Should There Be Sustainable Requirements in New Construction?

January 10, 2022 0 By Frankie Wallace

There is no denying that sustainability is no longer just a hot topic. With increasing evidence that our society is harming the environment, sustainable practices are no longer a fad; they are a must. It’s so crucial for individuals and industries to start adopting more eco-conscious habits that federal and local government organizations are beginning to impose sustainability requirements, particularly where the construction of new buildings and homes are concerned. 

While many still question what is necessary and what isn’t when it comes to preventing and reversing the effects of climate change, there is no doubt that some sort of measures must be taken. Homes, office buildings, and other types of builds consume a lot of energy which contributes to the burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. This means that one of the best ways to have a positive impact on the environment is to require new construction projects to meet certain sustainability standards.  

Why Sustainable Construction is Important

Residential households alone are responsible for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Because other types of builds are bigger than residential homes, such as commercial business spaces and corporate office buildings, the carbon footprint for these buildings is likely much larger. Not only do all these spaces use up energy every day, but it takes a high level of energy and power to construct them in the first place.

The energy needed to construct and power any type of building releases tons and tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere every day, which is extremely harmful to the environment. This is why it is so crucial for new construction to use more sustainable practices to create buildings and homes that are more energy-efficient and have less of a negative impact on the environment. 

Sustainable Construction Requirements

The Benefits of Sustainability Requirements 

Generally speaking, the biggest benefit of implementing sustainable practices in the construction industry and requiring new builds to meet certain sustainability standards is that it reduces the negative impact on the environment. Protecting the earth and ensuring a better future for generations to come should be reason enough to start adopting a more eco-friendly mindset. However, sometimes it helps to take a closer look at how certain things can benefit us and the environment to encourage the implementation of sustainable practices. 

Some of the benefits of sustainability requirements in new construction include:

  • More cost-efficient: A lot of money and resources go into the construction of new buildings, and often, money and resources get wasted because of inefficient operations and materials being used. However, if construction companies adopt more eco-friendly practices and are required to use more sustainable products and materials in their builds, it can actually save a lot of money. 
  • Minimize waste and protect the environment: Not only do construction companies themselves contribute to waste, but the buildings they construct are responsible for a high percentage of waste as well. Sustainable practices and energy-efficient builds reduce the negative impact on the environment by making use of renewable sources and materials that minimize waste. 
  • Improved health and quality of life: Energy-efficient and sustainable spaces often improve the mood and health of those living or working in them. Sustainable buildings typically have a better quality of light, better airflow, and use safer products and materials, all of which benefit our health and mental wellness. Some have even found that productivity increases in these spaces as well because of improved health and uplifted moods. 
  • New job opportunities: Another great benefit of sustainable construction is that it will create opportunities for new jobs and positions within the construction industry. When a new building is being constructed, sustainable experts, such as renewable energy engineers, may be brought on to ensure certain standards are met. 

Challenges of Sustainable Construction Requirements

The construction industry as a whole plays an important role in the development of nations. Unfortunately, it also has a significantly negative impact on the environment because of its resource consumption and waste production. So the challenge in meeting certain sustainability requirements is that the industry as a whole needs to change the way it operates. This can take a lot of time, and may initially cost more money. However, in the long run, it will ultimately benefit the industry and the environment. 

Another challenge the industry faces is in the training of designers and builders. While many companies have adopted sustainable practices, there are plenty of others whose construction workers and building designers still don’t entirely understand how or what to do to create more sustainable buildings. They likely know the basics and even a bit more beyond that. But to truly create sustainable changes, those entering the field need to adopt a sustainable mindset from the start to fully understand how to operate and construct new buildings in a more thoroughly sustainable manner. 

What Sustainable Building Requirements Will Be Imposed?

In some states, local governments are already passing laws that require new builds to meet certain sustainability standards. California, for example, is now requiring all new homes to be built using rooftop solar panels. Initial laws and requirements will likely follow a similar standard, requiring homes and buildings to use products and materials that make them more energy efficient. This may include solar panels, energy-efficient HVAC systems, water-conserving plumbing systems, and more. 

The Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies are starting to provide green building guidelines and recommended practices for new construction and renovations. With the implementation of these guidelines and local state governments already creating sustainable building laws, we are likely not that far off from laws and regulations being enforced at a federal level. 

Final Thoughts

To answer the initial question: should there be sustainable requirements in new construction? Yes, there should. The construction industry has a huge impact on the environment. So, changes must be made not only for new construction but in how the industry operates as a whole.

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