The global public’s concern about the effects of climate change and the need for increased environmental protection are both rising. This concern has led to a greater emphasis on sustainability in various industries, including construction. Advancements in green building construction can lower our collective carbon footprint while also providing social, environmental, and economic benefits.
Sustainable building construction has notable benefits for the developer, the occupants, and the environment. It reduces waste, lowers maintenance costs, preserves the environment, increases resale value, and lowers the risk of exposure to pollutants.
Using sustainable construction materials is associated with lower overall maintenance and replacement costs over the lifespan of the building. While the initial cost of constructing green buildings is higher than less environmentally-friendly structures, the long-term savings is recouped over the life of the building.
Buildings that follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards can save up to 20% in maintenance costs compared to standard construction buildings.
Waste management is a core tenet of green construction. Sustainable construction methods aim to minimize waste as much as possible without compromising quality.
Many of these projects use efficient designs that minimize overall material use with exposed structures that eliminate the need for finishing materials like drywall. To achieve further material efficiency, green construction projects often recycle unused supplies.
Also, processes used to manufacture sustainable materials are often less wasteful and environmentally harmful than other non-sustainable materials.
Installing energy-efficient and water-saving fixtures save both money and precious natural resources. For example, Energy Star-rated windows and appliances save on energy consumption, and WaterSense certified products use at least 20% less water than non-certified products.
Architecture also plays a critical role in saving resources. Designing a building specially for the climate can lower heating and cooling costs.Using sustainable, ethical, and non-toxic materials can reduce our collective environmental impact.
Here are some examples of eco-friendly sourcing methods:
Properties built according to green standards often have higher resale value than their less efficient counterparts. This higher value is due to the building’s lower maintenance costs and the desirability of green homes.
A study conducted in 2017 by the U.S. Green Building Council and the University of Texas at Austin showed that homes built to green standards increase their value by an average of $25,000 compared to non-sustainable homes.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that to maintain healthy indoor air quality in the face of a changing climate, building construction should consider the health and wellbeing of occupants.
Traditional building materials such as composite wood, insulation, and paints contain toxic chemicals called VOCs or volatile organic compounds. Over time, VOCs can cause air pollution and negatively impact human health. Building with sustainable materials can help prevent inhabitants from being exposed to these hazards.
There are several building supplies that are common in modern sustainable construction projects:
Bamboo is a highly sustainable building material because it has a higher tensile strength than steel, grows quickly, uses little water, and doesn’t need pesticides.
Sustainably-sourced wood aims to minimize the environmental impact on forests, communities, and wildlife around them. Sustainable wood is also legally sourced and adheres to global and regional environmental regulations.
A single hardwood tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 per year. Reusing wood reclaimed from other buildings limits deforestation, which helps save our atmosphere from increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
Cork is recyclable, biodegradable, self-regenerative, and doesn’t contribute to global deforestation. Cork is harvested by harmlessly stripping the bark from a cork tree, which can live up to 250 years. This natural material helps insulate homes against the summer heat and winter cold.
Adobe is an ancient natural building material made from dried mud and is often mixed with sand, clay, and straw to form a brick. These bricks are usually made on-site with materials from the surrounding construction area.
Then, the bricks are either dried in the sun or in kilns. Adobe bricks are naturally energy-efficient and can insulate well against extreme heat with the right wall thickness.
Natural stone is a green building material because of its durability, origins, and ease of maintenance. Natural stone is less environmentally harmful since it isn’t manufactured using petroleum-based bonding like many composite materials.
In addition, its durability allows it to last thousands of years. Stone is also nearly infinitely recyclable.
Construction managers can use several tools and strategies to coordinate sustainable projects while avoiding delays and cost overruns.
Examine your current construction strategy to understand how to incorporate sustainability. You may need to create new roles to ensure responsibility for maintaining green standards.
As with any construction project, you must secure capital and allocate funding. Funding can be used for researching green construction processes and material sourcing.
You may also need to make budget cuts from aspects of your standard construction strategy to accommodate green strategies.
Use project management software
Construction projects can use project management software to ensure seamless project completion. Some of these tools include integrated construction management and procurement software.
Define sustainability standards
It’s crucial to set sustainability standards before the project begins. These standards aim for the best environmental outcome and should consider factors like materials, construction methods, architecture, using renewable energy, and proper disposal of construction waste.
The personal preferences of the client often sets these standards, or they can be determined by sustainable building certifications like LEED, WELL, and Energy Star.
Source sustainable materials
Using sustainable materials is essential to sustainable design, and it’s largely what sets itself apart from typical construction. While every part of construction can’t be 100% sustainable, it’s beneficial to coordinate with other teams to learn where they can switch to more sustainable options and control waste.
Managers can make eco-friendly adjustments to ongoing projects by using change orders to substitute standard materials with more sustainable ones.
Choose sustainable partners
To ensure an entirely sustainable project, choose partners that either already engage in sustainable practices or are willing to make changes to accommodate your sustainability goals.