Green Building Practices as the Future of Construction in the USA
For more than a decade now, Green Building practices have been at the forefront of the construction industry in the USA. This is to ensure a sustainable future for the nation’s economy, improve energy efficiency, and protect the environment.
As such, there are now numerous Green Building practices that should be adhered to if a new development is to be up to code. In this article, we will take a close look at these practices and discuss the future of Green Building construction in the USA.
Why are Green Buildings important?
Green buildings are not only good for the environment but they also have significant financial benefits. A building that is built with green construction methods can offer impressive savings in terms of long-term operating costs, while green buildings also have a higher market value. In some cases, energy-efficient buildings can yield a 10% higher market value than a non-certified property.
Besides the above, a green development also has a shorter payback period when compared to buildings that are constructed with standard methods. For developers, using green building practices is a simple decision.
However, it is not only the developer that benefits, the tenant will also see a considerable reduction in energy and water usage. This is why the US government is keen to support the green construction industry to help meet its environmental targets.
What are the components of Green Building?
Now we are aware of the benefits we should probably look at the practices themselves, and discuss what is Green Building? And how does building a Green Home deliver long-term energy savings?
Green Building ensures that energy and water consumption is reduced, materials are sustainable, and air quality within the building is clean and healthy.
- Passive solar design helps to heat homes using the sun’s natural energy
- High levels of insulation keep the home warm during cooler months.
- Energy-efficient windows help to retain heat.
- Maximizing natural daylight reduces reliance on electrical lighting and is proven to improve a person’s health and productivity.
- Green buildings also incorporate energy-efficient lighting, low-energy appliances, and renewable energy technology such as solar panels or small-scale wind turbines.
- Rain water and gray water catchment systems help to reduce water usage. This water is reused for things like irrigation and toilet flushes.
- Low-flow, water-efficient appliances help households to use less water. This can include low-flow showers and low-flush toilets.
- Water heating costs can also be significantly reduced with ‘point of use’ hot water systems and improved pipe insulation.
Materials are sourced in the following ways:
- Natural and renewable sources that are produced with sustainable practices.
- Reclaimed and salvaged materials.
- Locally-sourced materials to limit the amount of emissions created by transportation.
- Improved air-quality by using non-toxic materials. This also helps to reduce asthma and allergy rates.
- The use of materials that are moisture-resistant and prevent mold. spores, and harmful microbes.
- Advanced ventilation and humidity control technology.
- Green buildings also look to integrate nature by planting local species of plant on the roof and in the garden. This encourages more pollination, thus improving air-quality further.
How is the Construction Industry going Green?
There are four fundamental ways the construction industry is transforming to adopt green practices, combined with the help of government initiatives and an overall national commitment to sustainability.
These four core changes are placing a greater importance on certification, a reassessment of processes, a rethink of the supply chain, and the use of sustainable building tools and materials.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most commonly used green building rating around the world, including the US. The core framework of LEED is to ensure buildings are highly efficient, healthy, and can deliver financial savings in the long-term.
LEED is backed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is now the standard across the country. Therefore, to ensure your development can attain green building certification, it is advised to follow LEED principles.
A Change in Processes
Construction firms have also reassessed processes to ensure each aspect of a building project is as sustainable as possible, from design to materials. This includes factors such as minimizing transportation requirements, incorporating nature into the design of a building, and avoiding the use of chemicals.
Many of these changes are easy to achieve, with more and more environmentally friendly alternatives providing the same or higher quality, with no to minimal difference in costs.
The Supply Chain
Developers are also re-evaluating their current supply chain to identify more sustainable alternatives. As a consequence, each party that makes up the supply chain is making changes to future-proof their operations for the green revolution.
For example, many appliance suppliers are investing in new eco-friendly technology, such as heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, as well as low-flow water appliances, as demand for appliances that offer no energy or water savings wanes.
Tools and Materials
Improvements in software and technology have helped builders adopt more sustainable practices in terms of the tools they use. Planning and monitoring apps can help to reduce waste and carbon emissions, while bespoke software can help to manage the project more effectively to streamline processes and ensure the project is less wasteful.
This, combined with sustainable, salvaged, and locally sourced materials, is drastically reducing the environmental impact of the US construction industry.
Is Smart Building the same as Green Building?
Technically, no, not all smart buildings can be certified as green buildings even if they adopt energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. To be classified as a green building, a smart building must meet the national green building standards, as determined by LEED.
A smart building integrates smart building technology systems that can help to control many aspects of the property. This provides a wide range of functions for the occupant so they can manage the efficiency of the building, while technology and software are also used to streamline the construction process.
Because of this use of technology, many smart buildings meet the criteria to obtain green building certification, but not all.
What is the future of Green Building?
The green building industry provides a host of opportunities for developers and construction firms, with the green building materials sector alone valued at over $250Bn in 2020, according to research conducted by AAI Foresight.
Further advancements are expected in the industry over the next ten years as the US looks to meet its environmental goals and reduce the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere. The green building industry is considered a key player in achieving these goals.
The next step would naturally be the construction of Net-Zero buildings, buildings that achieve a balance between the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere, compared to the amount of carbon that is saved or removed.
Micro-Grids are also expected to play a major role in the future of energy in the US. Micro-Grids are highly controllable energy networks that serve a local area. By serving a small area, energy usage can be monitored and the grid can be managed effectively, so it is as efficient as possible.
Finally, smart glass and electricity-generating windows are expected to see significant growth over the coming years. This technology helps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, while also creating more comfortable living spaces that can be heated and cooled quickly, and at lower costs.
Thank you for reading. Browse the rest of our blog for more interesting articles regarding green building and energy-efficient homes.