A Guide to Eco-Friendly Construction: From Solar Panels to Green Roofs
Buildings have a big impact on the environment and a poorly designed or constructed building can have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area. A badly designed structure uses more energy, which increases the demand on energy production and contributes to global warming.
Many of us are looking for ways to be more sustainable in our everyday lives, from increasing our recycling efforts to buying less plastic or choosing second hand clothes. These small changes all add up and we can apply this sustainable thinking to larger areas too, like our buildings.
Eco-friendly construction was developed as a response to the findings that many of our buildings have a harmful impact on the environment and natural resources. Eco-friendly (or ecological/green) construction methods and materials aim to offset some of this impact, and ensure that the building functions in an energy efficient way. If you’d like to know more about what eco-friendly building is and some of the many techniques and materials used, read on to find out more.
What is eco-friendly construction?
Eco-friendly construction (also known as green building) is based on core practices which aim to minimise or eliminate the negative impact of a building on its environment. The principles can be applied to a proposed new build, or elements can be brought in to make an existing building more environmentally friendly.
Common green building practices include using sustainable building materials, green roof systems, energy efficient windows, water harvesting systems, and solar panels. We will discuss some of these methods in more detail below.
Eco-friendly construction techniques
Green building techniques and materials are much better for the environment and they’re more energy efficient too. This can save owners money on their energy bills in the long run, so if you want to find out more about eco friendly construction, read on.
Solar energy is clean and renewable, so installing solar panels is a great way to harness the natural power of the sun. Solar panels are most commonly installed on the roof to ensure they have access to as much sunlight as possible. They can be an expensive initial investment, but many people believe that the long term savings are worth it.
Solar panels convert light from the sun into electricity and they help to bring down a building’s overall energy consumption. This also reduces the cost of your electricity bills and solar panels are very easy to maintain once they’re installed.
The right insulation is key to a building’s energy efficiency and it’s an important aspect to consider if you want your building to be eco-friendly. Heating and cooling account for 50% of a building’s energy consumption and it’s very easy for heat and air to escape through gaps in windows, doors or duct work.
If a building isn’t properly insulated, heat and cool air can escape which means that your heating or cooling systems have to work harder to maintain a stable temperature. This drives up the cost of your bills and it isn’t very energy efficient, so the right insulation is key. The more insulation you add to the structural elements of a building (floors, ceilings and roofs), the more energy efficient it will be.
Also known as ‘living roofs’, these green roof systems offer many benefits including rainwater management and protection from UV light. A green roof is the roof of a building that’s completely or partially covered with plants, vegetables or other living vegetation. The greenery is planted over a waterproof membrane and additional features can be added, such as drainage and irrigation systems.
Green roofs help to improve the air quality of the surrounding area and they also reduce a building’s overall energy use. They have great aesthetic benefits too, especially in inner city areas where there might be less green open spaces. They also increase biodiversity and encourage wildlife.
Sustainable building materials
If you’re building an eco friendly structure from scratch, make efforts to use sustainable or environmentally friendly building materials. This helps to reduce the impact on the environment, as sustainable or recycled materials take less energy to produce. There are many options available, including reclaimed local timber, recycled plastic or recycled glass. You could also use recycled aggregates or steel, and try to source materials locally to cut down on transport emissions.
Natural or renewable materials like bamboo, cork or rubber are another great choice; try a cork floor or rubber tiles.
Energy efficient windows
This feature is related to insulation and energy efficient windows are one effective way to increase the insulation of a property. It’s very easy for heat and air to escape through cracks or gaps in window panes, so consider upgrading your windows if you want to make an existing building more eco-friendly.
Energy efficient windows use double or triple panes of glass (known as double or triple glazing), surrounded by a frame most commonly made from wood or uPVC. The panes are sandwiched together with a small gap of air in the middle (around 16mm) which provides a significant amount of insulation. This stops hot or cool air from escaping, lowering a building’s energy bills and ensuring it’s more energy efficient overall. Like solar panels, energy efficient windows can be quite expensive to instal, but the long term savings are thought to be worth it.
Swap traditional incandescent bulbs for LED or CFL lighting to improve a building’s energy efficiency. These types of lighting use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, and LED lights can be up to 80% more efficient. They also convert 95% of their energy into light, meaning that only 5% is wasted as heat. In comparison, traditional light bulbs lose a huge 90% of their energy as heat, with only 10% being converted into light.
Eco-friendly buildings should also maximise their use of natural light to help reduce the need for artificial lighting. This is something that can be incorporated into a building’s initial design, so particular care should be taken when deciding where to place windows, roof lights and doors. Heat from the sun can also be captured through windows, which helps to retain heat in the building overall and drive down energy bills.
Water saving fixtures
Conserving water is another important aspect of eco friendly construction and there are many water saving fixtures that can be put in place. Water saving fixtures can be added to sinks, toilets and showerheads to reduce the flow of water and cut down on your overall water bills.
Water harvesting and purification systems can also manage and make use of excess rainwater to help reduce water consumption. A supply of rainwater helps to reduce dependence on mains water systems, and it can be used for a variety of applications, from flushing your toilets to watering plants.
Green Roof Installations in Oxford from James Dunn Roofing
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save on energy bills, consider a green roof installation from James Dunn Roofing. Adding a green roof is a highly efficient way to make your building more eco friendly and they’re suitable for both domestic and commercial properties.
We’re proud to offer both installation and repair and maintenance of green roofs, and we can work with you to ensure that the installation suits your individual needs. Our eco-friendly roofing solutions allow greenery to flourish while maintaining the durability and strength of your roof. Green roofs offer many further benefits too, including savings on energy bills, a warmer home and reduced carbon dioxide in the surrounding air.
As well as green roofs, we offer a range of comprehensive roofing services including roof windows, repairs, chimney repairs, domestic and commercial roofing installation, pitched roofs and more. For a free estimate on one of our green roofs or to find out more about any of our roofing services, give us a call today or visit our website.