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13th August 2020

How We Can Build Back Greener and Smarter

The global construction industry has a significant impact on the environment and is considered by many to be one of the main sources of environmental pollution. It’s not surprising, when studies have shown that construction is responsible for 50% of climate change, 40% of global energy use and 50% of contributions to landfill waste.

Despite these figures, infrastructure is vital for the growing development of nations and experts predict that the global volume of construction output will have grown 85% by the time we reach the year 2030. So how are we to balance a growing need for infrastructure while preserving the environment?

“It’s critical that we have a big change over the next couple of years in how we do buildings and construction,” says Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment.

This demonstrates the importance of not only building ‘greener’, but building ‘smarter’; with a focus on buildings that are better equipped, more energy-efficient and generally better suited to enhance and adapt to their environments. Many construction companies have been making conscious efforts to include greener, smarter building practices in their projects, so let’s take a look at some of these in more detail.

In-built temperature regulation

If a building can’t regulate its temperature efficiently, it will expend a great deal of energy on artificial systems to cool or heat the interior as needed. Methods of in-built temperature regulation, such as living walls, can reduce the heat of an existing structure by up to 10°c and they also provide added insulation to keep a building warmer in winter.

Improved acoustic performance

The acoustic performance of a building covers aspects including, control of sound transmission throughout the building, sound insulation for privacy and maintaining conditions for good speech intelligibility.

Studies show that the properties of a green roof can increase the sound isolation of roofs by 3-15 dB. There are also several sustainable insulation materials on the market which can be used to improve insulation, such as cork, bamboo or recycled rubber.

Structural protection

The structural integrity of a building is a vital part of ensuring it’s safe to occupy, but many buildings use materials or designs which are not sustainable. Lance Hosey, CEO of the nonprofit GreenBlue, argues that we build rectangular buildings because their components are easy to mass-produce. “Form does not follow function,” he says, “form follows industry.”