Green building has been around for several decades now, and the technology that goes with it continues to grow. Many new inventions, and some repurposed older ones, are helping building owners and homeowners meet their commitments to a better environment, both inside and out. We’ve come up with a list of six green building technology trends that are shaping the future of green construction. Some have been around for a while, and some are fairly new.
Windows aren’t just for looking at anymore, they can help heat or cool your home or building. Smart glass protects buildings from solar heat gain during the summer months. Solar heat gain is caused by radiation from the sun. Windows are rated on a scale of 0 to 1 showing how much energy passes through the window. Smart glass uses a small electric charge to control both the tinting and solar heat gain, reducing the temperature inside. And the glass is well insulated to protect from cold weather during the winter.
The smartglass allows building owners to have control and flexibility when it comes to how much heat gain they want at any particular time. Reports say smart glass can save up to 25% on HVAC costs.
Today’s appliances connect to the internet and to each other to allow you more control. For example, washers and dryers tie into your home’s smart meter, so they can run when electricity is the cheapest. And the refrigerator comes with a touch screen so you can connect to the internet and watch TV or videos demoing a new recipe. It can also check your shopping needs, as well as your current food inventory. And all this information is available on your phone, too, allowing you to control your lights and appliances even away from home.
Smart appliances can also tie into a home management system like Alexa. These management systems allow you to control your lights, heating and cooling, and other appliances from a central hub or app on your phone.
Landfills are quickly filling up with building materials, either from building scraps or demolition debris. Many of these materials will have a long life sitting in the landfill before they break down. One trend that seeks to reduce the amount of trash in our landfills is biodegradable materials. Selecting natural materials like bamboo, timber, and linoleum, which all break down easily, helps reduce the amount of trash sitting in landfills. Other options include organic paint and insulation made from recycled denim and newspaper, instead of fiberglass.
Low emitting materials
Many building materials off-gas dangerous chemicals into the air during installation and after they are installed. This off-gassing of chemicals results in what most call the “new building” smell. Many materials are now available in low or no emitting versions. This makes it safer for those installing the materials, as well as people living and working in the building after it’s installed. Products available in low emitting versions include adhesives and glues, paints and coatings, composite wood, and flooring.
The goal of many building owners is to be net-zero energy. This means their building produces as much energy as it uses. Achieving this goal requires a combination of energy efficiency measures and renewable power. Efficiency measures often include additional insulation in walls, insulated windows, point-of-use water heating, and efficient HVAC equipment. Electrical power can be generated by solar or wind energy, depending on which is most prevalent. To store power until it is needed, the building can use battery storage or be connected to the grid. If it’s connected to the grid, it sells power back to the utility when it creates too much and takes power from the grid when it’s needed.
Net-zero energy is a lofty goal for any building or home. Owners can use alternatives, like purchasing renewable energy from their utility, to help offset the lack of renewable energy on-site. Or they may develop a renewable energy plant on a separate piece of land if that makes sense financially.
This trend is on the cutting edge as many building teams are working to design ways to reduce the amount of carbon needed to build and operate a building. Current trends include planting trees, using materials that trap carbon throughout their life, like carbon-eating concrete, providing the most efficient HVAC equipment to help reduce the need for power, and using renewable power sources, thus reducing emissions. Building owners can purchase carbon offsets to reduce their footprint. These offsets help support carbon sinks, like forests and the ocean.
The popularity of green construction continues to grow, and with it so does the technology. The goal of any green building technology is to make our buildings healthier and improve our natural environment. Inventions such as smart glass and smart appliances also make our lives easier and more comfortable. While biodegradable and low emitting materials make our inner and outer environments healthier. And net zero and carbon neutral are goals that many building owners are making a reality with their commitment to a better environment.
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Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator. Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.