Awareness of our impact on the environment is increasing every year. More and more of us are paying attention to our lifestyles, and asking if we could be making greener choices. This is more important in the construction industry than almost anywhere else, because buildings are responsible for such a big share of carbon emissions – 40% of Britain’s emissions come from the built environment.
So what makes a building eco-friendly? What are we talking about when we talk about sustainable construction? Here are five key things that we take into consideration at Green Studios.
materials can contribute directly to environmental problems, such as deforestation. They can also contribute indirectly, though the amount of greenhouse gas emissions needed to make them. (Cement is particularly carbon intensive, for example, which is why we design lightweight buildings that don’t need concrete foundations.) We try to balance a whole range of questions as we design our buildings, looking for durability and efficiency. Can we source locally? Can we use recycled materials? And all our wood is from (FSC certified) sustainably managed forests.
here in the Northern hemisphere, heating is a major source of energy use and therefore of carbon emissions. The amount of heating that a building needs is basically locked in at the design stage, so designers need to give careful consideration to how heat will be lost from their buildings. We minimise heat loss by using SIPs (Structurally Insulated Panels), which embed high performance insulation right into the wall of the building. That gives us great insulation without giving your studio walls that are three feet thick! By supplying your building with electric heat, all you need to do is to make sure you’re on a green energy tariff, and you’ve got yourself a low carbon building.
As well as heating, all modern buildings use electricity in a variety of ways, for lighting, cooling, ventilation, etc. We can shrink those energy needs with good design too, by using natural light and ventilation. Keeping energy use down also means lower bills of course, so it’s an eminently sensible thing to do. Our buildings are designed with A-rated windows that let in plenty of light while avoiding too much heat loss. We add skylights to increase natural light where necessary. When you do need extra light, we fit low energy LED lighting as standard. We can even fit solar panels as an optional extra if you want to generate your own renewable energy.
the construction industry is a major source of waste, as you may have noted if you’ve ever spent any time on a building site. It’s the single biggest contributor to landfill, with vast amounts of excess materials, rubble and mixed waste. As a modular builder, we have a major advantage. Your buildings are made in our factory and only assembled on site. That means that we deal with any waste at the factory, which is so much easier than the ad hoc nature of building sites, where everything tends to go in one big skip. We’re able to use exactly what we need, and reuse scrap in other projects.
Of course, there is the waste created within the building, which is a slightly different issue. But if you want to ask us about composting toilets, we can do those!
Finally, eco-friendly buildings leave more room for nature, through sensitive landscaping, creating habitats, and avoiding disruption to nearby trees and water courses. Our clients needs vary, so we don’t have a one-size fits all approach to nature-friendly construction. We do always consider how our buildings will fit in with their surroundings though. We prefer the natural look of timber cladding, and we often fit green roofs. Planted with low-growing sedum, a living roof creates space for nature on the otherwise unused roof space of your building.
When it comes to the environment, we all want to do the right thing. As a building company, we see the outsized environmental impact of our industry as an opportunity. If buildings are a major cause of climate emissions, then the construction industry will have to be a major part of the solution too. We’re committed to that. Sustainability runs right through our business, including our choice of name.
If you want to ensure that your garden building lives up to your own values, give us a call to discuss how we can create something for you that is efficient, low carbon, and eco-friendly.