Originally published by BamCore on July 27, 2021. Updated June 8, 2023
What is the Environmental Impact of Construction?
Often overlooked, the environmental footprint of the construction industry is now more important than ever as we face accelerating climate change. The construction sector didn't ignite the global warming crisis, but it surely has fanned it over the years.
Studies reveal that the construction industry contributes to over 40% of global air pollution (GHG emissions) and is implicated in up to 50% of climate change effects. The U.S Green Building Council reports that this industry also accounts for 40% of worldwide energy use. If the trend continues, emissions from commercial buildings will increase by 1.8% this decade.
This double-edged sword scenario—polluting the planet while depleting its resources—is unsustainable. The time has come to abandon outdated industry practices that downplay the environmental impact of construction.
The unchecked practices of traditional construction underline the need for more sustainable methods to lessen its environmental toll. According to the Energy Protection Agency (EPA), construction can drastically alter land surfaces and contaminate surrounding water sources, disrupting local ecosystems. EPA studies reveal that construction activities are responsible for half of all resources extracted from nature, 16% of global freshwater use, 25% of wood consumption, and a quarter of global waste. Learn about effective waste management here: Dumposaurus.
“By redefining the ultimate frontier, leapfrogging innovations in construction will finally help to address major societal challenges, from mass urbanization to climate change.” – Michael Buehler, Head of Infrastructure and Urban Development at the World Economic Forum.
What's the Key to Mitigating Climate Change in the Built Environment?
Sustainable construction focuses on preventing climate change, not just adapting to it. It uses renewable, reclaimed and carbon-negative materials to reduce upfront and ongoing emissions. These alternative materials and methods have a zero carbon footprint compared to traditional buildings that often use high embodied carbon materials and require substantial energy for lighting, heating, cooling, etc. Sustainable construction cleverly uses designs and materials for optimal heating and ventilation, minimizing energy use.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) sets robust standards for green buildings to optimize environmental impact. A UC Berkeley study found that buildings built to LEED standards produce up to 50% fewer greenhouse gases than traditional buildings.
LEED suggests that all green buildings incorporate the following features:
Minimal disturbance to landscapes and site condition
Use of non-toxic and recycled/recyclable material
Efficient use of water and water recycling
Use of energy-efficient and eco-friendly equipment
Use of renewable energy
Quality of indoor air quality for human safety and comfort
Adequate controls and building management systems
What are some construction methods that ensure sustainability?
Various engineering organizations worldwide have developed construction methods that ensure minimal waste and highly efficient energy and resources. These methods follow standards suggested by leading international environment protection bodies.
3 Ways to Mitigate the Environmental Impact of Construction
Engineering and architectural firms that are concerned with building green tend to gravitate towards one of these three. But, in reality, a melding of the three is the most advantageous.
A net-zero home or building, as explained by the experts from myhousepainter, is a structure that's so energy-efficient that it creates as much energy as it consumes over a year. This applies to all household operations, like cooking, heating, cooling, and lighting. While solar panels may come to mind, the design of these homes involves a broader, more comprehensive approach.
Reduce Thermal Bridging. The architectural design focuses on an efficient building envelope that reduces thermal bridging.
Positioning. The orientation is considered to make the best use of natural resources like wind and incident sunlight.
Ventilation. An intelligent ventilation system is enforced to ensure a natural heating/cooling effect.
Energy Efficiency. Alternative energy generation methods are only used to meet the occupants’ surplus energy demands.
Lean construction is a method of streamlining the building process. As a result, it ensures that there is no waste of time or resources when it comes to construction. Lean construction focuses on the following:
Eliminating Waste. Waste of labor, time, and materials is the number one up cost in construction. Rework waste accounts for roughly 50% of overtime and extra materials costs. Lean construction explores alternative methods and materials to minimize or eliminate rework waste.
Workflow. Putting systems in place that create a continuous, uninterrupted workflow that is reliable and predictable. For example utilizing 3D BIM technology that enables collaboration and communication between owners, designers, and the trades.
Adaptation and Improvement. Lean construction decentralizes decision-making through transparency and empowerment. This means providing project participants with information about the state of the production systems and empowering them to act. The opportunities for improvement are identified with the help of experts from garage door repair the woodlands and acted upon during the project and applied to future projects.
Passive house is a design concept that utilizes sustainable materials and engineering to meet stringent energy consumption standards. These houses are built by luxury home builders Sydney to maximize the:
Comfort. Maintains an ideal ambient temperature.
Indoor Air Quality. Filters out, pollution, allergies, wildfire smoke, etc.
Operating Efficiency. Reduces operational energy cost and GHG.
Tranquility. Increased insulation and reduced air leakage create a quiet and peaceful dwelling.
Durability. A solid, easily maintained, and sustainable living environment.
How the BamCore Prime Wall supports NetZero, Passive House, and Lean Construction designs
Our timber bamboo framing solution supports climate-positive architectural designs by:
Sustainable Sourcing: We work with farmers to sustainably grow and harvest timber bamboo.
Green Engineering: We sustainably manufacture our prime wall system with fast-growing renewable timber bamboo. We do not use any toxic materials.
Communication and Collaboration: By using 3D BIM technology, we create an inclusive and collaborative environment throughout the build process.
Eliminating Waste: We deliver the panels to the job site with every door, window, outlet, and access panel precut to the architectural plan. No onsite job cutting is required.
Saving Time and Labor: Panels are sequentially numbered with nail patterns and MEPI mapping for fast and easy installation.
Reducing Thermal Bridging: Our patented nearly hollow wall design eliminates over 80% of the studs, headers, and posts that cause thermal bridging.
Increasing Comfort and Tranquility: The superior thermal envelope is quieter and helps maintain an ideal ambient temperature.
Increasing Operating Efficiency: Less air leakage reduces operating energy costs and lowers GHG.
Durability and Safety: The super-strong timber bamboo panels are up to 51% stronger than conventional walls and can stop a small-caliber bullet.
Carbon Capture: Timber bamboo, with regular harvests, turned into durable products, sequesters between 4.9 and 6 times the carbon than wood does.
Curious about carbon farming with timber bamboo? We were, too, so we did a multi-species/multi-location growth model to learn more. You can read it here.