Recent studies point to the construction industry as a large contributor to pollution in New Zealand. As one of the country's vital industries, is it possible for the industry to flourish without compromising the state of the environment? Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to reduce waste, pollution and carbon footprint in the construction industry, specifically in commercial construction.
Many businesses in New Zealand have growing interest in adopting sustainable methods and practices. Unfortunately, a number of these do not understand what sustainability entails. We've listed down a few practices that businesses and organisations can adopt to start building green.
Reusing Pre-Existing Structures and Foundations
According to one sustainable design principle, the greenest building is one that already exists. Using a pre-existing structure or foundation may seem unconventional at first. However, building over a pre-existing foundation or reusing an existing structure will reduce the use and production of new materials. By using pre-existing materials, organisations can reduce emissions, waste and pollution that come with producing new building materials.
It is also essential that in re-designing and constructing over pre-existing buildings, architects and engineers design with flexibility in mind so that the buildings can accommodate future changes. One of the common features of a re-used building is their innate ability to be changed and adapted over time.
Keeping Carbon 'Deposits'
Several studies have cited carbon footprint and carbon emissions to measure a building's environmental impact. While conceptual carbon measurement is important in identifying environmental effects, there is a need for businesses to see carbon more than just a measurement but as a critical agent of climate change.
Traditional building materials like steel, concrete and plastics release large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which results in the poor environmental performance of the building. Biomass such as wood and other plant-based materials, on the other hand, mitigates carbon emissions by isolating carbon and depositing more than what it releases.
Bamboo is known to be one of the most eco-friendly building materials on the planet. Its self-generation rate is exceptionally high, with some species growing up to three feet in only 24 hours. It also has a high strength to weight ratio and incredible durability, making it a viable choice for cabinetry and flooring.
If you prefer to use metals for construction, reclaimed or recycled metal has a long service life and does not require constant replacement. It tends not to warp or burn, making it a practical option for structural supports, roofing and building facades. Like traditional metal, it's water and pest-resistant.
Sustainable Modular Building
When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, another known method is modular construction. Studies have proven that modular construction can significantly reduce energy, waste and construction costs since most of the construction is performed in a safe and controlled environment. Excess materials in modular building are reused in the workshop, resulting in minimal waste. Studies found that a single modular construction project saves around 3,600 kilograms of waste.
Modular buildings can also be disassembled and the components relocated or remodelled for new or future use. This decreases the demand for raw materials in construction and minimises the amount of energy spent to create buildings from scratch.
Additionally, modular construction completes projects 30 to 50 per cent faster than traditional construction. According to the Modular Building Institute, construction of modular buildings occurs simultaneously with site work . This is because the modular method allows workers to build the walls and other components while contractors do foundation work. Working inside a factory is also an advantage as on-site work can be delayed by unfavourable weather conditions.
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