How the Green Movement Is Shaping the Construction Industry
The construction industry has been criticized in the past for failing to adapt technology to fit home buyers' needs, but this stereotype is quickly changing as more companies see how green products can help homeowners save money and the planet. From the futuristic windows with Wi-Fi to prehistoric rammed Earth, the green movement is exploring practically every possibility available. Homeowners who learn about it today have a better chance of knowing what to look for in a building tomorrow.
Solar and Geothermal Heating
Homeowners now have two choices if they're looking for sustainable heating in the form of geothermal heating and solar panels. Geothermal heating relies on building pipes below the surface ground to moderate the temperature of the home (without the need for fossil fuels.) With the help of the Earth's stable 60° F core, the pipes employ a combination of electricity, water, and antifreeze to distribute the energy of the Earth into the many rooms of the home.
Geothermal heating is 500% more efficient than gas or oil. In contrast, solar panels use the power of the sun to activate ions and generate electricity. Home buyers are likely to find geothermal heating in the cloudy Northern states and solar panels in sunny Southern states.
The roof of a home can climb up to 150° F in the scorching sun and that heat doesn't just bake the ambient air on top of the home—it also seeps into the structure as well. This effect is magnified in cities where the smog forms a bubble to further trap the heat inside. But a cool roof can immediately absorb the worst of the heat from the sun up to a full 50°. The unforgiving summer months may not be quite so miserable for homeowners who don't want to run their air conditioner constantly. Not only that, but the more homes have cool roofs, the cooler the ambient outside air will be. This could potentially bring the temperature down for the neighbors as well, whether they have the technology or not.
Windows with Wi-Fi
Low-e glass has been a popular choice for homeowners who want to keep the temperature indoors at a comfortable level, but there may be an even better player in the game before too long. New breakthroughs suggest that we'll soon see smart glass, a product that uses Wi-Fi to alter how much sunlight the home receives.
By calculating the temperature outside and the force of the rays, these windows use sensors to change their tint depending on the circumstances. It even takes into account how many people are in the room! It's unclear exactly how much energy (and money) this green product will save homeowners, but it's estimated to be between 20 – 25%.
It's likely that homeowners will see more reusable materials in the homes of tomorrow, as companies experiment with the best ways to recycle old materials. Paint can now be made with all-natural materials such as limes and milk, and bricks can be made with anything from old bottles to raw sewage. Old newspapers can be turned into wood and wine corks can be turned into floorboards. These materials are not only making use of products that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill, they're also safe for both the building and the residents inside of it. Many of these reusable materials will be hidden from view, such as insulation made from old jeans, but those that are visible can be carefully constructed to blend with the decor of the home.
Zero-waste homes are those that derive all of their energy and products from either natural resources or recycled materials. They're currently rare, but the above-mentioned products are a huge step toward making every Southaven home a zero-waste home. These techniques are mixing old sustainable construction methods with new technology to create true efficiency. For example, rammed Earth was used by our ancestors to make their homes, but the soil and clay mixture left their abodes susceptible to water damage. Combining water run-off systems with rammed Earth though makes it possible to bring this option back to the table. Apart from environmental concerns, sustainable construction saves homeowners money, which can be exactly what a home buyer needs to push them into the future.
Sustainable construction is still trying to find a mainstream foothold, but the trends have never been more convincing. The sheer savings from utility bills will likely spur demand from homeowners, causing builders to reconsider their original methods. As companies improve their products and services, it will only be a matter of time before they become fully integrated into the construction industry.