A sustainable building is one that is environmentally friendly. This means much thought has gone into the environmental impact of each material used for the build, plus the overall energy efficiency of the home once it is completed. Below is a step by step guide to making a sustainable building:
Research Sustainable Materials
In general, sustainable materials are ones that are natural. A natural material is one that is not man made, such as wood and sheep’s wool. The advantage of using natural materials for construction is the fact they require little processing and biodegrade. Overall, they are better for the environment during a buildings life, and end of life. Natural materials tend to decompose, rather than sending them to landfill sites. Below is a list of sustainable construction materials to give you an idea of what can be used for your design.
Tensile strength of bamboo: Believe it or not bamboo is incredible strong, almost as strong as steel. The tensile strength of bamboo of about 10 times more than softwoods such as pine.
Flexural Strength of bamboo: Bamboo can tolerate bending forces a lot more than wood.
Weight of bamboo: Bamboo is a light weight material.
Lifespan of bamboo: It will eventually rot away unless it is treated. This is because bamboo has a starch that insects like. Bamboo can also crack and swell, letting in water.
Thermal Properties of sheep’s wool:
Sheep’s wool is a fantastic natural insulating material. It has a thermal conductivity of around 0.035 – 0.04 W/mK. This is actually slightly better that mineral wool, which has a thermal conductivity of 0.044 W/mK.
Moisture Absorbance of sheep’s wool:
Unlike traditional mineral insulation, sheep’s wool has the ability to naturally absorb moisture in the air, helping to prevent mold and condensation.
Sound Absorbance of sheep’s wool:
Sheep’s wool can help to reduce noise as it acts as a buffer, unlike traditional forms of insulation.
Fire Resistance of sheep’s wool:
Sheep’s wall resists any flame below 1100F, and therefore conforms to Class A of the ASTM E84 test.
Design your Building
After doing your research on natural eco-friendly materials, you should have a good understanding of the sustainable materials out there. Now here is the clever part, designing a building to make use of those sustainable materials whilst complying with building regulations. You would probably need to hire a special architect for this, one that specialises in sustainable eco-friendly builds. You will also want to consider different methods to power your home too, such as.
Wind Turbine Energy
Wind turbines spin in the presence of wind, which generates electricity. The large blades are specifically designed to catch the wind as much as possible. They can either be installed on your house roof via a mast, or on a pole separate from your home, such as on your lawn. They typically generate up to 6kw, but this depends upon the wind resource and the size of wind turbine that can be installed.
Advantages of wind power:
- Wind turbines are an eco-friendly source of power.
- Can typically generate up to 6kw of energy for homes.
Disadvantages of wind power:
- Some wind turbines can be noisy.
- Not visually appealing for some people.
- Requires maintenance every few years.
Photovoltaic Solar Panel Energy
Also known as solar PV, this is a great way of creating your own energy. If you have exceptional home insulation, then you may even be able to create more energy then you actually need. In such circumstances you can sell your excess energy to an energy supplier. Although there is the initial installation cost of the solar cell system, you will eventually get your investment back.
Advantages of photovoltaic solar panels:
- You can profit if you have excess energy.
- Eco-friendly natural source of power.
- Incredibly long lifespan.
- They typically cover around 60% of your household energy needs.
- Solar PV panels can also power high energy appliances such as tumble dryers, fridges and washing machines.
Disadvantages of photovoltaic solar panels:
- A substantial initial investment is required.
- Not visually appealing for most people.
- Requires a large area of space, usually on the roof.
- Relies on sunshine only, which means less power is generated on rainy days.
Solar Thermal Panel Energy
Solar thermal panels contain water which heat up during the day. This heated up water is then stored inside a tank, ready for use.
Advantages of solar thermal panels:
- A very simple design.
- Eco-friendly and natural source of power.
- Takes up less room than photovoltaic solar panels.
- Are typically 70% more efficient than solar PV.
- Is more expensive than solar panels.
- Is considered to be exclusively for water heating.
- Shorter lifespan than solar PV.