Experts say that the construction sector accounts for approximately 40% of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is calculated that buildings consume between 20% and 50% of the natural resources available in their environment. In view of these figures, there can be no doubt it is necessary to press ahead towards a new construction model.
Sustainable construction appears as a responsible response, the main objective of which is to reduce buildings’ environmental impact by using environmentally friendly materials and construction techniques.
Factors determining a material’s sustainability level
The term sustainable building materials is understood to take in those components that are renewable, recyclable and which involve minimal energy costs in their installation, shipment, extraction or manufacturing.
In order to select the most suitable and environmentally friendly materials, it is necessary to assess them from two viewpoints: The impact the materials have on the environment and their life cycle.
– The environmental impact of materials
The environmental footprint generated by the materials used in the construction industry can be quantified by assessing 5 basic factors:
- The energy performance in each of the different phases of a material’s life cycle
- The consumption of natural resources to obtain materials that can be used for building
- To lower their impact on ecosystems, it is essential to use materials whose origin is guaranteed sustainable
- Environmental pollution through CO2 emissions in the manufacture and shipment of materials
- The performance materials have as waste once their service life is over
– The life cycle of materials
Each phase within the life cycle of materials involves a burden for the environment that sustainable construction attempts to reduce to the utmost.
- Extraction: Obtainment of raw materials for manufacturing construction products.
- Production: Actions to transform the materials in order to attain the characteristics required to form part of the building.
- Transport: The fuel used in this phase means it produces high levels of pollution.
- Placement on site: The materials require additional actions and means such as mortars, adhesives, fixings, welds, etc. for their installation.
- Construction waste and demolition management: Royal Decree RD 105/2008 specifies the procedures to be carried out to properly manage the waste stemming from all building activity.
Sustainable building projects must take the properties of the materials used in their construction into consideration to enable them to reduce their effect on the environment to the minimum and ensure buildings’ energy performance.
Strategies to use sustainable construction materials
Sustainable construction implies changes in the sector to place respect for the environment at the core of its approach to construction. Building sustainability involves aspects like location, setting, materials, climate, construction systems and, of course, the end user.
From the viewpoint of use of materials, we can underline two basic strategies to enhance buildings’ sustainability.
1. Reused and recycled elements
Once a building’s life cycle expires and it is demolished, it is possible to consider certain materials be directly reused or alternatively recycled to attain new elements.
Reused or recycled materials such as aggregates or timber can be employed in all housing construction processes such as foundations, roofs or enclosures, insulation or interior and exterior facings.
2. Heating/cooling and minimal maintenance
There are certain materials available that favour the heating/cooling of buildings, which imply lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
Alternatively, sustainable construction projects include the use of materials that involve a low level of maintenance while the building is in use. This helps lower financial costs and its environmental impact in the medium and long term. At AEDAS Homes we are committed to the use of sustainable construction materials to lower the impact our real estate developments have on the environment and enhance the energy performance of our buildings. Our commitment to the environment is a reality in every one of our projects.