How engineers can contribute to sustainability in architecture and construction
By Erich Lawson
Architects, engineers, and construction companies are becoming more proactive about building sustainable structures. Eco-friendly and sustainable buildings are no longer just a concept; they are a reality. Sustainable, environmental engineering helps in reducing air pollution, land pollution, and overall impact of construction on the environment.
Four Major Ways Engineers Can Construct Sustainable Buildings
- Using Green Designs
Green design is an approach to building a structure which minimizes the harmful effects of construction on the environment. The purpose of a green building is to safeguard the earth, water, and air by using eco-friendly building materials. Green construction practices are also considered when designing a green structure.
Some examples of green design include:
- Locally obtained woods and stone to eliminate long-haul transportation
- Ventilation systems for efficient cooling and heating
- Efficient use of space on which the structure will be built
- Techniques and design to harvest rainwater
- Use of recycled architectural elements
- Minimal harm to the natural habitat around the constructed structure
- Use of non-synthetic and non-toxic construction materials
- Recycling Construction Waste
There are a lot of construction materials you can recover from old or existing structures. You just need the right recycling equipment like self contained compactors, balers, shredders, and crushers. Recycling construction waste has a positive impact on the environment. You will reduce the use of virgin resources, thus reducing your carbon footprint as well. The energy required for extraction, transport, and processing of virgin resources takes a heavy toll on the environment. Recycling requires much less energy and resources. It also keeps the waste out of landfills. Some materials that you can recycle from other construction projects include:
- Gypsum wallboard
- Asphalt and non-asphalt shingles and paving
- Using Sustainable Construction Materials
Sustainable materials provide environmental and social benefits while protecting the environment and public. This holds true from the extraction of raw materials to their final disposal. Some sustainable materials you can use for construction include:
- Timber, bamboo, cork, as these have the lowest environmental impact on their production and lifecycle.
- Paints that are natural and don’t contain any substances that may harm the ozone layer. They shouldn’t have any chemical products of solvents.
- Isolation of renewable materials like cellulose, which can be obtained from discarded papers.
Building structures using these materials and maintaining them will have a low impact on the environment.
- Making Energy-Efficient Houses
When the houses are not energy-efficient, it won’t just increase the energy costs but also increase greenhouse gas emissions. By incorporating sustainable construction practices, you can eliminate the need for fossil-based energy. An example of energy-efficient construction is to cool the house naturally by planting trees to shade the house and external HVAC systems. Solar- and wind-powered LED lighting can be used to light the house.
It is not just the construction companies and engineers who are focusing on making sustainable houses. Consumers are insisting on living in eco-friendly houses. This will surely cause an increase in the construction of sustainable structures down the line.
A degreed computer engineer, Erich Lawson is passionate about saving the environment through effective recycling techniques and modern innovations. He works with Compactor Management Company (www.norcalcompactors.net) in Fremont, CA, a firm that provides businesses with trash compactors and balers, and writes on a variety of topics related to recycling, including tips on how balers, compactors, and shredders can be used to reduce industrial waste. He loves helping businesses understand how to lower their monthly garbage bills and increase revenue from recycling.