What is sustainable construction?

Written by LetsBuild

Follow us


Share this story

Lean ebook cover

Not everyone knows what sustainable construction is yet, simply because they are not aware that it is the same thing as green construction.  It is basically a type of construction that utilizes practices that leave the smallest impact on the economy, society, and the environment.  Any building that is constructed sustainably is designed to be energy efficient, safe to work in, and produce very little pollution and waste.
Regular buildings use massive amounts of energy, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, at least eighteen percent of the energy used in this country is from buildings.  Each building takes up a lot of resources, even when they are being constructed, and they continue to need those resources years in the future.

The Process of Sustainable Construction and Why it is Beneficial

Sustainable buildings are constructed to consider the impact it will have during the construction process, the time that it is being used, and when it is eventually torn down.  The goal of these buildings is to minimize the impact for each process, while using renewable resources whenever possible.

Buildings that are not sustainable never take into account what it may be used for in the future, as current occupants leave, and new ones arrive.  A building that was constructed for use as a restaurant may not always be used that way, but if there was no thought process in the beginning, it may be almost impossible to turn it into any other type of useful space.

Sustainable buildings take these possibilities into account, while also making sure that what is used in the building will not affect the people who work there in the future.  Natural light will be incorporated to keep everyone more productive, while the HVAC unit and ventilation will be efficient and capable of removing any pollen, dust, mold spores, and other pollutants from the air.

There are numerous ways that a building can be constructed to be better for the environment.  One of the most popular ones is choosing the location of the building wisely, so that everyone can get there without increasing their carbon footprint with longer travel distances.  Sustainable buildings may be constructed with options of creating its own heat or energy through solar panels, reducing waste, and finding ways to reduce water usage.

Further reading: Why Are Green Buildings Important?

The materials that are used for sustainable buildings are important, as many of them are from renewable sources.  Therefore, forests are not deteriorating from the massive amounts of trees being cut down and not replaced.  Of course, wood can be used for construction, as long as the appropriate measures are taken to plant trees to replace the ones being removed.

Many materials are also created from recycling other materials or simply using the same materials again.  Plastic can easily be used to insulate buildings, even though at first thought that material is not known as being green.

Of course, it is always best to use materials that can be found locally, because they do not need to travel great distances before arriving at the job site.  This saves energy and reduces pollution and emissions.  Using those products can help boost the local economy, while also helping a contractor save money.
Energy efficient buildings can save contractors and owners thousands of dollars too.  Proper insulation can keep energy bills down, as can proper window panes and lighting options.  Solar panels and wind turbines are popping up outside of buildings more and more nowadays, and while they may not produce enough energy for the building, they can still help the owners save money.  Plus, in some instances, those features may produce enough energy to store some power for the future or can even be sold back to the electric company.

Not every contractor is certified to work on sustainable buildings, as they need to complete the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification or the Green Building Initiative certification first.  No one should work with a contractor on a sustainable building project unless they are sure that they have the certification that is needed.  After all, there are quite a few building codes and standards to be met and some rebates are only valid if the contractor has the required certification.

Each sustainably constructed building will need to be inspected upon completion to determine if they meet all the standards that have been put in place.  It is quite difficult to achieve the highest level of sustainability for a building, which is why it is necessary to work with someone who is qualified.
One missing point can mean the difference between being qualified for rebates, tax breaks, and other incentives, and missing out on them all.

While not everyone can construct a completely sustainable building, it is possible for many contractors and homeowners to come close by choosing sustainable materials and following much of the process above.