Understanding Sustainable Construction
The global need for sustainable construction increases as a result of the increase in environmental conditions and greenhouse emissions. However, sustainable construction is not only about designing an environmentally friendly building; it involves improving the way people live and build through a modern approach in the building sector.
What is Sustainable Construction?
To fully understand sustainable construction or design, let us consider this illustration. When a structural engineering firm is contracted for the construction of a building, obviously, it will involve several stakeholders. They include;
- The structural engineering firm involved
- The client
- The local government is responsible for regulating construction in the area.
These conventional stakeholders, for the most part, impact the outcomes of the construction project. However, to achieve sustainable construction, we must consider other stakeholders.
Firstly, the community. Avoiding construction processes that will affect the community negatively, or create harmful waste materials is imperative if the community is considered an important stakeholder. Sustainable construction or design considers the community as an important stakeholder.
Secondly, the environment. Considering the environment as a stakeholder will imply using materials with low environmental impact. If a sustainable or green building is our goal, we must place the environment in a stakeholder position. Materials with low environmental impact include materials that use more renewable energy sources than non-renewable energy sources.
In this case, sustainable construction means there are more stakeholders (factors) that decide the outcomes of a building during a construction project than just the structural engineering firm and money.
Sustainable Construction Materials
As much as sustainable construction is very needful, replacing steel and concrete completely is not an option to consider currently. Because of this, structural engineers and leaders in the construction industry have some construction alternatives.
There are so many sustainable constructions, or green building materials currently in use. The most common are;
- Rammed Earth
- Shipping/Cargo Containers
- Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPS)
- Earth Bag
- Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)
- Hybrid builds
- Light Gauge Steel
- Fabric Structures
- Yurts/Round Homes
“Target issues” for Sustainable Construction
It is common engineering knowledge that constructing a structure such as a skyscraper will require more than these materials. However, the application of these green building materials is common in residential homes and smaller commercial buildings. For small commercial projects, we can notice the incorporation of materials like insulated concrete forms (ICF), light gauge steel and shipping containers.
In addition to these material’s safety and affordability, they are also a great alternative for global construction.
Presently, implementation of new technologies, by structural engineering companies and leading concrete and steel manufacturers, to produce materials that will have a positive impact on the environment, have proven fertile.
It even goes as far as manufacturers working to convert gases that are released from steel or concrete production into renewable materials.
Construction Costs and Lifespan of Structure
For a structural engineer, the number one priority, when designing a building, whether sustainable or conventional, is safety. Although it is possible to build a safe structure with these materials, the cost and time efficiency of the resulting structure is the main issue.
The structural integrity of most of these alternatives is high but the cost of building such high-quality structures can be very high and also time-consuming. In this case, the economic benefits of building with conventional materials like steel and concrete can continue to outweigh the negative environmental impact of these conventional materials.
Benefits Of Sustainable Construction
A survey conducted by The Guardian shows that environmentally friendly work buildings equal an increase in the productivity of workers. In other words, the safety of the work environment is necessary for the efficiency of work.
Sustainable construction, in every way, preserves the environment, hence improving the health of its habitants. A survey by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that indoor air can be harmful and advises adequate ventilation to allow for outdoor air. Some building materials like paint contains chemicals that can be harmful to human health. However, sustainable materials do not contain chemicals and are therefore perfect for air purification.
The use of renewable materials for sustainable construction results in reduced waste production. Raw materials of concrete and steel construction can be converted to green materials to effectiveness.
Research shows that, in the US, construction firms are responsible for almost 30 percent of the country’s waste.
Efficiency in Material Usage
Some sustainable buildings recycle water for use. A sustainable building with a green roof can collect rainwater for watering plants, the sun’s energy for plant’s photosynthesis. Hence, preserving natural energy like solar energy, storing and putting it to use accordingly.
The idea of using recycled materials for sustainable design results in environmental protection. Waste materials from conventional construction are recycled for use in a sustainable building. Hence, ensuring environmental protection by reducing the number of waste materials.
Additionally, sustainable construction involves elements like; insulated windows and walls to reduce noise. Additionally, sustainable buildings are energy efficient and therefore less harmful to the environment.
Room for Experimentation
The construction industry is never shy of incorporating new technologies for better and more efficient structures. Sustainable construction is no different, it will, no doubt, create room for experimenting and creating new technologies. New materials are being utilized and subsequently, new technologies for sustainable construction are being created and actualized, for example, the ski slope opening on another power plant in Copenhagen.
Sustainable construction is growing with every passing day, the development of new green technologies is evident in the type of recent green buildings.