Eco-friendly construction: what does it mean and how does it work?

As the years pass, we come closer to reaching our peak capacity of oil consumption globally. 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.

eco-friendly constructionIn order for the construction industry to power equipment and other vehicles, the world depends upon crude oils. Surprisingly, within the UK, 50% of all carbon emissions produced by machinery and production are accounted for by the construction industry.

When fossil fuels are considered in the long-term, attitudes are slowly beginning to change, even though this is a slow and gradual change.

To be eco-friendly within the construction industry, firms should always consider how their procedures are going to impact the environment. Post-construction, firms are also encouraged to incorporate green technologies within the build to benefit the environment once construction is complete.

Revenues from eco-friendly construction reached $245 billion in the US last year alone; alongside the US, the UK could also be taking advantage of this booming market. With the help of Reconomy, providers of waste management solutions for recyclable materials and skips for hire, we explore how the construction industry is becoming more environmentally friendly.

How do these practices work?

These three benchmarks should be considered before construction work begins:

  1. Establish whether materials have been locally sourced or if they’re renewed; if they aren’t, can they be recycled in the future?
  2. 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.
  3. Finally, once building the structure is complete, is there any energy generated within it that is wasted?

Instead of purpose-built roof insulation, why not try recycled paper? Insulation can often be expensive, so recycled paper is a cheaper alternative for both the consumer and tradesmen alike, whilst benefiting the environment. 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.

Implementing these processes effectively

Some of the best examples of environmentally friendly construction techniques are as follows, and can be applied in many different ways:

  • Solar energy panels. To generate electricity within a building, or domestically to power boilers and other electrical equipment, solar energy is fast become a cheaper alternative to other forms of domestic power.
  • 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.
  • Low-energy lighting. Accounting for an energy saving of 100%, low energy lighting lasts twice as long as a regular lightbulb.

Other environmental considerations

Accounting for 80% of a build’s total costs, operating and maintenance costs are expensive. 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.

In order to save electricity costs, natural daylight should always be incorporated, with as many windows in the room as possible. 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 construction has started, you should aim to use recycled materials 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.

Environmentally construction techniques alone won’t resolve the overall problem of climate change, although it will help to negate the rapid rate of climate change and benefit natural environments around the world. The end goal for the construction industry then, should be to produce homes and buildings that are greener, economically efficient and conceptualised with the environment in mind.