In the twentieth century the main goal of architects and construction workers was to provide a good product which satisfied the demand of a customer, who most often had no interest in pursuing eco-friendly design. This changed with the dawn of the new millennium, which can already be called the green age. Building specialists added one more aspect to their work – environmental friendliness. But with all the media buzz and political newspeak – how is it possible to grasp the meaning of this phrase? What exactly makes a building eco-friendly? Generally speaking, a green building has to be erected, maintained and demolished with a great care for environment at every stage of construction, usage and deconstruction.
The choice of materials is crucial. The materials have to save energy, water and other resources unlike the traditional ones. One example can be furniture recycling. Instead of disposing old wardrobes or sofas, it is possible to reuse them in many creative ways. Another example is using bamboo. Compared to traditional wood-supplying trees, bamboo grows eight times faster. What is more, bamboo doesn’t die when harvested. It grows again and can be used multiple times. Thus, bamboo floors can be definitely called green. If someone is reluctant to have a bamboo floor, why not go for cork? It can be surprising, but it is possible to recycle wine cork and make a perfectly usable floor out of it.
Another thing to consider is lighting. Whereas there are many devoted fans of old-fashioned bulbs, LED lights are on a visible uptrend. Unlike traditional light sources, they consume little energy and have much longer lifespan. The main disadvantage, however, is their price. Eventually, it’s cost-effective, but an initial investment has to be made.
Apart from energy saving, green designers need to take care of the inhabitants’ health. A very popular way to do it is using nontoxic paint. Everyone has experienced breathing fresh paint odour -neither pleasant, nor healthy. Fortunately, today there is a large choice between different manufacturers and their products, which includes paint with a significantly lower amount of toxic substances.
The safety and sustainability of a green building doesn’t finish at the construction process. It has to be conscientiously managed throughout its life. It is very important to ensure waste reduction mechanisms are in place.
Two other aspects to consider are environmental degradation and pollution. Using renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic systems, help to curb carbon dioxide emission and air pollution, in comparison with traditional coal burning practices. To lower waste footprint, it is advised to always sort rubbish and use recyclable everyday products, from shopping bags to clothes. Also water used in dishwashing or laundry can be later used to irrigate land.
The last step is demolition. After a building is not good to use anymore, it is deconstructed and taken to the landfill. However, in green homes many materials can be recycled and reused. Going green also means repairing things as long as it is possible, instead of disposing them.
In many countries authorities and local communities alike decided to encourage or even enforce regulations dealing with energy saving and green buildings, but eventually it will all depend on human beings – whether they will choose to care about the environment, or just about their personal short-sighted comfort.
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