The differences between traditional and eco-friendly building techniques
There has been much debate in the construction industry recently regarding the merit of eco-friendly building and construction methods, compared to ‘the old ways’, and there’s no doubt that there is an unstoppable momentum in favour of new ways.
Ring out the old, ring in the new
Design engineers are working tirelessly to develop increasingly sustainable construction material, and doing so at prices that are making this a very affordable option for owners who want to reduce their carbon footprint, or may face restrictions on the type of materials that can be used due the protected status of their listed building or period property.
Timber framed buildings are enjoying a huge revival, and materials such as lime, hemp and woodchip can be used to render and insulate buildings in place of plasterboard. These also have the added benefits of being sprayable, much more flexible, so are not reliant on having to be fitted onto flat, true surfaces.
We also actively encourage our clients to use:
• ICF Wall Systems, which offer increased eco-friendly performance, along with the highest rated U-values in the industry.
• Sunstyle Roofing - multifunctional and aesthetic solar power generating systems which comply with the highest standards of functionality, performance and durability.
• Eco Heating - solar generated electricity and air source heat pumps, both proving very popular – and cost-effective
• Capital Concrete - Earth-friendly, cement-free concrete, significantly reducing the carbon impact, by up to 79% compared to traditional concrete, with no difference in the performance.
A change of thinking
The various factors that drive energy efficiency include specification issues such as the degree of insulation or airtightness. And timber frames offer an appealing combination of higher U-values (the measure of thermal insulation), shorter build times and costs that are lower than for comparable steel-framed premises.
Most structural timber originates from managed forests, making it highly renewable and sustainable. Planting trees for the production of timber benefits the environment and its harvesting, production and transport are seen to produce less CO2 than traditional construction materials.
But aside from the obvious difference that more sustainable materials can now be used, the whole mindset of builders and construction engineers is changing, and they are taking a much more holistic approach to projects, with a far more scientific assessment of energy consumption and environmental impacts. And using local suppliers too, to reduce the wider environmental implications.
You can turn down the tap if you have the plug in the bath!
Well, yes, it applies to bathrooms too, but it’s really a metaphor for a whole new approach to preventative energy saving: the better insulated a property is, the less energy it takes to heat it, or cool it. So a new movement – Passivhaus – has emerged, focusing on designing buildings so as to reduce a building’s environmental footprint to an absolute minimum.
This method can be applied to residential properties, office buildings, schools and other commercial premises, and starts with the architectural designs, creating a sealed environment that prevents almost all heat loss. Although it is usually applied to new buildings, it can be used for refurbishments too.
And again, there are beneficial spin-offs, one of which is the reduction in the ingress of external pollutants such as vehicle emissions, industrial smoke and noise. And at a time when we are all starting to really recognise the impact of all of these on the wider environment, the appeal of creating our own, internal haven is growing day by day.