Sustainability Rising to New Levels in Building Design and Construction

The idea of a circular economy is fairly simple in practice – using resources through the entirety of their useful service life, even if it means repurposing them, is much more efficient than throwing those goods away and replacing them with new items. Wood, for example, can be reused in diverse ways as refurbished wood from various projects can be finished to be viable as construction material, flooring, furniture and similar items.

A recent Nature report said that a study of seven European nations estimated that a circular economy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent in each country.

While commercial architects and construction companies may not be able to take circular economic principles into their projects, they can take the core ideology behind this practice and put it into action.

Extending sustainability beyond low-hanging fruit
There are easy energy efficiency efforts that are becoming a part of most commercial projects. Strategies such as using efficient light bulbs, allowing for natural light and deploying motion sensors to prevent lights from being left on unnecessarily are commonplace. Taking sustainability to another level depends on thinking about the entire life cycle of the material being used. This type of consideration is leading to an increased use of wood in urban and commercial design.

A recent Treehugger report explained that wood that is gathered from sustainably managed forests creates multiple levels of environmental gains. The responsible forestation actually benefits the ecosystem and wood is a viable construction material that can function well in diverse settings.

Pointing to a presentation led by Michael Green, principal architect at Michael Green Architecture, at the 2015 Sustainable Forestry Initiative Conference, the news source explained that wood can handle the demands of a skyscraper – even one as large as the Empire State Building. He also said that the current SFI certification system is designed in such a way that more construction projects using wood will lead to more reforestation and, ultimately, positive carbon production.

Getting ahead on sustainability certifications
Increased use of wood as a commercial construction material is just one example of how sustainability efforts are deepening within the architecture and development sectors. Understanding the nuances of sustainability certifications, emerging technologies and materials best practices plays an integral role in professional development for architects, engineers and builders. Between circular economic principles gaining momentum, the rise of wood in commercial development and other changing sustainability trends, being ahead of the pack can pay off. This is especially true in commercial development, where sustainable design is often a key marketing point for a new corporate headquarters or similar facility.


 For more information on Sustainable Design and LEED Training, view RedVector’s online offerings.


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