As climate change impacts are felt increasingly around the world, there has never been a more urgent time than right now to make significant and long-lasting changes to the way in which we operate.
It’s becoming increasingly important for us all to put sustainability at the very heart of everything we do, ensuring that we’re prioritising adaptation to climate change, as well as mitigation of the effects we’re now seeing on an increasingly regular basis.
Where construction is concerned, a sustainable approach to building is fast becoming a very real necessity, given the impact that the sector has on the environment. Figures show that the global construction industry contributes 40 per cent of drinking water pollution, 23 per cent of air pollution and 50 per cent of landfill wastes.
It’s also one of the biggest exploiters of natural resources in the world, with half of these resources being non-renewable. The WorldWatch Institute estimates that the construction sector consumes 40 per cent of global usage of raw stones, gravel and sand, as well as 25 per cent of all virgin wood annually, Arch Desk reports.
As such, finding ways in which these issues can be effectively addressed is now of paramount importance – and one potential solution that could deal with them all head on is the concept of green building and architecture.
What are green buildings?
Green building design is that which puts the environment and the natural world at the very forefront of all decision-making and ways of operating, from the design and construction phase right through to end of life.
This doesn’t just mean reducing the negative impacts that the sector has on the environment but also focusing on how the industry can actually have a positive impact, helping to preserve natural resources and improve quality of life.
Green design incorporates a range of different features, including efficient use of water, energy and other resources, renewable sources of energy, good indoor air quality, reuse and recycling, waste and pollution reduction, non-toxic and ethical material use, occupant quality of life and potential for adaptation to a changing environment.
What are the benefits of green building?
All sorts of environmental, social and economic benefits can be delivered through the implementation of green building design principles and practices.
Of course, one of the most important reasons to invest in green building design is that it offers vital protection to the natural environment and climate. As well as having the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly, green building can help deliver energy and saving water at both global and local construction level.
But it’s not just the planet that could benefit from eco-friendly construction practices… it seems that green building is good for people, as well.
The pandemic really highlighted just how important it is for us all to focus more on our general health and wellbeing – and the part that our homes and places of business have to play in promoting good health.
The link between human health and the built environment has been put in sharp focus and this can be delivered effectively through eco-friendly construction, such as by preserving water quality to minimise health risks, enhance mental health though building design, reducing disease transmission and improving air quality inside.
Green design also brings with it various economic and financial benefits for both businesses and individuals alike, everything from cost savings in bills through water and energy efficiency measures to a reduction in construction costs, increased occupancy rates and higher property values for developers.
How can water efficiency be included in green design?
Water quality, sanitation and infrastructure are all essential for providing access to clean and safe drinking water – which is a fundamental human right.
However, 2.4 billion people – or a third of the world’s population – do not have access to proper sanitation, while 40 per cent lack access to basic handwashing facilities, which is a leading risk factor for infectious diseases like polio, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhoea and cholera.
Health risks can also be caused by poor water quality and pollution such as toxic chemicals, infectious agents and radiological hazards. Microplastics is another source of contamination that has really come to the fore in recent times.
Improving infrastructure quality that delivers access to clean and safe water is absolutely key for any , water efficient sustainable built environment.
The World Green Building Council states that the desired outcome is for all buildings everywhere to provide their occ,pants with adequate, safe and sustainable access to water and sanitation, while working towards onsite circularity and efficient use of water resources.
This can be achieved by bringing in universal health-based targets for water quality, as well as locally developed regulations and standards, and preventative risk management throughout the entire water supply chain.
Additionally, contaminant tests can be carried out and water treatment plans rolled out, with smart water distribution systems providing test result notifications to help inform buildings of their options for risk management.
What does a circular water future look like?
Connection is key when it comes to designing built environments with circular water strategies at their heart.
Writing for Smart Water Magazine, Julia Machado – urban resilience manager and global product manager for green roofs and buildings with Wavin – explained that systems we’ve long considered to be independent could be connected, such as tap water, rainwater and wastewater networks.
This would then lead to circular and controlled water cycles between buildings, neighbourhoods and cities. From there, this concept could be applied to different disciplines, designs, technologies, partners and solutions to achieve the most inclusive and adaptive infrastructure possible.
“Both people and the environment benefit from such a future-proof way of rethinking cities and building sustainably, as well as from climate adaptation and resilience that will prepare cities for population growth and climate change,” Ms Machado went on to say.