Sustainable Building

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Sustainable Architecture

Australia's 1st Sustainable Building. Discover What it is and How it Works

As concern about climate change increases, many architects have begun to investigate how they can design sustainable buildings with minimal environmental impact, whilst offering maximum comfort for inhabitants. If you’re still wondering how these environmentally friendly buildings work, or how they are built, read on for everything you need to know.

What is sustainable building?

A sustainable building is one that either maintains or improves the environment, whilst conserving energy and resources. Furthermore, green buildings reduce the amount of hazardous substances that humans are exposed to.

Environmentally friendly buildings often use renewable energy sources, utilise resources efficiently, use recyclable or biodegradable materials, and use internal recycling.

Why is sustainable building important?

Human beings spend almost 90% of their time inside buildings, yet they are a significant consumer of energy and resources, and their environmental impact is difficult to maintain.

Sustainable building protect the environment whilst creating sustainable communities, and promoting economic growth. Building and renovating sustainably has benefits that are environmental, social, and economic.

Materials used for sustainable building

Sustainable materials are any materials that are produced without depleting non-renewable resources. Although concrete is usually a core building material, it is not sustainable as its production releases large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Instead, sustainable buildings often use natural materials such as:

  • Wood
  • Rammed earth
  • Straw bales
  • Bamboo
  • Cork

In addition, many sustainable buildings include materials made from recycled plastic and metal. Humans have also created some newer building materials, such as Ferrock and Timbercrete. Ferrock is made from a diverse range of recycled materials, including steel dust. The result is a building material that is similar to concrete but is in fact stronger. Furthermore, Ferrock absorbs and seals carbon dioxide during the manufacturing process, making it carbon neutral.

Timbercrete is a material made from sawdust and concrete. The sawdust aspect recycles waste materials, whilst replacing some of the less energy efficient components of traditional concrete. It can be shaped into blocks, bricks, and paver

Insulation in sustainable buildings

Insulation is an important component of green building, as it reduces the need for air conditioning and heating that use a lot of energy. In traditional buildings, fibreglass insulation is most commonly used; however, the manufacturing process uses significantly more energy than sustainable alternatives.

Sustainable buildings may get their insulation from:

  • Sheep’s wool
  • Cellulose (made from recycled paper)
  • Polyester (made using recycled plastic bottles)
  • Earthwool
  • Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam (made from natural materials such as hemp, kelp, and bamboo).

Green roofs are also gaining popularity. This involves planting gardens on the roof of a building. Not only does this help to keep heating and cooling costs down, but it makes the air cleaner and improves energy efficiency by removing carbon dioxide from the air.

Energy in sustainable buildings

Once the building aspect is complete, sustainable buildings often obtain most or all of their energy from renewable sources. A popular way to do this is with passive solar. This means constructing the building in a way that maximises the sun for heating during the winter, whilst reducing its impact in the summer.

Furthermore, many sustainable buildings use solar panels. This allows them to further reduce their environmental impact by harnessing the power of the sun, whilst saving money on energy costs in the long run. Some sustainable buildings also include wind turbines on the roof.

Sustainable buildings in Australia

Green buildings can be seen all across Australia, in the form of apartment blocks, offices, and commercial buildings.

Queensland is home to Santos Place, the largest building in the country to ever receive a 6-star green building rating. It was constructed with 20% recycled concrete and 90% recycled steel and includes sustainable features such as rainwater tanks to recycle water, passive heating and cooling, and motion sensor lighting.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne Council House 2 became Australia’s first office building to be awarded a six-star green rating. The facade of the building is designed to respond to the angle of the sun during the day time, and automatic shutters open at night when they need to let cool air inside.

60% of the building’s hot water comes from 23 solar panels, and there are also wind turbines on the roof. The sewage water is filtered and recycled for air conditioning and flushing toilets, and a rooftop garden assists with reducing carbon dioxide.

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