Eco-friendly construction is increasingly popular both as part of the philosophy that puts emphasis on preserving the environment and as a way to save money on operational costs. Since terms like “green design,” “energy efficient buildings,” or “sustainable building materials” are thrown around quite a bit, it may be worth taking a closer look at what a sustainable building might look like.
Such a building – whether it’s a private residence or an office tower – strives to save energy, reduce water use and waste production, and limit its emissions.
The structure is properly insulated so that it retains heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. It is also built in a way that takes advantage of natural ways of heating and cooling. The size and distribution of windows allows it to capture the most sunlight in colder months, and it utilizes weather patterns, such as wind intensity and direction, for ventilation when it is warm, reducing its reliance on air conditioning.
However, these approaches are not enough to heat or cool the whole building, so it relies on a geothermal heat pump to do the job. The device uses the ground as a heat source in the winter and as a place to channel and dissipate heat in summertime.
High ceilings and big windows, including those located on the roof, provide more hours of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. To complement this feature, motion detectors have been installed to switch the lights off in unoccupied rooms or when natural light provides enough brightness.
Of course, our energy-efficient building boasts photovoltaic (PV) systems, or solar panels. These devices convert the renewable energy of the sun into electricity, cutting down on the use of energy from fossil fuels. In fact, the PV panels play a dual faction as they also shade the house, cooling it in a clean, natural way.
In order to top off this energy economy, the owners have installed energy-efficient appliances and a solar water heater.
For water conservation, this sustainable building contains systems that allow rainwater to collect, which, after filtration, is used to flush toilets and irrigate (drought-resistant) plants on the premises. To complete this conservation effort, only low flow faucets, showers and toilets are in use.
In order to boost waste reduction, recycling and compost bins are provided throughout the building to minimize the amount of waste going to landfills.
Speaking of recycling, no sustainable building can be complete without finishings made from reclaimed or renewable materials, so our house uses recycled plastic for tiles and cork for the floors, as this material can be obtained without cutting down trees.
For everyday occupants of the building, the quality of the air is of great importance, so it conforms to Indoor Environmental Quality standards not just through its efficient ventilation and daylight-capturing techniques, but also because it was painted using products with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions.
Finally, our green building has space for bike storage to discourage visitors from driving!