Green Homes are just one aspect of sustainable construction, which looks to reduce the impact of buildings for the full cycle of their lives. When it comes to buildings that people live in, there are usually a few extra considerations that come into play. However, the aim of sustainable construction remains the same across the board: to build without negative impact on the environment or population.
Sustainable construction doesn’t just consider the aesthetic impact of a prospective building, it also considers the use of materials from conception through to use, minimising use of water, energy and land. For homes this will mean lower energy dependency and cheaper bills, for the environment it translates to lower emissions at every stage of the home’s life cycle.
Sustainable construction incorporates elements that have positive impact on human health and quality of life. By encouraging efficient use of land and discouraging over-development, sustainable construction champions thoughtful land generation that benefits communities. According to the OECD, which is working to develop sustainable construction policies, the industry accounts for around 30 per cent of primary energy use within its member countries.
Sustainable construction in the UK
In the UK, it’s estimated that each year we are building just half of the new homes we need to in order to keep up with demand, which means house prices are likely to keep rising. However, imagine if we did start building enough homes and we allowed cost to be the defining factor in their construction? Not only would the environment suffer but our lifestyles would likely need to dramatically alter too. While micro apartments and garden cities have been offered up as two solutions to an urban housing problem that many call a crisis, neither approach is truly a sustainable option without taking into account the other aspects of sustainability previously mentioned. The impact of large numbers of homes in cramped conditions does not support sustainability and so building space into future development projects is equally as important as building itself.
Then there is the issue of green construction, current UK building regulations only go so far. We should be looking at homes, such as those built by Citu, for inspiration. (Read more about Citu, and Little Kelham here.) Homes like this offer solutions that not only focus on affordable living, but on bills, materials and the rejuvenation of empty land and homes within heavily populated areas.
This series of videos from the Guardian highlight some of the solutions that exist at the moment.
Youth and the future of sustainable construction
There are two fundamental reasons why it’s important to drive youth interest in sustainable construction. Firstly, it is young people who are most burdened by the housing shortage, unable to afford high deposits for mortgages and trapped by high rents. Secondly, after the housing market crash, the construction industry is suffering from a skills shortage, which the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors claims is the worst experienced since 2008. Couple these together and there’s the prospect of encouraging young people to tackle future problems in a very productive way by becoming involved in the construction industry.
By starting with education on sustainable building and construction now, we can ensure a bright future in energy conservation, green building and a reduced cost of living.
There are seven schemes running in the UK aimed at helping young people into the construction industry, you can find out more details and read more about the current approach to youth recruitment within the industry using the Foundation Plus website from Jewson Tools.
What do you think is the most important element of sustainable construction and do you think we’re doing enough to involve young people in finding housing solutions? Share your thoughts below.