- Bill Starkey
8 of the Most Innovative Advancements in Green Building
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
One of the biggest polluters and largest drains on global resources, the construction industry is coming under mounting pressure to transition to more sustainable practices. Green building enables developers to meet the demands of an expanding population while simultaneously supporting the environment in the long term. From electrochromic glass to cool roofs, we look at eight of the most exciting green building innovations.
1. Solar Power
An increasingly common sustainable construction technology, solar power is used in two ways in green construction. For one, active solar power uses functional solar systems that absorb solar radiation, using that captured energy to generate electricity and heat. Second, passive solar power involves the placement of strategically placed windows and heat-absorbing surfaces to warm buildings, reducing electricity demands during cooler months.
While the upfront installation costs of both active and passive solar power systems may be higher than conventional heating systems, in the long term they can reduce energy costs for building occupants while driving down greenhouse gas emissions from non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels.
2. Biodegradable Materials
Conventional construction materials result in an accumulation of waste products that take hundreds of years to degrade. Even after they break down, the toxic chemicals they contain continue to contaminate and harm the environment. Readily biodegradable materials such as timber, bamboo, classic linoleum, mycelium, and organic paints are becoming increasingly common components in modern buildings, making construction more sustainable and eco-friendlier and limiting the impact on the environment by breaking down easily without releasing toxins.
3. Electrochromic Glass
Windows can be an effective natural means of heating a building. However, when temperatures rise outside, the internal climate can creep above comfort levels, necessitating expensive air conditioning.
Electrochromic glass is a groundbreaking technology that enables building occupants to adapt the opacity of their windows to suit the weather conditions. When it is cool and overcast, electrochromic windows let in more sunlight, effectively providing free heat. Conversely, when it is hot and sunny, they reflect the light, keeping interiors cool. This enables heating, venting, and air conditioning systems to work more efficiently, reducing electricity demand.
Research suggests that electrochromic glass can even improve mood and productivity among the building’s occupants, as they are afforded access to natural light without glare or excess heat.
4. Smart Appliances
Smart appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers are making our lives easier while reducing our energy demands. For example, smart fridges monitor expiration dates on food items, notifying homeowners when food is due to expire, and even generate shopping lists. Smart appliances are tied into smart electrical meters that gather real-time data on the energy consumption of each device, providing powerful information to determine energy rates and automating devices to run when electricity rates are at their lowest.
5. Cool Roofs
Cool roofs incorporate special paints and tiles that reflect heat, improving energy efficiency. They help to maintain room temperatures by ensuring that buildings do not absorb too much heat—a capability that is particularly useful in hotter countries where air conditioning can be a major drain on resources. By keeping buildings cooler, cool roofs reduce air conditioning energy usage, lowering emissions and minimizing the development’s carbon footprint.
6. Buildings That Breathe
Launched by ecoLogicStudio, PhotoSynthetica is a revolutionary algae-based cladding system that effectively serves as a colossal air purifier. It sucks in polluted air from outside, purifying it as it passes through 16-meter-high panels, and filters out C02 and other pollutants before pumping clean air into the building’s interior or back out into the street. Just 2 square meters of PhotoSynthetica paneling can absorb an amount of CO2 comparable to a mature tree. Meanwhile, the system’s ever-growing population of algae, which can later be harvested, is useful in a variety of different industries, from the production of fertilizers to bioplastics and even cosmetics.
7. Greywater Plumbing Systems
Greywater systems, which repurpose gently used water, can significantly reduce the demand for fresh water. Comprising wastewaters from sinks, showers, and baths, most greywater is still relatively clean. After it has passed through a filtering system, it can be used to irrigate gardens or flush toilets. For some time now, environmentally conscious businesses have integrated rainwater collection systems to provide alternative water sources. However, greywater recycling systems typically offer a quicker ROI, enabling building owners to save water all year round by eliminating their dependency on rainfall.
8. Self-Healing Concrete
Concrete cancer is a significant problem in many older buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure today. Increased exposure to the elements creates the risk of untreated pieces of concrete falling from structures, potentially damaging property or injuring passersby. Still largely in its development phase, self-healing concrete already shows great potential, enabling everything from roads to walkways to heal themselves, eliminating the need for road crews to shut down busy streets to address cracks and potholes.