Perhaps the biggest question asked of builders regarding their building design and operation today, is “Is it sustainable”? This question is being posed for a number of reasons, but most prominently because of a global initiative for building and operating structures in a way that does not harm the environment, and that once they are built will co-exist with the environment. So designers are being pressed to start with these thoughts in mind when they put together their building plans. Because sustainability means minimizing the negative environmental impact of buildings, this demands that there is a particular focus on two key areas: saving energy and reducing waste when building the structure and over its lifespan.
- Saving Energy is a broad area in building design, construction and operation that can be accomplished in many ways:
- Utilizing materials in the project that use less energy. These materials need to be of top quality and include everything from quality of the materials used in walls, the roof, and even the soil and sand quality used in the structure and its surrounding areas.
- Utilizing renewable energy sources like solar and wind power that not only are free, but can in some cases add additional power to the grid for others to use.
- Making sure to utilize newer more energy efficient household appliances.
- Creative design that takes advantage of natural wind and shade resulting in a reduction in the need for heating and air conditioning;
- Lighting a structure is always one of its biggest ongoing power consuming areas. Sustainability focuses on utilizing more natural lighting, and making sure to employ technology that turns off lighting when not in use.
- Reducing waste during construction and over a building’s lifespan needs to be a primary focus because it will directly diminish any negative environmental impacts.
- The use of reusable and renewable products in the construction of the building, is an important step toward sustainability. All reusable and reconfigurable products cause less waste, because fewer new materials are required to build initially, then upgrade or reconfigure to accommodate future modifications.
- Businesses and homes are changing how they can be configured to accommodate their occupant’s needs which change over time. Technology has responded with reconfigurable rooms and room components, eliminating the need to replace so much of what gets built. Sustainable means being able to reuse components and using modular designs systems, that never or only partially get replaced.
- The use of quality components is key to sustainability with the goal of using components whose lifecycle match that of the building. This approach means that there is much less of a chance for the need of replacements, and for the originals to end up in an already crowded landfill.
The case for sustainability is a strong one with a reduction of waste, monthly life cycle costs and increasing efficiency as its primary benefits. Above this, the chance to save the planet’s resources for future generations makes the sustainability case undeniable.