The building sector contributes significantly to emissions. Therefore, environmentally friendly construction must be a priority, says Reconomy’s Richard Walker
Within the next 20 years, one thing is clear: we will reach the peak capacity for our consumption of oil. However, demand continually appears to rise as the global production of oil decreases. In light of this, the construction industry still requires most of its energy sources from oil-based fuels.
The construction sector is reliant upon crude oils throughout the Western world. This is because they are used within the processes that allow construction to happen. Surprisingly, within the UK 50% of all carbon emissions produced by machinery and production are accounted for by the construction industry.
Awareness regarding how pollution is starting to impact our planet in the long-term is finally being realised, and attitudes are slowly beginning to change. Together with Reconomy, providers of waste management solutions for recyclable materials and skips for hire, we establish how eco-friendly practices can be established within any construction site.
When constructing new houses or new buildings, the UK government is instructing construction firms to use green processes by passing legislation. Post-construction, firms are also encouraged to incorporate green technologies within the build to benefit the environment once construction is complete.
As a lucrative opportunity within the market, UK firms could be taking advantage of environmentally friendly practices; in the US last year, estimated revenues for eco-friendly construction amounted to $245 billion.
The techniques involved in eco-friendly construction
In order for a structure to be ecologically beneficial to and within the environment, three core principles need to be established before any construction project begins:
1. During construction is any energy being wasted? Machines can often be overused during the production process, which leads to expendable energy that is wasted and can never be used again. Electric vehicles and machines with hybrid-engines should be used so that when a motor is being overworked an electric engine can be engaged to cope with the load.
2. Once building the structure is complete is there any energy generated within it that is wasted?
3. Establish whether materials have been locally sourced or if they’re renewed; if they aren’t, can they be recycled in the future?
As a form of insulation, during and after the construction of roofing, recycled paper can be used as a cost-effective alternative to more expensive materials. By using a cheaper and practical alternative, the cost of producing insulation for one roof will be minimised drastically by using already existing materials. Furthermore, timbers sourced from sustainably managed forests in the local area can also be used, as well as reclaimed wood. This is an alternative to chopping down trees that are used within construction.
Structures that are ecological in their design
Within a proposed structure there are many energy-efficient practices and eco-friendly technologies that can be incorporated into the design process and implementation stages.
- Solar energy panels – to generate electricity within a building or domestically to power boilers and other electrical equipment, solar energy is fast becoming a cheaper alternative to other forms of domestic power.
- Low-energy lighting – accounting for an energy saving of 100%, low energy lighting lasts twice as long as a regular lightbulb.
- Drainage systems and water filtration – with these systems in place, water can be re-used when biological waste is treated safely, which can then be recycled. Rainwater can also be collected in specific drains and storage taps, as opposed to always relying on water from a tap.
How to benefit from eco-friendly construction
80% of a building’s overall expenditure is factored by operation and maintenance costs. Green initiatives reduce the total running costs of a building by one third, which amounts to around 53.3% of a building’s running costs.
Within a building’s design, daylight should always be considered, which helps to save on artificial lighting and running costs. The ‘indoor environment quality’ of a building can also be improved when daylight can shine through a building, which benefits the health of all of the occupants that are present in the building.
Once the construction of a building has begun, recyclable materials should be used where it is possible. As a result, fewer new materials will be used within the structure, helping to reduce costs whilst less energy is consumed (from crude oils) in order to produce the structure.
Slowing down the rate of climate change is possible, if we opt to use construction techniques and materials that benefit the environment. The end goal for the construction industry should be to produce homes and buildings that are greener, economically efficient and conceptualised with the environment in mind.