7 Ways to Build Responsibly & Sustainably
March 9, 2021 AD&V
Closeup of a building construction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR |  AD&V® is dedicated to advanced and energy-efficient sustainable architecture & interior design that enhances people’s experience of the world and improves their lives.

It’s our responsibility to balance our need to consume natural resources with the planet’s need to conserve them.

According to studies made by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the construction industry sends over 170 million tons of non-industrial waste to American landfills. That’s why as citizens living in a society with an expanding construction industry, we must vouch for responsible and sustainable building. Below are 7 ways you can build responsibly and sustainably.

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SITE

Choose a sustainable site to build your next project. This means building in an area that provides a wide variety of services at a walking distance such as restaurants, fitness center, shops, and entertainment areas. The more walkable places people have near, the less they have to travel by cars or buses, therefore preventing more carbon emissions from entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The goal of a sustainable site is to help protect our planet and create a safe vibrant communities that will attract visitors from all walks of life

2. PRACTICE PREFABRICATION

Utilize the prefabrication process instead of the conventional construction practice of transporting basic materials to the construction site where all assembly is carried out. In prefabricated construction, only the foundations are constructed conventionally, while sections of walls, floors and roof are assembled in a factory, transported to the site, lifted into place by a crane and bolted together. The prefabrication process consumes less energy, optimizes material usage, and eliminates overage and scrap.

3. REUSE MATERIALS

Reuse building materials during the construction phase of your project. Reusing and extending the life cycle of building materials can be used as a blueprint for deconstruction. Save as much of the raw material during the demolition phase of a building by segregating metals, cardboard, bricks, and other necessary materials. This cuts down the need to purchase building materials that can end up in landfills. Reusing building materials not only saves money but cuts down on waste! It’s  a win-win!

4. WORK WITH TECHNOLOGY

Use technology to your advantage. Working with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software provides architects, engineers, and construction professionals the insight and tools to efficiently plan, design, build, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

Using BIM models to determine what your project needs, can help lower the quantity of materials before construction starts. With BIM software, you can improve the design, construction, and operation efficiencies of your projects in order to reduce construction waste.

5. AIM FOR COMPACT

Build your project within a compact structure. Compact structures maintain the human scale of low-density projects and avoid cutting down more trees. For our Renaissance Square affordable housing project, for example, we replaced the existing high-rise structures and designed the new affordable housing buildings to human scale. The project was in keeping with the surrounding environment and all buildings were grouped around a central, European-style plaza.

6. KEEP NATURAL DISASTERS IN MIND

Emergency resiliency and disaster preparedness is a mayor factor to consider for building responsibly. Follow the latest Building Codes and the Keep Safe Guide for Resilient Housing Design in order to keep people safe and your structure standing. Here are some applications and considerations for responsible building:

  • Plan for life-saving natural heating and cooling options in the event of a disaster and power outage, including proper insulation, natural ventilation, and shading devices.
  • Have backup systems on high floors, off-grid heating and cooling, daylighting techniques, and other resources to keep buildings operational and comfortable for people when power outages occur.
  • Include durable building envelopes such as sealing, insulation, and moisture protection as well as long-lasting and low-maintenance interiors capable of enduring wear and tear from constant use.
  • Incorporate durable doors and entrance points, protected walls, sealed windows and floors capable of resisting high traffic, especially at the entrance where the right kind of flooring can stop dirt and moisture from spreading throughout the building.

7. USE A GREEN-BUILDING RATING SYSTEM

The design and construction choices of responsible building improves a project’s sustainability and qualifies it for LEED or other green-building certifications. Green-building rating systems such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification that must meet strict environmental standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED is for all building types and all building phases including new construction, interior fit outs, operations and maintenance, and core and shell. Getting LEED certified also lets people know that your project is environmentally responsible.

Responsible and sustainable building focuses on the efficient and moderate use of materials and energy to minimize our impact on the environment and create thriving communities. It’s done during the entire life cycle of the building process, everything from the design, to the construction, to its operation. In order to fully engage in responsible and sustainable building we must support long-term ecological balance for the future of our communities and our planet.

FURTHER READING: 13 SUSTAINABLE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IDEAS 

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