The impact of environmental changes being made to save the planet and its resources has greatly influenced the way building materials are viewed and used. Green construction has brought about a surge in renewable resources and eco friendly solutions to reduce waste, conserve energy and lower the carbon footprint.
Bamboo is a prime example of a renewable resource that is taking the place of hardwood in many new homes. While bamboo is as strong and durable as hardwood, it's actually a grass. It grows in abundance and has a much shorter life cycle than hardwood trees. Visually, bamboo closely resembles wood, with the same high quality finish and lasting appeal.
Solar panels are finding their way to rooftops across Europe and North America, to harness the natural energy of the sun, making residential neighbourhoods a strong link in the chain to lessen consumption of non-renewable energy sources.
Governments are taking advantage of the public's willingness to help the environmental cause, by offering incentive programs to buy the kilowatts produced by a home's solar panels. This is just one of dozens of measures being taken to encourage people around the world to think about the big picture – and the big planet.
Putting the power of progress to the ultimate test, net zero construction strives to take no more than it gives. Net zero construction combines the most renewable and energy efficient designs, to build homes and buildings that use as little energy as possible. The plan is then taken one step further, by applying solar panels to generate energy. The end result: homes that generate just as much energy as they use. Net resources stolen and not replenished: zero.
In order for green construction projects like net zero to be successful, diligent use of energy efficient materials must be strictly adhered to. Bringing down the balance of energy consumption means every bit of energy must be used effectively and not wasted or lost.
Windows play a multi-purpose role in green construction plans. Airtightness refers to the ability to seal in an area without allowing air to escape through leaks. Properly rated modern windows rated for climate areas keep precious heat indoors during cold months and outdoors during warmer seasons. This reduces the amount of heating and cooling needed.
But it's more than just reducing losses in energy. It includes strategical placement of windows in areas of direct sunlight to increase natural lighting, and utilize sunlight to power smaller devices. This is not the same as true solar use, since solar power loses much of its punch when filtered through glass. It is however, light power, a technology best known for its use in handheld calculators.
Smaller everyday devices, such as battery chargers, calculators, keyboards, clocks and other low voltage items can be successfully charged from the light through a window. When every watt of energy in use counts, these seemingly minor devices can add up substantially over the course of a year. Furthermore, many smaller items are now being used with light charge batteries, much like the calculator, increasing the ability to stay off the grid.
With the growing demand for alternative energy use, these types of devices will only grow in stature and useability. As the planet makes changes to use naturally occurring elements such as wind and light to power our households, the movement to green construction will become the mandate, rather than the exercise.
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