6 Sustainable Building Trends For 2020 And Beyond

modular house

Construction is not an industry known for its sustainability but that is changing. While technologies and specific solutions grab the headlines, the industry itself is slowly adapting to a new appetite for sustainability. What exactly is changing and what sustainable building trends are we seeing this year?

Construction, like every industry, is having to adapt to a changing focus on sustainability. It’s a significant challenge but one that has to happen. As one of the more established industries, the pace of change is slow but steady.

Here are six ways the construction industry is becoming more sustainable.

1. Modular construction methods

Modular construction methods such as prefabricated panels and premade walls complete with insulation, wiring and plaster are nothing new. They have been used in niche buildings for decades but now are becoming more mainstream.

Prefab pioneers Huf Haus have been making houses this way for years but were always exclusive. With more manufacturers providing modular buildings at all price points, this is definitely a building trend we expect to see more of going forward.

2. Zero energy construction

Zero energy construction refers to the use of renewable energy such as solar panels as part of the build. This will be complemented by superior insulation, energy efficient appliances and advanced ventilation systems that help remove pollutants and maintain air quality.

While yet to hit the mass market house builders, more projects are implementing efficient appliances. The bulk builders are also embracing better insulation and renewable energy into their plans from the start.

We expect ventilation to follow suit over the coming years.

3. Smarter materials

Building materials have come a long way in recent years but still have far to go. Smarter materials such as biodegradable paint, sustainable materials like bamboo, cork, wood, recycled plastics, recycled insulation and even fungus are being used in building.

These materials can break down harmlessly with no toxicity, can be made using fewer precious elements and pollute less during manufacture and use.

Recycled materials are also developing apace. As more ways are found to recycle existing materials and create new products, the construction industry is starting to pollute and waste a lot less.

4. Water efficiency

Water is a finite resource even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. Construction is very water-intensive and homes are just as thirsty. Improvements in water efficient technologies aim to tackle this.

For example, greywater recycling systems, rainwater harvesting, efficient showers and taps are becoming more common. Greywater recycles some waste water within the home rather than sending it to sewage. Rainwater harvesting uses the great British climate to provide water for use within the home.

Efficient appliances, showers and taps mix air with the water to provide the same effect with significantly less water. These are now common in most new homes.

5. Passive housing

Passive housing is another niche technology that is slowly becoming more mainstream. Once the preserve of very expensive eco-homes, passivity is slowly becoming more accessible and affordable.

Passive housing doesn’t use air conditioning or mechanical heating but relies on the building design and materials to maintain a constant temperature. There is a specific skill in designing passive houses but the payoff is a potential energy saving of 90% during use.

6. 3D printed materials

3D printing is changing manufacturing at every level, including construction. From fixtures and fittings to worktops to entire modular wall panels, 3D printing can be applied to many elements of manufacture and is definitely something we expect to see more of.

Part of 3D printing is smarter materials to print with. Development in these materials has been accelerating at an equal pace to the printing technology itself. It now offers a whole range of options that can be applied to different uses with more being developed each year.

Challenges presented by sustainable building practices

As we alluded to at the beginning, the construction industry is very well established and change does not come quickly. The main challenge presented by change is the pace. Change is slow, often ponderous and doesn’t keep up with consumer appetites. Many sustainable practices are also more expensive upfront. A passive house may be cheaper to run but it is more expensive to build. The same for passive energy generation, greywater recycling and many of the other technologies. The main benefit is enjoyed by the homeowner rather than builder.

Despite these challenges, the industry knows it has to change. It knows customers expect it to change and conform to modern requirements. That change may be slow in coming but hopefully will last as long as the homes built with these new sustainable practice constructions!

Article contributed by: Ibex Supplies, construction product supplier based in Littlehampton, Sussex.