As green technologies advance, building environmentally friendly and even zero-energy buildings has become even easier. This is not only great for the planet, but also for businesses in the construction industry. For one thing, younger generations are drawn to sustainable companies and studies have shown that Gen Z (those under 26) are flocking to green-energy careers. Additionally, you can expect more stringent environmental regulations for construction in the near future. Reporting requirements, mandatory energy disclosures, and green building laws and requirements are becoming standard. If companies want to attract young talent and stay competitive, they should start investing in green technology today.
Luckily, there’s already a ton of innovative and sustainable construction tech out there right now. Here are a few of the top sustainable construction technologies you and your company should know about.
Solar energy has become more and more popular in both commercial and residential projects. In fact, residential solar power use increased by 34% in 2021 and is expected to continue to rise. Much of this is due to tax incentives, pro-solar policies, decreasing cost of equipment and cultural awareness. This is a great thing, because solar energy is “the most renewable form of energy existing today”. Solar energy produces zero emissions, improves air quality, and reduces water use from energy production.
Solar energy can technically be used in two ways: through passive solar technology and active solar technology. Passive solar power simply uses smart building design to harness the power of the sun. Using strategically placed windows and heat reflecting or absorbing materials, you can create a more sustainable structure without installing anything. Active solar energy, on the other hand, uses solar paneling that absorbs radiation from the sun and converts it into usable energy. Solar panels are incredible (especially in sunny areas) for reducing the need for traditional electricity and gas.
3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, is a set of technologies that create 3D objects by adding material to make a whole. Essentially, 3D printers take a design from a digital file and “print” it out in sequential layers. In construction, 3D printing works in pretty much the same way but on a larger scale. Some materials currently being used for 3D printing in construction are concrete, cement, mortar, plastic, mud, rice waste, sand, and even metal and stone.
3D printing is potentially more sustainable than traditional construction materials. 3D printing allows for more precise measurements which saves materials and resources. In fact, by one estimation, 3D printing generates 60% less waste than the average construction site. In some cases, 3D printing can even use sustainable materials, like recycled plastic.
This is an excerpt from my article 3D Printing in Architecture and Construction: The future of the industry?.
Smart appliances and tech
Smart appliances and tech aren’t just a fun way to make your home or office feel high-tech, they’re essential energy consumption reducers. Residential and commercial buildings account for the majority of energy consumption in the United States. That’s why it’s important to utilize smart appliances in your home and commercial projects. Smart appliances like washers, refrigerators, and dishwashing machines are designed to use less energy and water. Other smart tech like automatic and motion activated lights, climate control, and automatic shades can reduce energy consumption even more.
Cool roofs essentially use materials that reflect heat away from your roof. This helps keep your building cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. Cool roofs can be made from a variety of materials including solar panels, tile, metal, clay, and slate. Perhaps the coolest (no pun intended) cool roof is made out of plants! Living roofs use a thin layer of soil and any variety of sun-loving plants to create a beautiful and very sustainable roof. The plants look great, and they reduce heat in your home as well as CO2 in the atmosphere.
Water efficiency tech
Using water saving technologies can save your money and the world’s most precious resource. There are several water efficiency technologies in use in sustainable construction including rainwater harvesting, dual plumbing, greywater reuse, and home water conservation tools. These methods reuse, recycle, and conserve potable and non-potable water.
Rainwater Harvesting: Typically, rainwater is collected from a surface, like the roof of a building, and stored in a cistern or water tank. The water can then be used for tasks like landscape irrigation and both potable and non-potable indoor use. Rainwater harvesting can help save you money on your water bill, reduce your municipal water consumption, lessen stormwater pollution, and potentially save your life as an emergency water source.
Dual Plumbing: A dual plumbing system is basically just a plumbing system with two sets of pipes. One piping system has potable drinking water and the other has non-potable recycled water. The two systems never touch each other so you won’t have to worry about contamination.
Greywater reuse: Greywater uses the same system as dual plumbing, except the source of the water is from rainwater instead of the local water authority.
Home-water conservation tools: These small changes to your household water supply can help you consume less water and save more money. Some types of water conservation tools are shower regulators, leak detection systems, auto-shut off sprinklers and irrigation, and other water management devices.
There are many innovative sustainable materials out there. Some of these materials can be alternatives to common construction materials like mycelium in the place of concrete or recycled materials instead of traditional insulation. Other materials like organic paint, recycled plastic, sustainably sourced wood, and bamboo, especially when used in combination with one another can have huge positive impacts on the environment.
Electrochromic Smart glass
Electrochromic Smart glass, or dynamic glass, dynamic glazing, and smart glass, is an exciting new sustainable construction technology. This high-tech glass basically blocks heat from the sun from coming through your windows. It does this through a coating that causes “electric signals to slightly charge the windows to change the amount of solar radiation it reflects.” Similar to transition lenses in glasses, the windows tint based on the brightness and heat of the sun. Some smart glass even lets you manually control your tinted glass. You can use a tablet on the wall or an app on your phone to adjust your windows to be clear, fully tinted, or half tinted to your comfort. Electrochromic Smart glass can not only make you more comfortable throughout the day, it can significantly improve energy efficiency in your home, office, or commercial space by reducing the use of HVAC systems.
Low-Energy and Zero-Energy Buildings
Zero energy buildings combine much of the above technology and more to create structures that consume as little energy as possible. A green energy building might be made out of sustainable wood with a solar paneled roof, have strategically placed or electrochromic windows, have a dual piping system, and more. Of course, a barrier to low-energy and zero-energy buildings is their high initial cost, however, the amount of money you save on water, heating, and electricity will pay off in the long term.
Not only will sustainably built and operating structures help your company thrive, they’ll leave a legacy of green innovation for future generations. The green construction we implement today will pave the way for future, even more sustainable technologies. Why not start now?
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