Green initiatives, including green building practices, are gaining momentum around the world. Not only do these practices preserve environmental value and scarce resources, but many of them also offer economical and sustainable advantages.
In a survey reaching over 2,000 international contractors, builders and developers, almost half said they expect to build more than 50% of their projects as a green building by 2021.
To protect the environment while cutting down on costs, builders are turning to these seven popular green building practices in 2020.
1. Net-Zero Buildings
Many contractors are aiming to build net-zero buildings, which are buildings whose energy consumption is roughly equal to their energy output. The goal of this type of building project is to cut down on carbon emissions, water consumption and solid waste transported to landfills.
Those with plans to build a net-zero building typically look for ways to generate renewable energy on and off-site. Popular on-site generation tactics include wind turbines, solar water heating and photovoltaics. Off-site options include large-scale wind farms, solar plants, geothermal plants and hydropower facilities.
The credit offered for generating power sustainably will most likely offset the cost of building these renewable energy sites.
2. Climate Resiliency
With the growing concern over climate change, one of the top green initiatives is incorporating construction measures to withstand extreme weather patterns and natural disasters, typically in the form of improved infrastructure.
While many coastal cities have taken steps to relax their building codes, not strengthen them, developers are still seeking methods to go above and beyond, aiming to build stronger frames and increase weather resiliency to mitigate weather damage and cut down on insurance costs, such as claims for flood or fire damage.
3. Green Star Certification
The Green Star certification globally promotes integrated building designs which reduce environmental impact.
When a contractor goes through the certification process, their building or project receives a rating from an independent panel of sustainability experts. This rating can verify that a building or community project is a sustainable endeavor.
The rating a project receives comes from nine categories, from building design and construction to operation. Each category assesses the sustainability of a project and determines potential optimizations.
4. LEED Certification
Currently, LEED is the most widely used sustainability rating system in the world, certifying 1.85 million square feet of construction each day. Anyone can claim their building is sustainable. However, a LEED certification holds builders accountable through a structured, points-based rating system.
Earning a LEED certification comes along with many essential benefits, such as lending third-party credibility to an organization’s ability to develop a sustainable project. Not only does the certification process offer advice on the use of indoor and outdoor materials, but it also aids in reducing operational costs by encouraging the use of reduced and renewable energy sources.
This type of certification also indicates to the public where an organization’s priorities lie. It demonstrates a commitment to both sustainability and new green initiatives, building goodwill with the community as well as company stakeholders.
5. Distributed Energy Systems
A distributed energy system (DES) controls generation, storage and energy monitoring solutions. Through the use of sensors, meters and actuators, the system can oversee and observe a building’s performance — including heating, cooling, lighting and more — as well as offer suggestions for cutting costs and improving reliability.
Many developers have decided to integrate a DES into their sustainable designs to take advantage of the plethora of benefits.
The benefits of a distributed energy system include:
- Reduced operational costs
- Improved energy reliability
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Additional revenue sources
Many developers have also used a DES to implement the electrification of a motor vehicle fleet, lowering costs and increasing uptime with a more reliable charging system.
6. EDGE Certification
EDGE stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, a certification which aims to increase construction efficiency in terms of energy, water, building materials and waste.
Getting started with EDGE is very simple for developers, starting with a downloadable software program which allows them to determine the ideal combination of building strategies for the best return on your investment. Upon completion of a project, whether it’s a home, office, hospital or warehouse, an independent panel of experts will audit it to determine if it meets the required standards.
Currently operating in over 130 countries, EDGE certification requires developers to commit to at least a 20 percent reduction in energy and water use as compared to a standard building.
7. Alternative Building Materials
Building and construction activities consume 3 billion tons of raw material each year globally. But this reliance on non-renewable materials has had a lasting impact on the environment and the number of available resources, meaning developers are looking for alternative materials to build with.
2020 has seen a surge in the number of builders using more sustainable methods, with common alternative materials including the following.
- Grasscrete: A technique of layering concrete flooring in a way that allows grass and flora to grow, creating a natural bio-filter and improving storm-water absorption.
- Bamboo: A cost-effective, quickly growing material that is easy to harvest, making it a sustainable material source.
- Recycled plastic: With a lifespan of 30 to 50 years, plastic is a durable and long-lasting building material.
- Wood: Use of wood absorbs carbon dioxide and requires less energy-intensive processing methods.
- Hempcrete: Made from hemp wood, water and lime, this sustainable material is durable and long-lasting.
Other alternatives to traditional building materials include papercrete, engineered wood, cob, steel frame and insulating concrete foam.
Using Green Building Practices
Green building initiatives are booming in popularity, especially with the threat of dwindling renewable resources and unpredictable climate changes. Green construction initiatives accounted for more than 3.3 million jobs in 2018 in the United States alone.
Industry experts also predict these new trends will heighten global awareness of green development in the years to come, leading to newly developed and more efficient sustainable initiatives.