Eco-Building: 8 Critical Considerations for Sustainable Building

Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their consumption of energy, water, and materials. Eco-building reduces construction damages to human health and the environment, without compromising on comfort or aesthetics.

Sustainable building does not require extensive resources.  Natural building uses abundant, available, renewable, reused or recycled materials.

green buildingSome choices may cost more up-front, but ultimately they pay for themselves within a reasonable period. As a quick guide, these are eight critical considerations for sustainable building:

1. ‘Recycle’ existing old buildings rather than building new ones on more land.

2. Use materials that have a lower ‘embodied energy’ – i.e. use less energy in their production. For example, unfired bricks have lower embodied energy than fired bricks do.

3. Design the building with ‘passive solar’ features to keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In houses and offices this will reduce or eliminate the need for air-conditioners.

4. Maximise natural lighting – this saves electricity (see video below).

5. Use renewable energy where financially feasible. For houses, a solar water heater is cost-effective and saves a substantial amount of cumulative electricity.

6. Choose local materials where feasible, in order to reduce transport environmental impacts.

7. Promote a healthy natural environment around and in the building, for example, by keeping paved surfaces to a minimum.

8. Ideally, choose a site that will minimise occupant travelling distances.

Source: Sustainable Projects

Sustainable building (see a related post) can be divided into two categories: building from scratch or ‘greening’ an existing building.  It is not necessarily difficult (or expensive) to green an old buildingGreen building design is diverse and borrows from modern and ancient technology and ideas.  In the case of rebuilding a dilapidated house or damaged building, substantial energy savings can be made by recycling building materials and making use of existing walls and foundations.  As an example, even extensively fire-damaged buildings can be rebuilt.  My grandparents’ 50-year old farmhouse near White River was virtually destroyed by a veldfire but most foundations and many steel window frames were reused when the house was rebuilt; it’ll probably last another 50 years.  Greening a building can be done in stages according to financial and other considerations.  Where water conservation is concerned, Water Rhapsody can offer simple water-saving toilet flush systems to more advanced grey water– and rainwater systems.  Our service includes a free assessment and quote based on our recommendations and client requirements.

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