In all of the world’s major cities, there is a seemingly insatiable demand for new housing. The steadily growing number of new buildings, and the ever-increasing sales of appliances and other amenities to furnish and fill them, seem to be a positive sign of progress. However, with the increasing number of buildings comes a rising demand for energy. In a time when we are actively looking for ways to lower energy consumption, this presents something of a dilemma. Energy demand from buildings and the construction industry itself amounts to around 36% of total global demand, as well as 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions. In addition, most buildings, especially older ones, are not energy efficient. For these reasons, the construction industry, as well as average citizens, are always on the lookout for solutions that will decrease emissions and improve efficiency. Among these solutions is the development of sustainable housing – eco-friendly design and building that makes use of sustainable materials and eco-friendly methods. These have gained considerable traction in the field of architectural design and construction. Their environmental and financial benefits are becoming more and more evident to professionals in the building industry and consumers alike.
The benefits of eco-homes can’t be ignored
What are these self-evident benefits? The purpose of eco-homes is to reduce the construction industry’s carbon footprint – as well as that of the buildings’ owners and residents. Designers and builders accomplish this through the use of sustainable construction materials (bamboo and earthbags instead of concrete and timber, for example). They also include design features that are intended to reduce the building’s emissions, such as highly effective insulation and built-in clean energy solutions to make them at least partially self-sufficient, such as solar panels and wind turbines. These measures can reduce energy bills and emissions by 30% or more.
In most cases, local, easily accessible materials can be used, cutting down on construction and shipping times, as well as costs. The nature of the materials also makes construction faster. These are all short-term benefits. The long-term benefits accrue to the residents of the buildings, who can enjoy better air quality and better health, consistent home temperature, and lower maintenance requirements, and to the global environment, thanks to the reduction of CO2 emissions.
The market for eco-friendly homes is growing
Sustainability is a popular trend for consumers in all markets and industries – the housing and commercial building markets are no exception. The global market for green building materials is set to reach $364.6 billion this year. The rising demand for green buildings will be driven by constant shifts in consumer lifestyles, and the growing focus on renewable energy and sustainable materials.
The future we face – as seen by architects
The future is uncertain, and there is no real way of knowing whether trends that emerge today will have any staying power and become the standards of tomorrow. In the field of architectural design, many creative solutions are emerging that hold a great deal of promise for a more sustainable future, as a recent competition run by architectural and design magazine, Dezeen. The leading competitors put forward such innovations as bricks made from bioplastic fibers, 3-D printed concrete platforms to elevate coastal homes above rising sea levels, and faster and more sustainable construction through the use of plywood as opposed to bricks and concrete. The field is developing rapidly and moving in exciting and unexpected directions.
Seth A. Leeb is an architect based in Parsippany, New Jersey. His three-person firm has a diverse practice, including commercial, industrial and religious buildings, the firm’s specialty is period residential additions/renovations of various sizes. The firm is committed to the development of sustainable housing practices, and no job is too big or too small for it. Contact us for more information.