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Is Sustainable Construction the Future & 4 Key Trends

Is Sustainable Construction the Future & 4 Key Trends

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Home Vendor News Is Sustainable Construction the Future & 4 Key Trends

For many commercial businesses, the decision of whether or not to have a brick-and-mortar location is typically a no-brainer. Having a physical location to call their home is more than just having a tangible storefront for their customers to visit. It can also provide them with a centralized location for assembling all of their primary staff underneath one roof, afford them a place to carry out meetings between managerial employees and their shareholders, and even help them establish themselves as a respectable presence in their communities. 
Oftentimes, their primary goals in crafting their headquarters tend to revolve around creating an aesthetically pleasing and functional building while also staying within their budgetary constraints. Everything else may be secondary to that, including the building’s actual impact on the environment. While we’ve come a long way since the days where we reached for dangerous materials (such as asbestos and lead) in our construction projects, there is nonetheless a considerable bit of room for improvement in the industry.
However, despite many conventional construction methods still being widely preferred, a subtle change is slowly starting to emerge. The introduction of greener materials and techniques – as well as certain upgrades to help reduce a building’s dependence upon non-renewable resources – means newer structures can now have a much smaller carbon footprint. And while it may take some time before these alternatives become mainstream, these four trends strongly suggest that sustainability just may be the future of construction.
Exploring Passive Design
One of the most energy-inefficient aspects of a building is none other than its HVAC system. Trying to keep a building cooler in the summers and warmer in winters accounts for approximately 40 percent of its overall energy usage. Not only is this quite costly for the owner of the building, but it’s also rather expensive on an environmental scale, too. Maintaining a comfortable temperature demands nearly 2 million kilowatt-hours of energy per structure annually, to the tune of 500 billion kWh total in the United States.
To put this into perspective, this translates to 2.26 million pounds of coal, 160,000 gallons of liquid petroleum, or 14.86 million cubic feet of natural gas per building. Rather than burning through these fossil fuels recklessly, a building can instead elect to use passive design methods. Defined as taking advantage of creative techniques like strategic window placement, using superior insulation, and having natural ventilation throughout the building, passive design can be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Adding More Greenery
Landscaping has always been a major consideration in nearly every construction project. Research has indicated that having more greenery at the workplace can improve moods and reduce stress, leading to a more enjoyable workplace for employees. While an attractive assortment of plants and shrubs around the office can help dramatically boost the ambiance of a building and improve its appearance, taking it one step further can also help lead to a much greener environment – literally. 
With that in mind, many buildings have started to turn to a combination of green roofs and vertical gardens in their construction. The benefits of using these are multifold. For instance, they can help improve the insulation of the building, further minimizing those high heating and cooling costs. And because plants depend upon carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, having them there can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The air quality of a building can also be improved, too, sharply reducing employee downtime and sickness.
Employing Renewable Energy
One of the biggest indicators of the public’s shifting perceptions about sustainability has been found in the realm of using renewable energy. Even ten or twenty years ago, there may have been greater pushback against its usage. However, recent research about alternative energy remains fairly optimistic. According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, distributed generation – that is, the use of on-site power sources, like wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels – is on the rise in commercial buildings.
Current projections suggest that by 2050, renewable resources will account for as high as five percent of the energy consumption from commercial buildings. This is a marked increase over the current levels, which stand at just two percent. No doubt, the uses for MicroCube turbines, solar panels, and other sustainable energy sources will be more easily recognized in the coming years. And ideally, they’ll continue to rise, especially as more corporations realize the financial prudence such a change will signal for them.
Using Renewable Materials
Finally, one of the more enduring trends in sustainable construction has been in the types of materials used on the job site. Not only are more and more commercial businesses becoming more receptive toward using greener materials in the design and layout of their building, but they’re also embracing them in the foundation and structure of it, too. One such example is rammed earth, as this incredibly durable and highly renewable material is quickly proving to be a viable alternative to concrete.
Once the foundation of the building is laid, attention can then be shifted to other components of the structure. For example, instead of using fiberglass for insulation, sheep’s wool can be used in its place. Both bamboo and straw can be used in the creation of the building’s walls. This same material can then be put to work later, too, in the designing of the furniture that will eventually decorate the building. Not only are these materials more sustainable, but they’re also often more affordable than the traditional ones.
For many commercial buildings, making the change to more renewable resources can be a relatively easy switch. Even for businesses that may have tighter budgets, implementing even one or two of these eco-conscious methods can be a practical and affordable option for them. Furthermore, the use of alternative materials and energy sources can start to pay for itself in as little as just five to ten years. When framed like that, there’s no question about it – green construction, for the lack of a better word, is good.

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