During the last few years, we’ve learned about the damage that the consumer society does to the planet. We’ve heard of concepts like climate change, global warming, pollution, and others. This concern includes the environment of construction. It is common to see buildings with green terraces, houses with solar panels, and constructions in reused containers. These constructions try to take care of the environment, but are they sustainable?
What is Sustainability?
According to the United Nations, sustainable development “meets the needs of the present, without compromising the capacity for future generations to meet their own needs." (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, 3.27)
We’ll look at this from three approaches:
- The care of nature and the environment. This takes into account the site, materials, constructive techniques, services and natural resources. It seeks that buildings integrate with the ecosystem, have healthy interiors, consume few resources and produce little waste. It calls for practices that care for biodiversity and are efficient throughout the life cycle of the building.
- This focuses on the inhabitants of a building, taking into account their customs and culture. Furthermore, it looks at people involved in the construction. These are workers who make and sell materials, laborers, and communities surrounding the work site.
- The cost and feasibility of a project. Traditional linear economy flows through material extraction, production, sales, and waste disposal. Sustainable practice uses a circular economy. This cycles through reduced material extraction, sustainable production, sales, and recycling of waste. This restarts the cycle by providing more raw material.
If we want to enter the world of green housing, we must understand buildings as living organisms. They consume resources and generate waste. Use of resources involves raw material extraction, production, and later waste disposal. Thus, there are no zero impact constructions. Everything we do is going to have a consequence in the environment. Ecological architecture and practices give alternatives to wasteful building methods. Here are some methods to ensure sustainability:
- First, and foremost, the sustainability of the home depends on the practices of the inhabitant. Awareness of the environmental cost of consuming energy, water, and the generation of garbage is key to ecological living.
● Green Houses
- The house must adapt to its surrounding environment wherever possible. Design should focus on the sun’s path, prevailing winds, weather, and the needs of the site. Tailor insulation needs for the site to save energy (and money!) on heating and cooling.
● Renewable Energies
- Most electricity from local grids is from non-renewable resources, such as natural gas and oil. Look for sustainable housing to reduce the consumption of these energies. Passive heating and cooling techniques and energy efficient appliances are great for energy conservation. In addition, generators based on renewable energy, such as solar and biogas can be used, but are not a replacement for sustainable practices.
- Water networks use energy for purification and transfer. Reducing consumption conserves energy. Limit the use of potable water to necessary uses, such as drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning dishes. Toilets, irrigation, and washing machines can use filtered or rain water. Grey water (relatively clean waste water) can be recycled for further sustainability. It is important to understand water treatment to avoid contaminating natural spaces.
- Like buildings, the extraction of materials involves the generation of waste. Source from clean productions. Use materials that contain recycled components or are natural and have a rapid decomposition. Certain building materials contain things like glues or insulators which can contaminate air and are harmful to health. Identify and avoid these materials whenever you can.
- Using flora improves quality of life and purifies the air. You can apply vegetation to the home by planting in the land, or using a green wall or terrace. The latter two of these help naturally improve insulation. It is very important to use native plants to reduce water consumption and maintain balance with local flora and fauna. Exotic plants can, and likely will, disrupt the local ecosystem, causing environmental damage.
- The generation of garbage is 100% dependent on the user. First, learn to consume. Buy products that contain the least amount of waste, such as packaging. Also, find products that have recyclable packaging. Learn to separate garbage from recyclables and organics. Composting organics at home reduces waste and adds a source of nutrition for plant life.
Sustainability and YOU
In the design of sustainable housing, all the themes intertwine. Careful building practices, efficient production methods and ecological living habits, work together to create sustainable housing. Many reductions in consumption, and thus waste and pollution, depend on our own awareness. Are you prepared to have a sustainable life?