As the world focuses its harsh view on greenhouse gasses, vehicle emissions and pollution, green construction practices are increasingly gaining in prominence and desirability. When it comes to building anew with an eye towards green, contractors and end clients need to consider a variety of things in design, waste reduction and even future recyclability. Green construction involves both materials and practice, on scales large and small. For an overview of greening your future construction projects, let’s consider seven areas to focus on in your green design:
1. Plan for Healthy People When we talk about going green in construction, you might be surprised to know that this includes thinking about how people will use the building and designing appropriately, not just construction practices and materials. For example, construction that plans for healthy people includes ensuring that new buildings are near public transportation, that they have green spaces for relaxation, systems to ensure air quality, stairways to encourage healthy practices and so on.
2. Prevent Waste, Reuse and Recycle One of the biggest ways that construction can be green is not really about the end product, but about how materials and waste are managed during construction. It is important that construction practices be well planned in advance to deal with waste, considering how to prevent excess materials from accumulating, reuse waste and excess when possible, recycle to the greatest extent possible, and finally find alternative uses for left-over materials.
Doing these things can reduce materials costs when purchasing is better thought out, reduce waste disposal costs by minimizing waste creation on the construction site, and provide for less negative environmental impact upon completion of construction. Some tips for eliminating waste include the following: create designs that use standard building material sizes, set waste and recycling goals and track them, choose subcontractors experienced in or interested in green construction, and provide employee incentives for low quantities of waste.
3. Filter Water Run-Off and Consider Storm Water Management Another part of planning for environmentally friendly construction is managing water, including storm water run-off during construction, as well as managing storm water through the life cycle of the building. This involves ensuring that pollutants are removed from waste water before it is routed back to natural waterways. Water management also involves planning to avoid erosion, allow proper draining, and clean up any toxic spills promptly.
4. Think Green Materials One of the most obvious aspects to consider in green construction is materials. True eco-friendly construction uses materials that are environmentally sustainable and biodegradable. This means avoiding use of wood from slow growing trees or energy from fossil fuels. Fast growing materials such as bamboo are excellent choices. Consideration should also be given to materials packaging, waste, recyclability, lifespan and the like.
5. Design for Future Deconstruction While one rarely thinks about tearing a building down as they are constructing it, it is important to consider future deconstruction when one is designing a green building. New methods of designing for disassembly and deconstruction can help inform such design stages. For example, using screws or bolts rather than glue makes an object more deconstructable. This is also related to the idea of deconstructing (rather than demolishing) any buildings that are being retrofitted as part of new construction or being torn down to make room for new buildings. By reusing materials from old buildings construction can be much more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
6. Be Aware of Green Certifications As your construction project moves forward you can obtain valuable information by consulting various green organizations and achieving certifications. Groups such as LEED and the GBB can provide information about goals, specific practices, public relations and more, helping in various phases of design, construction, and building life cycle.
7. Document and Advertise Your Green Efforts Certainly when it comes to going green in construction the most expensive, yet important, part of the process involves design and actual construction. However, if you make the effort to go green, you should get credit for it in the form of increased positive public relations. Get the word out. Advertise your efforts where you can. This can start with the previously mentioned green certifications, then go on to include advertising on your company website and in any printed materials you produce, as well as within your building itself.