10 Innovative Green Technologies We’re Excited to See in Construction
Innovation in construction is bringing an exciting array of green technologies into the industry. These revolutionary developments benefit companies, clients, consumers and the planet.
Sustainable construction technologies range from appliances to foundations and everything in between. As these innovations develop further in the years ahead, they will make building one of the most environmentally-friendly industries in the world.
1. Biodegradable Materials
Buildings can be made to last, while also incorporating materials that degrade in a way to benefit the environment. Biodegradable materials can be used for many things, from paint to green concrete alternatives.
Biodegradable materials break down safely when buildings are demolished, deconstructed or renovated. Traditional construction items may decompose, but pose a risk of releasing toxins into the environment as they do.
Some amount of waste is inevitable during the construction process. Biodegradable materials ensure this waste doesn’t harm the environment. Biodegradables also break down faster, minimizing disruption to the natural world.
2. 3D Printing
3D printing is one of the most exciting green technologies emerging in the construction industry. Additive manufacturing can print entire buildings using durable materials, such as concrete or green alternatives.
This construction method minimizes waste, resulting in lower costs and carbon footprint. 3D printing can create an entire house in a matter of days by autonomously printing the walls using a preprogrammed floor plan. A small crew then adds the roof, interiors and other finishing details.
The world’s largest neighborhood of 3D printed houses is set to break ground in Austin, Texas, in 2022. The sustainable homes will also feature solar panels built into the roofs.
3. Smart Appliances
More homes and buildings utilize smart appliances to help save money and energy. They’re often tied into a smart home system and are built to prioritize energy efficiency, which reduces a structure’s carbon footprint.
Some of these appliances have next-gen features designed to improve sustainability. Some smart fridges will help organize your food according to the expiration date, so fewer groceries go to waste. Smart thermostats can enhance your HVAC system’s efficiency. They can automatically switch heating and cooling on or off based on whether or not a room is occupied, saving money and power.
4. Electrochromic Glass
Windows are a great way to naturally heat buildings, but they can lead to expensive air conditioning when it gets warmer outside. Innovative electrochromic glass allows you to control the opacity of your windows based on the weather outside.
The windows reflect more sunlight when it’s hot and sunny, keeping interiors cool. They allow more sunlight in when it’s colder and overcast to provide free heat. This allows HVAC systems to operate more efficiently and with less power. Electrochromic glass windows may even improve productivity and mood by giving you access to natural sunlight without glare or excess heat.
5. Prefab and Modular Construction
Prefabricated construction and its related niche modular construction are innovative approaches to building. These methods minimize waste and maximize efficiency through mass production strategies. Prefab and modular construction can be much faster than conventional methods, with build times half the length of a normal project.
For example, a prefab construction company that sells houses will often have a few standard configurations for you to choose from. The house can be built anywhere and even customized. A set of standard components and a few common home models allows everything from wall panels to light fixtures to be mass-produced.
Automation makes the production process even more efficient in terms of time, energy usage and minimal waste production. Modular construction uses a similar approach, except entire chunks of a building are assembled off-site.
6. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building information modeling (BIM) is already popular in construction, but it can be great for improving structures’ environmental impact. BIM is a type of modeling software created to help architects and designers get an in-depth understanding of a building, from the HVAC system to the floorplan. This can be used on anything from a new house to a skyscraper.
BIM is important for eco-friendly construction because most of the green features of a building have to be implemented in the design stage. BIM allows you to pinpoint ways to make the HVAC system more efficient, optimize sunlight exposure or improve solar panel arrangement. Owners will get the benefits of a sustainably designed, energy-efficient building.
Industry experts have also pointed out that utilizing BIM in the design stage can help buildings get sustainability certifications, such as LEED.
7. Green Insulation
It is easy to forget about insulation since it is hidden inside your walls. However, traditional insulation materials are often made of products not good for the environment. For example, Styrofoam is not biodegradable.
Numerous green alternatives have been developed to replace conventional insulation materials. There are sustainable insulation options to fit any budget or building type, from recycled newspaper to fiberglass and even denim. We are likely to see a greater variety of these materials hit the market as demand for sustainable construction increases in the years ahead.
8. Cool Roofs
Cool roofs improve energy efficiency by reflecting heat using special tiles and paints. Less heat is absorbed into your home or building, helping to maintain room temperatures. This is especially useful in warm climates where air conditioning can get expensive fast.
These roofs don’t just keep your home cooler, though. They reduce your air conditioning energy usage and lower your carbon footprint. Less energy usage leads to fewer emissions generated by your home or building.
9. Reclaimed Materials
Many green construction experts have begun finding innovative ways to use old materials. Common construction items, such as lumber or bricks, are highly resilient and can often be reused if a building is responsibly deconstructed. There are numerous sources for getting these reclaimed materials, as well.
For example, the Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech in Atlanta incorporated over 25,000 feet of salvaged wood from film sets around Georgia. This allowed the construction team to save money on raw materials for the building, while also reducing waste. Numerous cities around the U.S. are beginning to implement deconstruction ordinances for certain buildings so materials like wood and bricks can be reclaimed and recycled.
10. Recycled Concrete
Concrete is arguably the most-consumed material in the entire construction industry. However, it’s not friendly to the environment. In-depth studies have found that the production of cement, a key ingredient in concrete, accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions every year. Innovative alternatives are increasing, offering stronger, greener solutions to concrete demand.
One young entrepreneur in Kenya received the 2020 Young Champion of the Earth award from the United Nations for her bricks made from recycled plastic. The bricks are cheaper and stronger than traditional concrete and help remove plastic waste from the world’s landfills.
Similarly, a Canadian company is developing carbon-negative concrete. It skips cement entirely and uses CO2 recaptured from the atmosphere to make more resilient blocks. The CO2 infused in the material improves strength and durability while locking away carbon where it can’t leak into the atmosphere.
Building Better With Green Construction
Green technologies are changing the construction industry for the better. Lowering costs and improving carbon footprint allows these technologies to support communities worldwide.
You can take advantage of some of these methods in existing homes and buildings as well as new ones. Switching to smart appliances and making green upgrades allows you to save money on energy bills and support local green construction businesses. Sustainability is the future of the industry, empowering the world to create buildings that are better for people and the planet.