with a diverse set of prefabricated or modular components to be used in construction.
Besides keeping tolerances right, the advantages to building sections of a house in a controlled environment significantly reduce overage and scrap. More importantly, for projects under a tight agenda, having to deal just with assembling sections in situ rather than crafting them, will greatly ease off the pressures of building and visibly reduce the time of construction.
Biophilic architecture might sound like something straight out of a SciFi movie, but it really is all just about incorporating nature into a structure. By doing so, the building itself can act as a literal breath of fresh air in a busy metropolitan city and can help new developments blend in the surrounding landscape.
Examples of biophilic architecture ideal for crowded places are roof gardens and green walls. Besides adding to the green factor of a building, the increasing use of the biophilic mindset can positively impact the connection between humans and nature. It is equally important to make sure future generations do not lose their affinity with the outdoors.
A Move Away From Imposing Structures on the Cards?
Our perception of a livable house is slowly shifting towards placing greater importance on the basic necessities, functionality, and maximising open spaces. Innovations in the field have grown in such leaps and bounds that an entire house can now fit in one room area. This is made possible through the use of foldable and inbuilt furniture.
Check out SPA team Elsie’s tiny house project, which is all about maximising functional space.
With an increasing number of urban areas suffering from water shortage and droughts, a noticeable rise in efforts to curb the frequency of such events has taken the form of better water management practices.
Natural disasters such as the wildfires in Australia and California have clearly shown the importance of restraint in water usage from both businesses and homeowners. A clear rise in practicing water conservation to prepare for periods of extreme droughts will be more and more commonplace.
Besides just relying on efficient electronics to reduce the amount of water needed to run a home, greater emphasis will be placed on sustainable practices such as wastewater conservation (gray water). This can easily be used to maintain gardens or do the most domestic of chores, car washing.
New builds will receive greater attention from architects in terms of the design. Greater emphasis will be placed on taking advantage of the landscape and layout to reduce the power needed to run the household. Aspects such as window positioning, insulation, and wind direction, will all be given more thought to create a self-sufficient house, as much as possible.
In addition to this, an ‘unexpected’ friendship between architects and engineers will take form. Working hand in hand, new methods will be implemented to account for the needs of the landscape. In hotter climates, greater emphasis will be placed on employing building practices that will keep solar gains from entering the house. The aim here is to reduce the reliance on air conditioning to keep the thermal comfort of your home to an acceptable level.
In colder climates, the reverse side of the coin will be put into place. In this way allowing the much-needed sunlight into the house to lessen the reliance on fossil fuels for heating.
Retrofitting Our Way to a More Sustainable Building
The happy-go-lucky practice of demolishing old buildings to make way for new and improved ones is slowly reaching its end. Knowing what we know today in terms of the energy required to build a structure from scratch, it would be foolish not to give the concept of retrofitting a second thought.
The process of making concrete is one of the biggest pollutants in the construction industry. Therefore, any effort to reduce this already makes for a more eco-friendly building. The existing insulation in most older buildings cannot compare to its contemporary counterpart. Old buildings are also notorious for being leaky and draughty. Therefore, improving these should be the first logical step towards achieving a refurbished home with a contemporary feeling that can be enjoyed for years to come.
The added benefit of taking an easy step such as simply replacing the insulation of your home and increasing the airtightness of the building envelope, is that it will instantly make great strides towards having a more sustainable structure.
Sustainable Buildings – the New Standard in Construction?
It goes without saying that the momentum is surely on the side of sustainability. Not aiming to achieve this in construction going forward would be foolish.
However, sustainable structures cannot build themselves. Professionals that know what they are doing are an integral part of the process. Whether you are a designer or a tradesperson looking to get certified in more sustainable building practices, we have the course to suit your needs.
Our dedicated team of professionals is here to guide you on your sustainability adventure.