What Builders Should Know About Sustainable and Healthy Design
How can builders and architects design healthier, more sustainable buildings? Sustainability is a core concern for many prospective building owners today. Builders can meet their needs by paying attention to every detail of a building’s design, from the plumbing to the floorboards. A few key aspects of a home’s design are at the heart of achieving high health, safety and sustainability.
Get creative with sustainable materials
Designing sustainable and healthy buildings requires careful attention to every material used to build the home. Construction materials can also have a significant impact on the environment and the cost of a new build. Architects can get creative about the materials they use to improve the livability, sustainability and cost of a project.
Reclaimed materials can be a valuable asset in construction. These are materials recycled from other projects, such as bricks or lumber. For example, the Kendeda Building at the Georgia Institute of Technology used 25,000 linear feet of reclaimed lumber salvaged from other buildings and from Atlanta’s film sets.
Utilising reclaimed materials saves money and reduces waste. For instance, an architect could use reclaimed wood for flooring rather than purchasing new lumber. Other materials, including steel and concrete, can also be recycled.
Recycled materials aren’t the only sustainable building options available today, either. Materials scientists have developed some innovative new building supplies that minimise environmental impact while also improving health and safety.
For example, sustainable insulation materials like wool are replacing conventional fiberglass insulation. Green insulation materials have a cleaner supply chain and don’t contain harmful chemicals and particulate matter that can pollute indoor air. Designers can use materials like this to build more sustainable structures that are also healthier.
Plumbing and HVAC are crucial for health
When people consider the design of a sustainable building, they often focus on the exterior structure. Sustainable structural building materials are important, but so are the crucial systems that go inside a building. The plumbing and HVAC infrastructure has a big impact on the health and safety of any building. It can also help support sustainability.
HVAC and plumbing systems are easy to forget about when they are working well. However, if they are poorly designed, built or maintained, they can quickly become dangerous. Dirty water can cause serious diseases such as cholera and dysentery, particularly in places that lack modern plumbing.
This issue might be uncommon in places like the U.S. or Canada, but plumbing infrastructure can still pose a health hazard. Sustainable pipe materials can resolve this issue and improve the overall health and safety of a home’s plumbing. For example, an architect could use recycled cast iron piping for the plumbing system, which is both durable and sustainable.
Additionally, consider choosing high-efficiency toilets and bath fixtures. These will optimise water consumption and reduce waste.
Just like plumbing, a well-designed, sustainable HVAC system can result in a healthier building. Polluted indoor air can cause dizziness, fatigue, respiratory diseases and even cancer. The HVAC system can either contribute to these issues or help prevent them.
Architects should prioritise ventilation in any sustainable building design. Create flexible ways for residents to let fresh air inside and let stale indoor air out. This is a great opportunity to include more windows, as well, ideally using sustainably-sourced glass or plastic. Consider including IoT smart devices to monitor air quality and the HVAC system.
The HVAC vents and components themselves can include antimicrobial materials to help deter the spread of bacteria and diseases. Effective filtering systems are important for keeping pests and debris out, as well. Building occupiers may find it particularly helpful to have a smart thermostat that reminds them to change their filters. Using old filters can quickly ruin an otherwise highly efficient HVAC system.
Prioritise renewable energy integration
There are many ways architects can integrate renewable energy into sustainable, healthy building designs. For example, the HVAC system can use a heat pump or even geothermal heating rather than gas. Geothermal power is clean, renewable and multi-purpose. It can reduce water heating costs by 50 per cent or more in addition to heating a building.
Solar and wind prices are getting lower every year. As a result, more and more buyers are interested in buildings with solar panels pre-installed. Architects should consider getting a prospective plot of land analysed by a solar installer before construction. This will allow them to design the building and roof in order to maximise sunlight exposure for solar panels.
It is also a good idea to include a backup power bank in the building design. This will allow any energy collected by solar panels or geothermal power to be stored for use on overcast days or during power outages.
Designing sustainable, healthy buildings
Sustainability is a major asset in today’s housing market. Architects can design healthier, more sustainable buildingss by paying attention to every detail of the design, from the insulation and plumbing to the angle of the roof. A wealth of recycled, sustainable building materials are widely available today, as well.
Source: Build Australia
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