How to Become Environmentally Friendly in the Construction Industry

It is estimated that in the next 20 years we will reach our peak capacity for oil consumption. Demand continues to rise for crude oil, despite the fact that the global production of oil is decreasing, and demand is no different when it comes to the construction industry…

This shouldn’t come as any surprise; the construction industry contributed $779 billion USD to GDP in the second quarter of 2016, which increased to $784bn USD in the third quarter. What we can read from these figures, is that construction contributes so much to the economy, and brings in so much revenue, that it becomes increasingly difficult to fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken.

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Industries such as construction depend on cheap crude oils to use in their machines to implement production or manufacture. Within the UK, 50% of all carbon emissions are accounted for by machinery and production methods.

The industry is beginning to change its attitudes towards how construction processes are implemented, and is now recognizing the problems with pollution. The market is using recyclable methods in the same way as leading car manufacturers and the fashion industry, by making sure waste is kept to a minimum. As well as this, the UK government is beginning to implement more legislation that stipulates construction firms should include green initiatives such as including energy-efficient technology.

As well as this, the US last year saw estimated revenue in eco-friendly construction rise to $245 billion, and although this is a smaller proportion of the overall amount construction is contributing to US GDP, it still suggests that there is hope for the construction industry, and specifically how it can become more economically efficient, while still being competitive within global rather than domestic markets.

Eco-friendly techniques during construction

Three things are considered during the design and implementation stages when building a proposed structure if it is to be ecologically beneficial. Ordered into three categories, these considerations can be evaluated within the pre-build phase, during the build, and the post-build phase.

Before the build and during

Before you start the build, consider whether or not the materials have been locally sourced, or are they renewed materials from a previous job? Furthermore, could these materials be recycled in the future? Furthermore, where could they be used in future construction developments, and is this a cost-effective and practical idea if they were going to be used in the future? If you’re able to establish one of these three things before the build stage, then the structure is going to be contributing towards an environmentally-friendly design that will benefit green infrastructures in the long term; this will also benefit domestic economies, as manufacturers don’t need to outsource new materials at a cost, as they can recycle old ones.

Secondly, is energy being used to build the structure being wasted during its construction? Machines can be overused and overworked, which leads to energy being wasted rather than being used efficiently. Hybrid motor technologies, such as Nifty Lift cherry pickers, ensure all energy is used to complete the job, with the environment in mind. As well as efficiency, this covers cost; if machines are running unnecessarily during down time, this incurs a greater fuel cost within the overall construction process. If the ‘electric only’ option is turned on, then 0% emissions are produced, which can also run alongside the diesel engine if needs be when loads are particularly heavy or the job requires more power.

After the build

Once the design has been implemented and construction is finished, is energy being wasted within the structure itself?

Rather than using new insulation, recycled paper can be used as insulation. Functioning as a cheaper and practical alternative to the production of new insulation materials specifically for individual roofs, there is no added costs, and there is no need to order vast quantities of insulation on a big job, which would result in a significant cost.

In addition to this, any timber that is used should always be sourced locally where possible from sustainably managed forests, or reclaimed wood can be used instead. Not only does this ensure that construction processes are greener, it also ensures that our natural landscapes remain as they should be, and are not damaged by man-made processes.

Ecological structures and design implementation

By incorporating energy-efficient and eco-friendly technologies within designed structures, this is what the construction industry is already doing to remain green:

  • Solar Energy. Used for either generating electricity within a building, or to power a boiler and generate hot water within a domestic property, solar energy is a natural way of gaining a quality source of energy. Large corporations have also incorporated solar energy designs into manufacturing plants, which means that a proportion of their total energy consumption is produced by natural processes as opposed to greenhouse gasses.
  • Water filtration and drainage systems. These systems are designed so that water within a building is consistently reused; as well as this, biological waste is recycled and treated safely. Drains can also be designed so that they lead to green spaces, ensuring that no water that is collected is wasted. Rainwater can be collected for plants; therefore, water doesn’t need to be wastefully used from a tap.
  • Low-energy lighting. Accounting for a 100% energy saving, low-energy lighting can last twice as long as regular bulbs.

Benefitting from eco-friendly construction

Accounting for 80% of a building’s total running costs over the course of its lifetime, operation and maintenance costs account for a vast proportion of costs overall. When it comes to water and energy, operating costs can be diminished by a third when using green energy initiatives. This saving shouldn’t be ignored, as this may be the difference between a business breaking even and producing a net-profit.

To minimise artificial lighting costs, once a building has been constructed, daylight can be used within the design; this is a good thing because vitamin D from sunlight can help improve the ‘indoor environment quality’ for workers or inhabitants using that building, as the health benefits are increased for those using it.

Green building manufacturers can also benefit the environment by using recyclable and long-lasting materials during the construction process; what this means, is that fewer materials are needed within the designed structure – and this results in a cost saving and less energy being used, in the form of diesel fuels being expended within the construction process. As well as this, if the proposed structure is being used for a domestic or commercial purpose, then people are more likely to rent or buy these premises or properties. The reason for this, is that people are more inclined to invest in something that is ecologically conscious, rather than something that isn’t.

These factors combined help to slow down the rate at which climate change is occurring, and it’s also improving the long-term future of our planet and the sustainability of construction in the future. By using less processes that pollute the environment, and more that help to sustain it, environmentally friendly construction helps retain the economic and environmental sustainability of the construction industry in the long term.

References:

http://www.sustainablebuild.co.uk/ecofriendlyconstructionmethodsmaterials.html

http://www.nationwideconstruction.us/eco-friendly-construction-8-advantages-of-green-building/

http://www.inc.com/best-industries/issie-lapowsky/green-construction.html

http://www.sustainablebuild.co.uk/ecofriendlyconstruction.html

http://www.innovationsforthebuiltenvironment.co.uk/

http://www.livingbeyondgreen.com/development-construction/

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-from-construction

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.