Interested in the latest and greatest in energy saving green building trends for 2016? The best news for energy-conscious builders and homeowners is that, with the tremendous upswing in the green building movement, innovations and developments are continually being made. The emphasis is on making available eco-friendly materials that are “smarter” and more affordable, and looking at new ways of reusing “old” materials.
1.Aim for Net Positive
If you consider that your electronics and lighting account for up to 34.6% of your home’s power consumption, looking for ways to reduce this figure is only logical. One way to transform your home into an energy saving zone – one of the major driving forces behind the green building trend – is by using only Energy Star (or equivalent certified) appliances, which are designed to use less power. By doing so, you can bring your home closer to the ideal net zero status where you produce enough energy within your home to meet your power requirements. Or go for gold; take your home to net positive status by generating enough energy to power your home and put excess back into the grid. (The latter concept is still being trialed here in South Africa.)
The growing trend in energy saving building materials can be seen in the increasing popularity of locally produced and renewable alternatives to traditional masonry products. For example, using compressed earth blocks which are 20-30% more energy efficient than wood or concrete. Ashcrete and similar substitutes – made from glass, foam, paper and other recycled materials – provide further alternatives to traditional energy and fossil fuel-intensive cements and concretes.
3.From the Foundations Up
Steel is once again in favour as a green building material. Its ability to be recycled over and over makes it the material of choice for constructing frames, as well as interiors like countertops and furniture. In fact, according to the Steel Recycling Institute, the amount of steel required to build a 200 square metre home can be provided by just six scrap vehicles. When compared to the 40-50 trees needed to build that same house in timber, steel certainly wins on the sustainability score.
4.Inside and Out
Going green doesn’t mean sacrificing style in pursuit of energy savings. On the contrary, salvaged wood and ceramics or tiles; bamboo; cork; stone; and rubber are just some of the attractive and eco-friendly flooring options available. And when it comes to your countertops, cabinets and cupboards, recycled steel and aluminium, salvaged wood, glass, and even paper, are materials of choice alongside beautifully finished formaldehyde-free bamboo plywood and renewable agrifibre boards.
The impact of our buildings on our health is another main factor driving innovations in the green building industry. For example, the bamboo plywood and agrifibre boards mentioned above are both certified non-carcinogenic, and in fact filter the air in the home. And most of the eco-friendly, non-toxic paints on the market are now manufactured with titanium dioxide which actually helps fight pollution by purifying your air.
5.The Roof Over Your Head
These cool, green innovations extend literally to the roofs we put over our heads. Cool roofs – made from materials such as foam and rubber polymers – have been proved to lower building cooling costs by 7-15% and improve passive temperature control. Insulate your roof with ISOTHERM Thermal Insulation made from the thermally-bonded polyester of recycled plastic PET bottles saves energy and is environmentally-friendly, non-allergic and resilient.
6.Fix It Right
Green building is grounded in attention to the details. The focus is on eco-friendly fixtures that conserve our precious resources, like: water-saving taps and showerheads; low-flow toilets; grey- and rainwater systems; and compostable toilets which are currently available in certain countries – will we go that far? Lighting fixtures created from recycled materials like glass, wood and metal make the perfect accompaniment to your energy-efficient bulbs.
7.Taking Energy Saving Into the Future
Imagine an exterior paint that can break down toxins; filter air pollutants; and self-clean. Nanotechnology – the study and application of matter on an atomic/molecular level – brings just such innovation to the green building industry. Nanocoatings like Boyson KNOxOUT paint display the properties listed and can be used on bridges, roads and buildings, potentially saving millions in the water and energy typically required to keep these surfaces clean. (Sadly, this paint is not yet available in South Africa but it’s definitely something to look forward to.)
Whether you’re building from scratch or simply renovating, every step you take towards turning your home into an energy-saving and eco-friendly zone counts. Every small action on the part of each of us adds up to a significant, and positive, global impact. Building green is building for the future.