Designing a sustainable building doesn’t mean assembling a skyscraper out of coke bottles and news papers. It requires careful thought about materials that can be responsibly reused, with power sources that are renewable. This new trend in architecture seeks to create buildings that can account for their own footprint, offsetting what they use through careful management of resources. Buildings designed today are sustainable well into the future, insuring our architectural choices now don’t inhibit future generations.
Hiring a construction consultant is a good place to start. There are many rules and requirements that must be met for a building to be considered “sustainable.” For example, plotting a sustainable building in an area that receives little sunlight would require an alternative energy source that isn’t solar. A consultant can help planners locate the necessary materials, make estimates of costs, and help decision makers create a building that will last into the future.
There are a few methods of generating power for a building, depending on your environment:
• Solar panels are excellent for cities that receive ample sunlight, but are best on roofs that are angled.
• Wind turbines can have high maintenance costs if the area only receives a moderate amount of wind.
When placing solar, a true-South orientation is recommended to get the maximum usage out of your cells. Failing true-South, cells should be able to collect adequate energy as long as they are facing within 30 degrees of the South.
Proper insulation will keep your building hot or cool regardless of the elements. A solar powered water heater can provide hot water to the building, while south-facing windows will capture light from the outside. It’s also important to use coverage outside to heat the building as needed. Some foliage can help block out some of the direct sunlight that would otherwise heat the building.
Reclaimed lumber and recycled copper are just two of the many substances that are used in sustainable architecture. Doors, windows, mantels and more parts from demolished buildings are reused on modern projects. A steel fabrication expert can help planners decide whether materials can be responsibly reused, and offer suggestions on other metals to use with steel. Rapidly replenishing materials, like bamboo, are also attractive without threatening the environment. In places like Oregon, where forest land may need to be cleared to place a building, the trees cut down for the foundation would be used in construction. Materials that are made with few volatile organic compounds can be used for insulation. It’s important that planners study the actual footprint of the “green” materials, as some standard materials have fewer emissions than their eco-friendly counterparts.