Exploring the Economic and Social Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
4 Elements of a Sustainable Building
Many things make a building sustainable and each plays a vital role in environmental preservation.
1. Stormwater Management
Stormwater runs down drains and into sewer systems, harming the natural water table. The right strategies can mitigate this issue. Stormwater management methods can capture runoff and slowly integrate it into the ground to replenish the water table, reducing the risk of flooding.
2. Native Landscaping
Surrounding a building with local plants is a low-maintenance and sustainable way to landscape. Trees and plants from the surrounding area can already handle the climate, eliminating any extra care and maintenance. Native landscaping reduces fertilisation and irrigation needs, cutting water use and eliminating harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere and water supply.
3. Renewable Energy
Using renewable energy whenever possible can reduce emissions and excess energy use.
There are two types of solar energy — active and passive. Active solar uses panels to create a closed-loop renewable power source, while passive orients buildings to get the most sunlight possible. They can absorb, reflect and transmit thermal energy, insulating a building.
Wind energy uses moving air to create electricity. Large turbines can benefit businesses and factories, and personal property owners can use individual turbines. It is best to design buildings where the wind will reach them the most for maximum benefits, like unsheltered flatlands or high elevations.
Hydroelectric energy comes from moving water. While significant sources such as the Hoover Dam can supply plenty of power through its facility, others can be small or even damless.
4. Green Materials
Sustainable materials are another integral part of creating environmentally-friendly buildings. They can significantly reduce the carbon output of standing structures. The following are some of the most popular:
- Bamboo: Bamboo is fast-growing and requires little processing, making it an excellent eco-friendly material. It is a strong and attractive material for interiors and exteriors.
- Cement: Made from a mixture of leftover ingredients, different cement forms can be strong and sustainable.
- Reclaimed wood: Reclaimed wood recycles old projects to create a solid structure instead of harming the environment by cutting down trees.
- Recycled steel: Similar to reclaimed wood, recycled steel reuses already-available resources and prevents them from sitting in landfills to release more emissions.
These materials can prevent the environmental impacts of materials production, reducing emissions, deforestation, and more harmful practices.
More on the topic: 5 Ways the Construction Industry Is Getting Greener
Economic Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Building sustainably can positively affect local, national, and global economies.
1. Reduced Emissions
As it enters the atmosphere, carbon dioxide supercharges the natural greenhouse effect, causing global temperature to rise. By implementing cleaner energy sources – such as renewables – and by incorporating more efficient systems through building design, builders can significantly cut carbon emissions.
Reducing the amount of emissions entering the atmosphere – and thus tackling the problem at its source – requires less money and resources to develop climate change mitigation strategies. When large facilities become sustainable, community members will not face as many health impacts caused by emissions, saving on care costs.
2. Increased Productivity
Employees surrounded by natural light and elements of nature are often less stressed and more productive. This plays a vital role in business competition and supply and demand. Businesses rely on their workers. Sustainably designed buildings can increase morale and energise them.
3. Reduced Building Costs
Though some costs may be higher, the overall costs of constructing and maintaining a sustainable building are lower than conventional construction methods. Many sustainable buildings can be partially or fully completed elsewhere, limiting the resources used on a job site. Sustainable buildings also have a greater value in the long term compared to traditional alternatives.
Social Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Along with assisting the economy, sustainable buildings can do a lot for the social health of residents.
1. Physical Health
Nature can help people destress and sustainable building designs cater to that need. By incorporating natural landscaping, sunlight, and greenery inside, architects and designers can create environments that lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety-related rapid heart rate.
These environments can also increase pain tolerance and release muscle tension. Using sustainable materials keeps used options from ending up in landfills, which can contribute to public hazards.
2. Mental Health
Sustainable, natural materials like wood and stone can reduce the impact of many mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. With so many people understanding the effects of climate change, knowing where they live and work support the environment can help put their minds at ease.
Less pollution in the air can help the population breathe easier and spend more time in sunlight. Doing so can boost their mood, energise them and help release stress.
Sustainable buildings provide excellent opportunities for educating the public about caring for the environment. Having facilities with renewable energy resources, natural materials, and sustainable practices can inspire others to make their homes and businesses more environmentally friendly. It can create a ripple effect, helping to create a better world. Something as simple as an educational poster can go a long way.
Improving the Built Industry
Construction causes around one-third of the world’s waste, making the design process a critical component of climate change reduction. Buildings contribute to 40% of worldwide carbon emissions. Humans need them, but they can work to make them better for the planet.
In a recent survey, 47% of global respondents said sustainability is at the top of their priority list. Governments are working to meet sustainability goals and everyone can play a part.
Sustainable buildings are a necessity to slow the devastating effects of climate change. By understanding the benefits of these structures, builders, designers, and owners can work to create a better future.
Featured image: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash
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