Men installing solar panels on a roof

Green building design is needed as we combat the impacts of climate change. The overuse of once-abundant natural resources has resulted in the scarcity of products and the increased price of supplies. The need implement repurposed items in the construction of new buildings is more urgent than ever.

The new approaches to green building design have resulted in a reduction of fossil fuel energy use and resource waste, as well as the use of virgin materials. The high-tech designs that were once reserved for expensive, futuristic buildings are now being implemented into the average home. The use of alternative energy systems in the family home is becoming more common, such as solar panels and small wind turbines. As green technology continues to evolve, it makes green building design more available to the everyday consumer.

Alternative Energy

The great thing about environmentally conscious construction is it can be used to retrofit homes, as well as to build new homes and buildings. Depending on where the building is located, there are a variety of ways to heat and cool a home from renewable sources.

  • Geothermal Energy:For those located near geothermal pockets, geothermal energy is a free and valuable resource to heat buildings. Many government buildings in California, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, for example, utilize the geothermal heat available to them to help lower their carbon footprint.
  • Solar Panels:Solar panels — a way to harness the energy of the sun for years to come — has become a new green building norm. They can work as a hot water heater and as an alternative source for electricity to reduce the amount of wattage pulled off a coal-fueled power grid.
  • Green Energy Storage:Innovative companies, such as Cadenza, are working towards more sustainable ways to store alternative energy in a durable battery. This is an issue we have been attempting to solve since the introduction of renewable energies. If the energy is not used during the time the sun is hitting the panels or the wind is turning the turbine, it goes unused and is essentially wasted. It is the hopes of researchers that there will soon be a reasonably sized battery installed into the home to use alternative energy reserves stored in battery banks.

Homeowners are finding alternative energy more appealing as a result of tax breaks offered for installing alternative energy systems. Solar panels companies are also selling panels on a range of payment plans, making them more financially feasible for homeowners.

Repurposed Materials

Companies are marketing eco-friendly products and establishing their brand in sustainable ways, and these efforts are more than mere greenwashing. In order to appeal to a wide variety of audiences, companies are using environmentally sustainable goods in their marketing efforts, such as branded eco-friendly tote bags. As the construction industry strives to become more sustainable, all realms of business are following suit towards adopting eco-friendly practices.

Lumber companies are unable to easily greenwash their practices, as the source and milling processes are undeniably harmful to the environment. If their intention is to be authentically environmentally conscious, they must make some serious commitments to sustainability when it comes to sourcing lumber. A few lumber companies have taken advantage of the dead and dying trees of the Rocky Mountains by harvesting lodgepole pine that has been killed by pine beetles. Not only are the suppliers harvesting trees that have already met the end of their lives, but they are also removing trees that would otherwise be left to release the carbon dioxide they had stored throughout their lifespan.

A new trend that has reduced the need for any external building materials is the use of shipping containers. Shipping container homes are made of steel and measure 8 feet wide by 8.5 feet tall. There are two lengths available, a 20- or 40-foot long container. Not only can we reduce waste by repurposing them, but they can also be used a moveable and stackable home. Just like any other home, the container will need to be insulated and framed for walls and doors, but doing so has a substantially smaller environmental impact than starting from scratch.

If you are looking to update your fixtures or are designing a home from the ground up, choose repurposed materials to truly make the building unlike any other. There are a large number of storefronts that offer salvaged and repurposed building materials and can be found in virtually every major city.

Water Use

The amount of water used in homes is shockingly high, and personal responsibility plays a major role when it comes to reducing water use. Once a homeowner has spotted red flags that they need to invest in water conservation, construction and plumbing companies can take action. Green builders can work to install low flow toilets, showers and sinks to help reduce the amount of water wasted. When retrofitting or renovating home appliances, such as the dishwasher or washing machine, they can also help to reduce a home’s water footprint by improving efficiency.

As architects and engineers continue to evolve their research and development, we can expect to see home design and construction to become more sustainable. Further, regulations mandating green design will become more strict as our natural resources deplete at a rate faster than we can replenish them.

By repurposing materials and being more innovative in our design, we can reduce the amount of building material waste that we see make its way to the landfill. We will continue to grow and build, but we should be keeping sustainability at the forefront of our minds in all construction practices.