Sustainable Design and Construction

The very definition of sustainability is something or an action that does not cause the depletion of a resource, for future generations. In the context of construction, it means using building materials that are not dependent or at least not heavily dependent on a finite source. As with many things in life, this is easier said than done. Architects, engineers, designers, technicians and anyone else who is involved in construction, should strive to bridge the gap between design and construction, as far as sustainability is concerned. It is one thing to take pen to paper and put down design ideas. It is an entirely different thing to execute these ideas in a sustainable way.

The Harmful Side Effects of Modern Construction

Most people do not stop and think about how polluting a building is. We are not even talking about when the building is completed and begins to be occupied. The very act of constructing a building causes a lot of pollution.  According to the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) construction and usage of a building consume approximately 72% of electricity resources, 3 billion tons of materials per annul, and 17% of freshwater usage. The story does not end there. Once the building is up and running it continues to be a major consumer/polluter. The construction and running of building causes nearly 40% of municipal solid waste, 30% of CO2 emission, and 50% of CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) gas emissions.

What can be done to Reach Sustainable Design and Construction?

As far as finding a solution to achieving sustainable design and construction, it comes down to who you ask. Different agencies and different experts will give their own opinion on remedies. However, there are several ideas that most agree on. The following are some of the main ones.

  • Integrated design
  • Site design
  • Energy
  • Construction practices

Integrated Design: The general idea behind integrated design is to get all people involved on the same page. It is a meeting of the minds of architects, engineers, suppliers, city officials, facility managers, contractors and users of a building. This is obviously a big task and will require a project manager who has a bird’s eye view on everything.

Site Design: Site design refers to the actual site where the building is going to be built. When a site is located, careful consideration needs to be taken to figure out how much disturbance it will cause to the immediate environment.

Energy: Energy usage is perhaps the biggest topic in the world of sustainability. When a building is constructed, a huge amount of energy is used. With all the alternative energy methods available, try and make use of them for the next construction project.

Construction Practices: Construction practices are closely related to integrated design, except there are more parts to it. It involves including or considering every sustainable idea. These include but not limited to, design, mechanical systems, waste generation, micro/macro environmental impact, etc.