What is Green Construction?
Green construction can be used interchangeably with green building or sustainable construction. Therefore, green construction means the use of resource-efficient and environmentally responsible processes in construction to ensure lifetime sustainability of the building. Primarily, the sustainability context of building implies building operations, site design, maintenance, repair, and demolition with the least harm on the environment.
The process requires close collaboration of the construction engineers, the client and the architects in the entire construction project. The aim is to ensure the building and construction methods are cost-effective, durable and reduce the overall effects on the environment and human health with a central focus on efficient use of energy and resources, water preservation, improved occupational health, and reducing pollution and wastage. Now, let’s take a look at the top 10 sustainable construction technologies used in green construction.
Solar power has been increasingly exploited as a sustainable construction technology. In green construction, it is utilized in two ways. One pertains to active solar power and the other is passive solar power. Active solar power is the use of functional solar systems that absorb the sun’s radiation to cater for heating and electricity provision. It reduces the need for the use of electricity or gas.
The upfront installation costs are higher but in the long-term it saves on energy bills and aids in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels. On the other hand, passive solar power is a design that uses the sun’s rays to warm homes through the strategic placement of windows and the use of heat-absorbing surfaces. The windows let in energy and the heat absorbed reduces the need for warming the house during cold periods such as winter.
The use of biodegradable materials is an eco-friendly means of making construction sustainable. Most traditional construction methods lead to accumulation of waste products and toxic chemicals, majority of which take hundreds of years to degrade. And even if they degrade, it contaminates and harms the environment. Biodegradable materials such as organic paints therefore aid to limit the negative impacts on the environment as they easily breakdown without the release of toxins. The use of biodegradable materials for building foundation, walls and insulators are also part of sustainable construction technologies.
Insulation is among the greatest concerns when it comes to construction of buildings and homes. However, most people don’t know that insulators are simply wall filters which don’t need to be made from expensive and highly finished materials. On this basis, the use of green insulation has proven to be a sustainable construction technology as it eliminates the need of high-end finishes made from non-renewable materials. Green insulation offers a solution by making use of old and used materials such denim and newspaper. In other words, it utilizes recycled material to line the walls.
The use of smart appliances
Homes and commercial buildings consume most of the world’s energy and for this reason; it has necessitated the use of smart appliances as part of sustainable construction technologies. The sustainable construction technologies emphasize on the installation of energy saving and self-sufficient appliances. SmartGrid dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines are examples of such sustainable technologies. The technology is oriented towards establishing zero-energy homes as well as commercial buildings.
Cool roofs are sustainable green design technologies which aim at reflecting heat and sunlight away. It aids in keeping homes and buildings at the standard room temperatures by lowering heat absorption and thermal emittance. The design makes use of reflective paints and special tiles which absorb less heat and reflect away most of the solar radiation. For instance, cool roofs can reduce temperatures by more the 50 degree Celsius during summer. Cool roofs therefore minimize the dependence on air conditioning and in turn, reduce energy use which translates into decreased cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Sustainable resource sourcing
Sustainable resource sourcing as the name suggests is a prime example of sustainable construction technology because it ensures the use of construction materials designed and created from recycled products and have to be environmentally friendly. In most cases, agricultural wastes or by-products are used to produce the construction materials. Overall, the materials are remanufactured, recycled, recyclable, and obtained from sustainable sources.
Low-energy house and Zero-energy building design
Sustainable construction technologies typically include mechanisms to lessen energy consumption. The construction of buildings with wood, for instance, is a sustainable construction technology because it has a lower embodied energy in comparison to those build of steel or concrete. Sustainable green construction also makes use of designs that cuts back air leakage and allows for free flow of air while at the same time using high performance windows and insulation techniques.
These techniques are meant to reduce the dependence on air conditioning and interior heating. Further, the strategic placement of windows is another technique that encourages day-lighting thereby minimizing the need for electric lighting in the course of the day. The use of renewable energy such as solar for lighting and water heating is also part of low-energy house and zero-energy building design. The initial costs of setting up zero-energy buildings may be high, but they pay off in the long-term.
Electrochromic Smart Glass
Electronic Smart Glass also constitutes one of the technologies in sustainable construction. The electronic smart glass is a new technology that works particularly in summer periods to shut out the harsh heat of solar radiation. The smart glass uses tiny electric signals to slightly charge the windows to change the amount of solar radiation it reflects.
It is incorporated into the buildings control system therefore allowing the users to choose the amount of solar radiation to block. With this technology, homes and commercial buildings can save a lot on heating, ventilating, and air conditioning costs. The smart glass is still being perfected and is soon set to be fully used in sustainable construction as a smart energy-saving technology.
Water efficiency technologies
There are several water efficient technologies used, which are all part of sustainable construction technologies. Essentially, the technologies encompass re-use and application of efficient water supply systems. Examples include the use of dual plumbing, greywater re-use, rainwater harvesting and water conservation fixtures. These methods ensure that water is adequately managed, recycled and used for non-portable purposes like washing cars and flushing toilets.
Dual plumbing, for instance, decreases sewer traffic and enhances the potential of re-using water on-site. On the other hand, rainwater harvesting provides water for multi-purpose usage and might also be stored for future use. In general, the water efficiency sustainable construction technologies lower water usage costs and help in water conservation. In urban areas, the technologies intend to lower water wastage by 15% to address fresh water shortages.
Sustainable indoor environment technologies
The health and safety of the building occupants is fundamental and must be guaranteed during the construction of any building or home. As such, sustainable indoor technologies are mandatory in green construction. The materials used have to ensure green safety standards which include hazardous free elements, non-toxic materials, low volatile emissions, and moisture resistance.
For instance, materials from cork, wood and bamboo are naturally sourced and do not have any toxic, irritating or carcinogenic elements. The use of materials with low VOCs also enhances IAQ and limits exposure to health threatening chemicals such as vinyl, phenol-formaldehyde and lead.
The advancement to constructing self-powered buildings is an art of sustainable construction technology. The reason is based on the fact that self-powered buildings bring about the realization of zero-energy construction. The buildings are built such that they are able to generate sufficient power to support their own energy needs and even direct surplus energy back into the power grid. In most cases, wind power technology is used and it is highly common in skyscrapers whereby wind turbines are mounted at the rooftops. The constant and heavy air currents at higher altitudes propel the turbine blades which generates the power requirements for the building.
Rammed Earth Brick
Rammed earth brick is an ancient construction technology which has lately been re-introduced to cater for the demands of environmental sustainability. The technique uses sustainably sourced raw materials. Due to technological advancements, the process of building a rammed-earth structure has been made easier but it still follows the ancient preparation process.
Moist earth mixture and hard substances like gravel or clay are mixed with stabilizing elements such as concrete and compacted to create dense, hard walls. The sourcing and formation process of rammed-earth bricks makes it ideal for sustainable construction as it lessens environmental impacts and the material can equally stabilize the temperature of a building. Rammed-earth structures contribute to fewer emissions and ensure the buildings remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter.