What is Sustainable Construction and what does it mean?

What is Sustainable Construction and what does it mean?

Climate change is the biggest threat humanity has ever experienced.

How is this relevant?

The Construction industry is the largest consumer of natural resources in the world, contributing to 23% of air pollution, 50% of climate change, 40% of water pollution and 50% of landfill waste.

The industry is damaging the very world it relies on to thrive.

Therefore it stands to reason that if climate change is to be tackled, we must focus our attention on making Construction more Sustainable. 

What is Sustainable Construction?

Sustainable Construction is meeting the demands of our growing population, by building a world that will improve the lives of future generations, using eco-friendly methods to support the environment long-term.

Sustainable Construction is building with materials and resources that are either produced or sourced locally, and that are renewable and recyclable, so as not to harm the environment.

When Constructing Sustainably, every phase of the industries lifecycle needs to be carefully considered, from sourcing materials and resources, to the disposal of buildings at the end of their lifecycle.

How can we do this?

Sustainable construction requires a certain amount of ‘thinking outside of the box’.

Firstly, we can re-use reclaimed materials rather than new materials, we are all well practiced on the art of household recycling now, extending this practice to large scale construction will have a hugely positive impact on the environment, less landfill waste and less use of already depleted natural resources. 

Examples of this are using recycled steel and reclaimed wood. 

Designing buildings with an ‘end of life recycle’ plan will make the disposal phase of the lifecycle much more manageable. 

Secondly, using sustainable building materials, these are materials that are non-toxic and harmless, have not been produced in harmful ways.

Timber is often considered to be the most sustainable building material, natural wood has a lower lifecycle cost than other materials.

Other options include bamboo – biodegradable, anti-bacterial and extremely strong because of its fibres running axially. 

‘Hempcrete’ is a mixture of sand, hemp fibres and lime, typically used for insulation.

It is not stronger than concrete but it is fire resistant and pest resistant!

Thirdly, is to build buildings that are resource and energy efficient. 

A building that needs less resources to function is going to emit less green house gas emissions whilst relying on less resources. Win Win.

How can we make a building more energy efficient?

During the designing stages of new buildings, thought must be put into how to reserve energy. 

The major areas of energy consumption in buildings are heating, ventilating and air conditioning. 

If a building is to be sustainable it needs to preserve precious natural resources through good insulation and making a building completely air tight.

Ground Source Heat pumps (GSHPs) are being installed into lots of new builds to help save on energy resources. 

GSHPs take low-grade energy from the ground by pumping water through it in pipes, they then convert this into usable energy at a higher temperature for space heating and water heating. This system does use electricity, but the idea is that they use less electrical energy than the heat they produce. 

How else can we benefit from Sustainable Construction?

Apart from being environmentally friendly, what are the other benefits of building sustainably? 

Cost reduction – Using sustainable materials and methods will save on energy bills, also green buildings have great Return on Investment, the value of the property increases with sustainability. 

Improved health – The use of sustainable materials can help with the purification of the air whilst releasing less chemicals into buildings.

The future of Sustainable Construction?

Cop 26 saw the UK make a pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050! 

The Future Homes Standard will see a set of regulations new homes and buildings must adhere to, to help the UK achieve their target. 

Whilst this challenge brings its own obstacles, it also opens the door for lots of new opportunities in the Construction sector whilst improving our quality of life. 

Change is coming.

To read more about COP26 and Construction check out this article :