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Green Imprints: Reexamining Construction and Sustainable Goals

As a society we need to set and stick to sustainable goals. Pollution is an overwhelming threat to humanity that not enough people take seriously. Around three million people die every year from environmental factors. Do you know how many of those environmental issues pertain directly to construction? Listed below are few that you may have not considered:

  • Habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity
  • Soil erosion
  • Depletion of fresh water resources
  • Acid deposition
  • Urban air pollution
  • Surface water pollution
  • Depletion of mineral reserves

Buildings contribute anywhere between 15-45% to these issues and so sustainable goals in construction are vitally important.

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Breakdown of some environmental issues. Image via Willmott Dixon.

There has been research conducted in an effort improve construction practices and change the environmental impact that the industry causes. This shift in architecture began towards the end of the 20th century and the reason can largely be drawn back to BREEAM. BREEAM stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method and it’s the first organization started to asses a building’s life-cycle and set sustainable goals for a building’s impact on the environment. This idea really revolutionized how construction and design took place and it influenced others to start similar assessments; more people are familiar with LEED for example. But what these environmental building assessments allow is for construction to be held at a certain standard, providing us with sustainable goals to be reached. This is a benchmark by which we can evaluate how far our efforts have come in making a difference.

Taking it a Step Further

The simple fact is that there will always be about a 5% degradation in the environment no matter what because we’ll never be able to reverse all the damage done or renew every resource. We can improve it, however. Currently the concept of green building and sustainable structures has inspired builders to re-think materials and search for alternative resources such as recycled and natural supplies. I believe this has also given designers a new platform to which creativity and renovation can be explored. A great example of this would be the development of living walls. A living wall is a self-sufficient vertical garden which is attached to a frame or exterior of a building site.

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Habitile modules. Image via Habitile.

A company that has shown innovation in this area is Habitile. Habitile is a lightweight concrete planter module made from a mixture of polystyrene, which is a commonly uses plastic, and inert waste material. Some benefits of this module are: the provision of building insulation which saves in operation costs; the improvement of air quality by providing oxygen; the protective watershed which provides habitats; and grey water filtration and reuse. Aurora Mahassine the creator of this system has said that it’s their “ecological approach to architecture”, which I find very inspiring as an architecture student. There are many ways to create living walls but I found this very progressive in nature because it reuses waste to develop a living façade of a structure. This system helps tackle a few of the issue construction poses to the environment and helps beautify urban areas.

The way of the future is all in the development of new technology and how we can create a better life from it. With the realization that a sustainable future needs to starts somewhere, we have as a global community made great strides towards a better tomorrow, so let’s keep innovation at our forefront and our Green Imprints large.

Feature Image: Habitile modules. Image via Habitile.

About The Author

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is a undergrad student who has been studying architecture for over four years, first at Pratt Institute and now at UCF. Sustainability is important to her as a designer because architects greatly influence the environment through building and construction. It's vital for her to understand what the current issues are and how we can go about improving them. Her motto is "We can't create innovation without knowing what has already been done".