- Bill Starkey
6 Innovative Green Building Technologies That Will Shape the Future
Green building involves the use of environmentally friendly and resource-efficient materials and practices throughout the construction phase and beyond to promote sustainability throughout a structure’s lifetime. Site design, building operations, repair, maintenance, and demolition of the building must be strategized to incur the least possible harm to the environment.
Green building necessitates close collaboration among architects, engineers, and clients throughout the entire project, implementing methods that reduce the negative impact on both the environment and human health. It also requires efficient use of energy, water, and other resources, as well as a reduction in wastage and pollution.
This article explores six groundbreaking green building innovations that not only have a positive impact on the environment but also enhance the quality of life of building occupants.
1. Cool Roofs
Cool roofs are specially designed to reflect the sun’s rays while decreasing thermal emittance. While a dark shingle roof can reach temperatures of anywhere up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, the reflectance of a cool roof can reduce temperatures by 50 degrees.
Cool roofs improve internal temperatures within a building, either by reflecting heat or trapping air inside. This reduces air conditioning requirements, which lowers both utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
Cool roofs are constructed from a variety of different materials, including cool roof shingles and tiles and special reflective paint. Cool roofs not only make life more comfortable for building occupants, but they can help to lessen the heat island effect of urban and suburban areas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Plastic Roads
First discovered in 1997, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an accumulation of plastic debris that is about two times the size of Texas. Imagine if we could repurpose all of that plastic to build roads. The idea may seem far-fetched, but plastic roads are a reality in sustainable construction. The Dutch towns of Giethoorn and Zwolle have invested in 30-meter stretches of plastic cycle track.
Today, plastic road technology comes in two types: one made entirely of plastic, and the other using a plastic-asphalt mix. Researchers are monitoring these roads to assess the long-term impact of plastic roads on the local environment, but if successful, they offer the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of road construction by up to 72 percent, thanks to the reduction of transport movements and extended lifespan.
3. Smart Appliances
Both homes and commercial premises are increasingly utilizing smart appliances to help save energy and money. Smart appliances are often connected to a smart home system, prioritizing energy efficiency and reducing the building’s carbon footprint.
Many smart appliances come equipped with innovative features to improve sustainability. For example, smart thermostats enhance heating system efficiency by automatically switching cooling and heating on or off depending on whether a room is occupied. Meanwhile, smart fridges help consumers organize food according to expiration date, helping to drive down food waste.
4. Biodegradable Materials
Biodegradable materials are increasingly being used in construction projects. Traditional construction materials generally lead to the accumulation of waste products, including toxic chemicals, which can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, contaminating and harming the environment. Conversely, biodegradable construction materials such as mycelium, timber, classic linoleum, bamboo, and organic paints limit negative environmental impacts, easily breaking down without producing toxins.
5. Green Insulation
Many traditional insulation materials, such as fiberglass, are hazardous to deal with. However, once installed in wall cavities, it is a case of out of sight, out of mind. Green insulation takes this principle to the next level, using materials that would otherwise end up in landfills to insulate our workplaces and homes.
Primarily composed of recycled denim scraps, cotton insulation is becoming increasingly popular with developers. Meanwhile, cellulose insulation, which is primarily composed of the humble newspaper, comes in several types.
Even old-fashioned fiberglass insulation can be made from recycled glass, although it has a significant drawback, since melting glass to produce it is far more energy-intensive than producing cellulose or cotton insulation. While fiberglass insulation sold today typically contains up to 40 percent recycled materials, with cellulose insulation, that figure more than doubles.
6. Solar Power
Solar panels have snowballed in popularity in recent years as a green, cost-efficient means of powering businesses and homes. In green building, solar power is used in two ways: active solar energy and passive solar power.
Active solar energy involves using photovoltaic panels to convert energy from the sun into electricity and heat. In this way, radiation from the sun reduces the need for gas or electricity. Meanwhile, passive solar power relies on the strategic placement of windows, combined with the incorporation of heat-absorbing surfaces, to keep buildings and occupants warm in the winter months, reducing heating requirements.
Although up-front installation costs can be pricey, in the long term, homeowners can achieve significant savings on their utility bills by installing solar panels. In addition to saving money, they can help to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.