Over the years, changes in environment have fueled the need to find better ways of sustaining our lifestyle. This statement could be read a couple different ways depending on a person’s thoughts on the subject. Many people would read this as the need to find higher paying jobs in order to support their current needs/wants in life. Others may read it as moving and chasing trends. What it really means is that people are finally conscious of the footprints they leave on the planet and are trying to find better ways, more efficient ways to live their current lifestyle, and save the planet at the same time.
One of the most important things in creating sustainable buildings is finding the best sites. That doesn’t necessarily mean finding an empty space that isn’t being used and doesn’t need to be cleared of trees. It means looking at all the options and seeing what will really be functional and save in the long run. Is there a building that can be refurbished for your needs? If yes, can it be done using sustainable materials, or is the current structure too flawed? Perhaps it would be better to demolish, but reuse some of the materials. In any case, the building must support the local environment. It shouldn’t disrupt the vegetation or change much of landscape.
The choice of materials in sustainable buildings is pretty simple: non-toxic, recycled if possible, or sustainably produced with little energy. It’s easy to pick up a product that says “recycled” but it takes some research to find out exactly what the process was. If it took more energy and power to recycle the material, then the sustainability isn’t necessarily paying off. Look for products that will last and work in conjunction with the environment. Using refurbished materials, such as cabinets from a demolished building, can add character and save both money and building material. Solar energy is a great, but if the building is in a location that doesn’t get much sun, adding the panels doesn’t make much sense. Some buildings may call for a specific outer covering to help protect it from the elements, while others can survive with lower maintenance.
Creating a green building doesn’t make much sense if the energy system works against the idea. Depending on the locations, there are many different ways to use the environment for more efficient energy. As mentioned before, solar energy can be very helpful in locations that have a lot of sun. This doesn’t just apply to southern states; northern locations that have lots of sunlight can reap the benefits, too. Southern-facing homes with lots of windows bring in lots of light throughout the day and can collect the power for times when the sun isn’t out. Using Energy Star appliances throughout the building can also conserve power, as well as adding programmable thermostats that can be set and left to change automatically at specific times.
There are a few key elements to remember when creating sustainable buildings. The standards change regularly, but to qualify a building must have: healthy indoor living space, clean air circulation, efficient energy use, sustainable site development, water conservation efforts, and construction using efficient materials. All of these factors work together to make a building green and to support a lifestyle focused on protecting the environment.
The world and the environment continue to change, and we are responsible for taking care of it as much as we can. We created problems, and we must solve them. Building sustainable homes and businesses that will work in conjunction with their surroundings is just the beginning, but it’s a good start.