According to the EPA, there are 7 main aspects on which green buildings are judged to measure their “greenness”—aka sustainability. Being environmentally friendly with your building project can happen in many ways. Some are obvious, like saving energy, while others focus more on the human aspect, such as maintaining good indoor air quality. Read on to find out all the ways your next building project can be sustainable.
1) Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
When people think of “green” buildings, they often think of energy first. Creating an energy-efficient building begins during design and can be interpreted in many ways. Of course, once the building is completed and occupied, it can draw on sustainable energy, such as solar panels built into the building’s structure. But even the construction process can be planned to use less energy and more renewable fuels for tools such as large machinery.
Whether it’s growing a green roof, installing specialty glass for solar and heat management, or choosing a whole building system run on renewable energy, building with energy-efficiency in mind can add a host of benefits—most importantly, lower utility bills.
2) Water Efficiency
In the hierarchy of green building components, water efficiency is just as important as energy efficiency. And just like energy efficiency, conserving water can happen anywhere from the construction process to the way the completed structure uses water (especially in landscaping).
Homeowners can get creative with water conservation such as using an extended piping network to add radiant heat to the house (also an energy-saving move!). Even just choosing low-flush toilets and other high-efficiency fixtures and materials can make a difference to the building’s total water efficiency.
3) Environmentally Preferable Building Materials & Specifications
Of course, a green building wouldn’t be anything without the green building materials used. Luckily, there are dozens of choices for sustainable materials! Building with recycled steel or even an existing item like a shipping container can reduce the need for reprocessing of the steel, saving energy and reducing emissions. You can even build green with something as crazy as tire bales!
More of a traditionalist? Options such as modular homes or structures made from SIPs will result in a building that blends in with any neighborhood while still standing out for its sustainability. Even a log cabin, when sourced and built correctly, can be a green building project.
4) Waste Reduction
Reducing waste to make a building greener doesn’t necessarily have to do with any “waste” produced within the building during occupancy. Rather, it has to do with the waste generated during the construction process or even future demolition. This aspect of sustainability can also include reducing waste and pollution from landscaping and even emissions from heavy machines needed for building.
Good green options include earthbag homes and SIPs. Earthbag homes are literally drawn up from the earth. Because you are using sustainable material, any unused earth goes right back to where it came from or is used in another project. SIPs are designed to fit together with minimal offcuts and all extraneous pieces are recycled, drastically reducing construction waste.
5) Toxic/Toxins Reduction
Reducing toxins within a structure can happen in a variety of ways. From the chemicals used to make indoor furnishings flame retardant to the glues and finishes used on building materials, many traditionally-toxic items can be replaced with greener options.
For example, ICF buildings are made from foam pieces, rebar, and concrete, eliminating the need for chemically treated wood framing. Rammed earth or straw bale homes provide a natural source of insulation as opposed to chemical-filled commercial insulations. Reducing toxins throughout the building process can also affect other aspects of the resulting building, including…
6) Indoor Air Quality
The chemicals used in older, traditional building methods can leech out of the finished structure and affect air quality. If bad enough, this can lead occupants to develop “sick building syndrome.” Sustainable materials such as bamboo are great for air quality because they absorb ⅔ more CO2 and produce 30% more O2 than regular wood.
But making IAQ (indoor air quality) a green aspect goes way beyond materials. A sustainable building will have designs or systems in place to circulate and filter the air in the structure. These systems will likely be energy efficient or even built directly into the design with smart elements such as the room or ceiling shape.
7) Smart Growth & Sustainable Development
It isn’t enough to just be a green building. Sustainable buildings will continue to develop their sustainability and environmental impact over time. This could include dealing with storm water runoff or even occupant waste in a new, sustainable way. Green buildings will need to adapt over time to changing and ever-tightening regulations.
Choose PSE Consulting Engineers for Your Next Green Building Project
From the very first meeting to many centuries in the future, PSE Consulting Engineers knows how to make your building project sustainable in every way. We have experience with the most popular green building materials and techniques. Whether it’s a tree house that respects the ebb and flow of the natural treetops or a multi-purpose retail/dining space that highlights sustainability, we have the team to take your project from concept to completion. Call PSE Consulting Engineers today!