5 ways to more sustainable home construction

5 ways to more sustainable home construction

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The terms “green” and “sustainable” both describe more efficient, environmentally-responsible ways of using resources in the construction industry.

In the past, only specialty builders marketed themselves as green. Now, around one-third of the U.S. construction sector is considered green, with the U.S. Green Building Council calling green construction a “major U.S. economic driver.”

To keep pace, contractors and builders need strategies to ensure they’re meeting client demands and keeping up with new standards and regulations.

Below are five ways construction can be more sustainable, according to Bautex Systems, a developer of energy-efficient wall systems.

1. Understand green codes and regulations

Because of the growing demand for sustainable construction, there are several organizations that have developed relevant codes and rating systems. That poses a challenge in determining which standards are relevant.

There are local, national and international programs that all address best practices for sustainable construction. Some are simply voluntary programs, but some are mandatory building codes adopted and enforced by local authorities having jurisdiction.

The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) was drafted in 2010 to give the building industry a model for building code regulations. These standards encourage sustainable construction and work within the framework of the ICC Family of Codes. 

By adhering to the most up-to-date codes, architects and builders can ensure they’re designing buildings that are more efficient and have a positive impact on the communities they’re built in.

2. Reduce on-site waste

The Whole Building Design Guide provides extensive strategies and resources on managing waste at the job site. But, “as with any construction project, planning and project management will ultimately dictate whether waste reduction is accomplished within the established cost, schedule, and quality parameters.”

Plan ahead for waste reduction by:

· Purchasing materials in bulk where possible to avoid waste from individual packaging

· Using returnable or reusable containers

· Having subcontractors use scrap instead of cutting new materials

· Recycling damaged components, products and materials

· Contracting with recycling firms for specific materials

· Salvaging usable material on-site prior to demolition on a project

· Scheduling time into projects for salvaging materials and managing waste

In 2008, contractors from the Stapleton Project used just more than 4.6 million pounds of recycled concrete aggregate from the runways of the former Stapleton Airport in Denver. They used this recycled material to construct several buildings and other projects in the region.

Contractors on this project “noticed little, if any, difference in the recycled material, including the ability to pump and finish, and recorded higher end strengths than found in traditional mix designs.”

3. Off-site engineering and modular construction

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 57 percent of activities in construction are wasteful. More innovative building strategies like modular construction have been established to help mitigate this kind of waste.

Modular construction helps to speed up the project’s schedule and, because it’s manufactured off-site, produces less waste on the site. Modules often use less material as well, which helps optimize a project for efficiency even further.

4. Water conservation and management

During an ongoing drought in 2015, the Western Municipal Water District of California (WMWD) began using recycled water at construction sites.

This strategy helped to free up enough drinking water for customers in its service area. WMWD supplied roughly 10 construction sites with recycled water, achieving compliance with California’s stricter water conservation requirements.

Even outside of drought-ridden climates, strategies like this can be employed to help conserve water and other resources. The WBDG provides additional tips on water conservation and management, including:

· Water system audits

· Low-flush toilets

· Water-efficient landscaping

· Using reclaimed or treated water

5. Plan for the future

Americans are saving on energy costs because they’re spending more time at home. Studies have shown Americans spent nearly eight more days at home in 2012 compared to 2003, “and even when we allow for displaced energy consumption — such as the electricity required to run server farms — they consumed less energy,” states Ashok Sekar and Eric Williams, who published the study.

“This is good news,” say Sekar and Williams, “but it also raises important concerns about making home energy use more efficient.”

The residential construction sector can play a positive role in this growing trend by designing homes that encourage sustainability and minimize energy use. Passive solar design, for instance, can contribute to net zero energy use, and using materials that contribute to thermal mass can also help homeowners save on energy costs.


Topics: Building Green, Energy Audits, Going Green, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Healthy Homes, Home Design & Plans, Plumbing & Fixtures, Prefabricated Homes / Systems Built Homes / Modular Homes, Sustainable Communities, Water Saving Devices

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