Sustainability in construction is a recent trend that has been growing in momentum for decades; added to the benefits associated with building projects that have minimal impact on the planet, there are many ways to incorporate sustainable practices into any construction project. Here are three places to start looking if you’re considering the cost-benefits that come along with sustainable projects.
1. Construction Materials
Materials account for about 60% of a construction budget. Taking a close look at what materials are being used can cut cost dramatically.
Reuse: One way to approach cost savings in construction is to consider utilizing repurposed materials for your building. Retired shipping containers have grown in popularity in recent years, and for good reason, these structures are build to withstand the elements of the open ocean and can be relied upon for their durability. “Reclaimed materials are also a good option to increase sustainability while reducing cost; reclaimed wood can make for gorgeous outdoor features such as a deck or balcony, as a bonus they tend to cost less and can be used guilt-free because no new trees need to be harvested,” said Varco Pruden Buildings. The structure itself isn’t the only way to create sustainability while cutting cost, old shredded denim is also gaining favor as an insulation material, and there are other such options available as well.
Low-Cost Materials: If you are seeking to add sustainability but don’t want to use recycled materials there are plenty of renewable options that aren’t prohibitively expensive. For outdoor projects ipe wood, native to Southeast Asia and South America but cultivated elsewhere, is a durable tropical hardwood that is prized for its natural insect and decay resistance. Bamboo is another popular option, this fast growing grass is durable, inexpensive, and lightweight making it easy to incorporate into nearly any design.
2. Energy Considerations
Solar energy where appropriate is a great way to reduce the energy output of a project. In other locations wind turbines may be a better option to harness clean energy on a project. A mind-boggling 16% of total fossil fuel usage is dedicated toward turning concrete, steel, brick, and aluminum from their natural state into usable building materials—this is a huge chunk of this finite resource being used instead of simply choosing a naturally sustainable option. Another important energy consideration to note, construction that utilizes pre-fabricated wood takes 30% less time to erect and creates less waste at the job site further reducing energy and labor costs.
3. Land Use Planning
Utilizing the land for maximum energy gain can help offset unavoidable energy use. For example, the orientation of the structure should be placed so that the windows on the East and West exposures are either small or absent altogether to help reduce the amount of heat build up in the home. To further expand on this principle, you can calculate the sun position during the various times of the year and place an outside awning of the proper proportions to decrease the amount of outside light in warmer months while increasing the amount of light let in during cooler months; resulting in lower heating and cooling costs. Additionally, there are many builders who take advantage of the natural features on the land; for example trees can be used in place of awnings as an inexpensive way to block the amount of sunlight entering the building, the benefit here is twofold—for one, the trees are not cleared for construction purposes, and secondly there is no need to purchase additional materials (such as an awning) to block unwanted sunlight.
With its popularity ever on the rise, sustainable construction is one of the top trends for the foreseeable future. Increasing sustainability is good for the long-term health of the planet, and by using these tips you will find it is equally good for your budget.