A Sustainable Future for the Construction Industry
The iconic architecture at The Eden Project in Cornwall has made headlines around the world. But it is perhaps how the buildings were made that has been of the greatest interest.
Alongside visionary architects, engineers and suppliers, lots of choices about materials and designs were made to keep the environmental impact of the buildings as low as possible.
Ethically sourced materials, low energy designs and renewable features have all been incorporated into transforming the disused china clay pit. Elsewhere in the world of construction, concrete remains a core component and has been for many years. The time perhaps has come for change. This blog looks at innovative sustainable ideas suitable for construction projects.
Constructing with sustainable materials is not only good for the planet and helps to preserve our heritage, but surprisingly it can save money too.
A sustainable material is one that:
- Does not deplete non-renewable, natural resources; and
- Has no adverse impact on the environment when used
In practice, both of these objectives are impossible to achieve, but they do show us the direction in which we should be travelling.
We can preserve natural resources in innovative ways such as:
- Avoiding using scarce, non-renewable materials such as peat and weather limestone
- Creating less waste
- Using reclaimed rather than new materials
- Using renewable materials such as crops
But, taking it to a completely different level, sustainable construction at Eden has included the following:
- Using as few construction materials as possible e.g. replicating honeycombs to get maximum strength from minimum product use
- Insulating buildings with recycled newspapers
- Creating a ‘green roof’ which provides warmth in winter and shade in summer – and keeps birds and insects happy too
- Low flush toilets and taps that turn themselves off and water harvesting to flush toilets and water plants
- Designs incorporating lots of natural light to reduce electricity usage
- Photovoltaic panels on the roof – a powerful, natural source of energy
- Innovative recycled flooring – entrance mats made from truck tyres; glass floors made from Heineken bottles; and lots of reused wood
- Curved beams created using Glulam – glue-laminated layers of timber
- Using responsible suppliers. The metal roof on the Core comes from a copper mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world
In addition, we can reduce the impact that construction materials have on the environment by:
- Using materials with low or lower embodied energy
- Reducing the transport of materials and thereby the associated fuel, emissions and road congestion
- Preventing waste ending up in landfill
- Designing and constructing to support reuse and recycling at end-of-life
Change never happens overnight. But small considerations lead to big advancements and, by embracing a new way of thinking, we can all help create a piece of paradise.