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Green buildings – making construction sustainable

Posted on 3/11/2020 at 5:26 PM by in Blog

The construction sector is always searching for new and better ways to improve efficiency and keep costs down.

In 2020, it’s becoming more evident than ever before that we need to continue to find more environmentally friendly methods of construction, as this industry is definitely guilty of not being the “greenest industry”.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a closer look at “green construction” as a whole, what it entails, the benefits of these methods and the impact it could have going forward.

What is a green building?

You might have heard the term “green building” thrown around before, but are you aware of what it actually means?

A green building is a property that is designed, built and operated with energy efficiency in mind, and tries to preserve natural resources and improve the quality of life.

The idea of a green building (also known as eco-friendly construction) was developed back in the 70s in response to the energy crisis and concerns about the environment.

The concept of green building is not just limited to domestic houses, as it can be applied to any property that has been constructed in an eco-friendly manner from schools to office buildings to hospitals.

On top of being a more sustainable, eco-friendly method of construction, it also comes with some cost benefits (music to contractors’ ears, we imagine). Green buildings can save money through reduced energy use, less water consumption and lower maintenance costs in the long run.

What are the features of a green building?

Claiming a building has been constructed with energy efficiency in mind is one thing, but what actually makes a building “green”?

Well, there are four main areas that you need to think about when designing a green building – materials, energy, water and health.

The most obvious feature is the efficient use/less reliance of energy, water and other resources. This applies to both the construction phase and then operation, fitting features and designing the building to adhere to energy efficiency guidelines.

This could include well placed windows to ensure more natural light, the use of green insulation throughout the property that is made up from mostly recycled materials and the incorporation of low energy lighting and smart appliances.

A green building generally needs to be constructed using non-toxic, ethically sourced materials. These can be natural resources gathered in a sustainable manner, or locally sourced resources to reduce the impact of cross-country transportation.

It is also important to have pollution and waste reduction measures in place, and reuse/recycling needs to be promoted on-site throughout the project. The use of non-toxic materials will generally improve air quality and reduce risk to future occupants of the building.

A strong consideration of the surrounding environment throughout all stages of the project is important as well, from design to construction to even operation. This includes both the physical impact on the environment and the noise pollution caused during the project.

Another feature of a green building could be the use and implementation of renewable energy systems such as solar PV, heat pumps and biomass boilers. More on that later on.

Lastly, a green building could also be a design that can adapt to a changing environment, meaning that it’s able to grow and change with new developments in order to stay as energy efficient as possible.

What are the most popular sustainable technologies/systems?

As previously mentioned, the use of renewable energy systems can be a massive factor in making buildings more sustainable and reducing overall costs. As far as available technology, there are many different systems currently on the market that can boost energy efficiency.

One of the most popular systems is Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels. You’ve likely seen these rectangle panels on the roofs of many homes, and they work by absorbing the sun’s rays and converting them into usable, sustainable energy to power buildings.

You can ever pair these systems with lithium batteries in order to store the excess energy produced for a (literal) rainy day instead of sending the energy back to the National Grid, saving money on energy bills in the process.

You also have effective heating systems such as the various types of Heat Pumps.

The most commonly used heat pumps include Ground Source and Air Source, which take heat from the (you guessed it) ground or air and convert it into heat energy that can be used to provide heating throughout entire properties.

These systems can be a fantastic alternative to boilers, and can even be paired with underflowing heating to really make a property sustainable and eco-friendly.

For a more detailed look at the different renewable energy systems available, please see our dedicated article here.

What else can contractors do to ensure sustainability?

In an effort to be greener, many companies have tried to design and build “net-zero buildings”.

The term “net-zero building” is used to describe a property whose energy consumption is roughly equal to the energy output. This can be achieved through the likes of the on-site systems that we’ve just mentioned in the previous section.

Designed with the goal of cutting down on carbon emissions, water consumption and solid waste, net-zero buildings should become priority for all contractors.

With the emphasis on climate change getting more intense with each passing year, it’s also important for contractors to look at ways to ensure building can withstand any extreme weather or natural events, building stronger frames and increasing weatherproofing measures.


The concept of green buildings is ultimately a positive one and benefits everyone involved, with reduced operating costs, improved air quality and a reduced level of energy consumption.

There are currently a couple of barriers stopping it from being rolled out industry wide, such as misperceived costs, a lack of political support/public awareness and not as much market demand.

However, despite these setbacks, the trend of green construction has continued to grow significantly over the last 10 years or so, and it looks to continue its upwards trajectory going forward.

Do you think that construction needs to be “greener”? Are we ready to embrace green construction as the norm?

Want to get involved in the conversation? Feel free to tweet us @utilitysearches and let us know your thoughts.

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