Green Building – What is it and who cares?

by Caitlin Snow September 1st, 2018 Living Building

It’s construction that protects, benefits or at least doesn’t harm the environment and you should. Now hang on, I’m not being preachy. Even if you’re not an “environmentally conscientious” person, I assume, as a businessperson, that you would like to turn a profit? Well, with the green building trend on the rise, your ability to apply it to your field could help you win contracts and grow your business.

The Green Trend

So what exactly are we talking about? Eco-friendly construction is about building in a more sustainable way, from reducing waste on worksites to using sustainable materials to designing buildings that will use less energy day-to-day. As environmentalism grows more prominent, more and more clients are looking for contractors that specialize in or can provide eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable solutions to their construction needs. So we wanted to go over a few of them that you may encounter.

Keep an eye out…

Here are a few of the many trends that you should consider investing your efforts in integrating into your business:

Solar energy

An oldie, but a goodie. Solar energy has been developing for a while now, but in the past five years usage has quintupled in the United States. The cells are becoming cheaper and more efficient, so you need fewer of them to power the same thing. On top of that, last year’s tax bill preserved tax credits for solar power, so you can save money by using them. Many corporations and over 150 American cities have committed to converting entirely to clean energy, which means lots of new construction and renovations with this in mind. Many states encourage construction that has energy efficiency in mind; check your state’s standards and potential rewards for integrating solar and other renewable energy sources into your work.

Resiliency

Another growing concern in building is weather resistance. As we build more, higher and closer to the coasts, our buildings are more vulnerable to increasingly violent weather and natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are responsible for massive amounts of destruction each year. 2017 was the costliest year on record across the United States in terms of costs from extreme weather and natural disasters.

Examples of safe building practices (Courtesy of SlideShare)

The U.S. Green Building Council has adopted the RELi rating system that assesses, rates and certifies buildings based on their weather resilience, to help you build in a more resilient way. In particularly susceptible areas (California for earthquakes and wildfires, Florida for hurricanes, etc.), demand for resilient building is almost universal. Contractors that can’t provide it are going to fall behind. According to Vox, property owners have recently taken a financial hit in the real estate market that is expected to reach $400 billion. FEMA reports that every dollar spent on resiliency saves four dollars in recovery, so even a $100 billion is worth investing your time in, eh?

Internet of Things

Setting aside the silly name, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the term for all of the different stuff that interacts with and receives information from its environment. Think Amazon Echo or AC that turns on if it knows you’re on your way and it’s hot outside. It’s sort of a precursor to artificial intelligence. Basically, the IoT can be utilized to automatically manage energy efficiency of a home, skyscraper or even of a massive complex.

 

Quality building maintenance helps these spaces to operate at optimum energy levels. They can detect failure or degradation in equipment and alert building management before the replacement or repair is actually needed, saving time and money. Moreover, the indoor and outdoor environments are sensed at all times to give optimal results for ventilation, lighting, fire and security. Over the long term, this can make exceptionally energy efficient buildings. Since energy costs money, that can translate to huge savings.

Upcycling

Not everything can be directly recycled, but there are creative reuses from many materials and some of them can be produced and used on the industrial level. Everything from plastic bags to diapers to animal blood (yup, I said animal blood.) can be repurposed and many of them can be purchased and used as green building materials (at a lower cost than traditional materials). One such material comes out of Norway. They’ve begun recycling newspaper into wood that is strong enough to use as a standard building material. It works exactly in place of any other wood that you may use. It even has grain that looks similar to real wood.

Credit: ViJ5

Since I know you’re curious now that I mentioned it… animal blood could be recycled into bricks. Blood is one of the strongest bio-adhesives out there because it contains high levels of protein. British architecture student Jack Munro proposes using blood mixed with sand to cast bricks. This one isn’t really in production yet, but the blood is plentiful and going to waste, so to speak.

Credit: Jack Munro

Lastly, plasphalt. Pretty basic one. Grind up plastic and use it instead of sand and gravel in asphalt. Turns out it is more weather and wear resistant than regular asphalt.

The bit on the left is plasphalt, the bit on the right is asphalt. Credit: TEWA

Vertical forests

Ok, to be fair, this one is not so popular in the States (yet), but it’s just awesome. Also a pretty simple concept, though this one needs some serious planning in execution. Basically, it’s a building covered with trees, flowers, ferns and whatever else you can fit on it.

The architect used more than 20,000 trees and plants to adorn the high-rise buildings from top to bottom (Credit: AFP)

In addition to cleaning the air, vertical forests replace some of the animal habitat that has been displaced by the tremendous growth of cities in the last century. Not to mention how simply breathtaking they are. If you like a challenge, this is a great one. Plumbing, electrical, structural, landscaping, engineering. All of them have to be perfect for the forest to survive and the building to stand solid.

Bosco Verticale Schematic by Stefano Boeri Architects

Such forests have already been constructed in Singapore, China, Australia and a few locations in Europe. Holland is building a low-income housing vertical forest. Even Iran’s going to have one soon!

Credit: Carlo Alberto Mari

Sustainable building is a great opportunity for contractors to be a part of something that helps the planet and their bottom line. These are just a few examples of ways to expand your business with eco-friendly building materials and practices. Look into it and don’t let your competitors get ahead of you on this!

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