Green Building Trends in Raleigh NC
Green or eco-building is often still thought of as something that only occurs in places with beautiful weather and stable climates, a far cry from the weather lately in North Carolina. This idea, however, is a misconception; green buildings are as strong and durable (if not more so) than traditional construction. Here we look at what the current trends and latest innovations are:
It may not be new, but wood is making a resurgence. Wood is incredibly strong but only has about 25% the carbon footprint of steel or concrete, making it one of the most eco-friendly materials on the market. Couple that with new forests being planted for timber and you can see the environmental benefits. The technology associated with wood has significantly improved in recent times with advancements in bonding techniques, fire resistance, and paneling along with a change to building regulations.
A building may be responsibly constructed, but that is only half the battle. The occupants of the building will always require energy, and there have been some huge leaps forward in this area. Solar panels and wind turbines have decreased massively in cost over the last decade and shot up in terms of efficiency, making them a natural choice for new buildings. The weather, however, is unpredictable. Now more emphasis is being put on storage, keeping excess solar power stored so that when the weather changes there is still ample energy available. Battery prices have plummeted by 80% in the last ten years, and many states now offer grants and incentives to help make them even more affordable. This affordability makes this technology accessible for most homeowners.
You could have a timber-framed, solar powered, "eco-friendly" house, but the story doesn't end there. The construction industry is now being held to account by something called "Lifecycle Analysis." For this analysis, scientists calculate how much carbon was used in the construction of the building. This data includes the energy to cut down the tree, drive it to your home, cut it again, mix it with other compounds, etc., the list goes on and on. If your "sustainable" materials are flown in from a non-sustainable forest in a foreign country, then it may be worse than using a "less sustainable" but more local product. Now the emphasis is being placed on construction companies to focus on minimizing their carbon footprint at every step. This analysis has resulted in the creation of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator or EC3 which could revolutionize the construction industry into becoming a more sustainable industry. If we can accurately track the carbon used in construction, then it can be regulated. This regulation would help the industry move towards becoming carbon neutral, which would be one of the most significant steps forward we could ever take as a society.