Renewable resources, minimising waste and creating healthy and productive environments are now an important consideration before beginning any project.
Since 2000, the UK has been decarbonising the economy and aim to be carbon neutral by 2050. As of 15th June 2022, changes to building regulations Part L were introduced in a bid to improve conservation of fuel and power and establish what an energy efficient home should be. (Please follow the link for more information on building regulations Part L.)
But besides the benefits to the environment, how do greener buildings help everyone else?
In addition to heavy rainfall, global warming has meant that the UK has also experienced prolonged dry spells more and more over the years. Exploring how water can be used more efficiently is an important consideration to make before embarking on any kind of build. Building green will not only reduce waste through water-efficient plumbing fixtures, but also the strain on shared water resources.
On new residential developments, architects must conduct water calculations to meet building regulation Part G.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Construction waste contributes to air, water and noise pollution. Due to their intended uses, construction materials are mostly non-biodegradable, and often can be toxic. Due to government regulations, 90% of this is recovered and used as aggregate in England and Wales. However, 5 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste is still found in landfill.
To minimise waste, sustainable materials such as wood and metal can be used, which increase the potential to reuse and recycle and is becoming increasingly popular among developers and builders. To further reduce waste and cost, calculating the amount of materials required for project completion rather than buying in excess is highly recommended. It is also worth exploring local depots who source and sell on reclaimed construction waste, which can often be procured at discounted rates while adding more character to the new builds.
Mind and body
It is a well-known fact that our surroundings have an impact on our mood, health and well-being. Air quality, natural light, and greenery are noted to make significant improvements in stress levels and overall quality of life.
Beside the aesthetic aspects which are usually the first to come to mind when thinking about sustainable architecture, green buildings also avoid using harmful materials. This includes plastic by-products which have been known to release toxic fumes and carcinogens into the atmosphere or materials that may contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These have been linked to respiratory disease, allergies, and other health disorders, and in extreme cases, an increased risk of cancer – all of which have been known to increase over the years.
In addition to the benefits to its occupants, a sustainable build helps to increase the longevity of the structure itself, while also reducing energy consumption and cost.
In town and city centre residential developments, which often comprise of high-rise mixed-use apartments, air quality is a material planning consideration. Architects work with specialists to ensure that any operational air quality issues are mitigated and air quality for the residents of the development is not compromised.
The next generation
No matter what part of the world you live in, one fact remains true: the population of the planet is ever-increasing. The world is united in coping with the strain for growing demands of fresh food, clean water, and enough land to accommodate living space, agriculture and commercial development.
The government is adopting a ‘Brown Field First’ approach to developments, utilising previously developed land, rather than developing on green field sites. This is why we may see our town centres and cities becoming denser, to allow our rural spaces to remain green.
Vital resources such as water and energy are being protected through harnessing natural, renewable energy where possible. In turn, by increasing efficiency, greener builds are reducing the impact on resources which might be preserved for generations to come.
The new Part L building regulations has increased the minimum requirements to offset carbon emissions during the use of a dwelling. More than likely, dwellings will now need to use some form of renewable energy source to heat the building. This ties in with the government’s target to have no gas boilers in new build dwellings from 2025, and all gas boilers to be banned by 2033. Where required, architects can review carbon emissions and heat loss by producing SAP calculations to either achieve a minimum pass or enhanced EPC ratings such as an A+ net zero carbon.
Please follow the link to view A P Architects’ net zero projects.
The use of non-renewable energy sources such as coal and oil are toxic and costly.
If all the reasons above were not enough, one of the biggest benefits of building with the environment in mind is the lower operational and maintenance costs. The design elements incorporated into a green build mean lower energy consumption, reduced energy costs and water bills. Although the initial costs to implement the build may be higher than traditional (not-so-green) projects, corporate and residential owners are both able to reap the benefits and recover the cost in the long term exponentially.
Follow the link for RIBA’s guide on how to create a sustainable home.