Sustainable Construction Trends
Climate change, rising population, increased consumption, and financial crises require construction companies to examine and implement the idea of sustainable and green construction models. More than ever, clients and businesses are requesting the construction industry to take notice of these issues and develop innovative solutions to mitigate the negative impact of new builds on the environment.
The US Green Building Council (USGBC) came up with a certification process for new and green construction, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). As of 2016, over 27,000 buildings were certified as LEED.
US universities are especially interested in going green. Harvard University boasts 93 buildings with LEED certification. This interest in energy-saving building strategies has increased from 33% to 68% in the US from 2012 to 2015, according to a survey done by McGraw-Hill Construction.
California is taking the lead in the US with its radical implementation of revising its Title 24 building codes and promoting Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings. The ZNE term has only recently come into use, and the definition is still evolving. They are buildings that produce as much energy as they use.
Renewable energy and excellent building design are ways in which a building can truly be defined as ZNE. A few examples of completely ZNE buildings are located in Golden, Colorado and Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. The first historical building to be renovated as ZNE is the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and US Courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Two important aspects of constructing an eco-friendly building are the consumption of both energy and water. Water conservation practices can reduce water usage up to 15%. They include:
• Installing water conservation fixtures
• Collecting rainwater
• Greywater re-use
• On-site sewage treatment systems to remove impurities
Energy saving practices include:
• Regulating all plug-in devices to be controlled at the source, so computers or lights are not draining from the system when not in use.
• Automated daylighting is another tool used, the practice of using sensors that measure the amount of daylight in the office and reduce electric lighting accordingly.
• The use of smart meters – where clients and homeowners can see their usage in real time and adjust remotely.
• Choosing correct shading and sun control devices can also help reduce a building’s energy consumption.
Sustainable construction will soon be the only kind of construction with the US, Europe, and other developed nations taking the lead to developing more and more Zero Net Energy Buildings. The future looks promising. Both commercial and residential projects can benefit from technology already available.