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Sustainable Architecture: Saving the Planet and Your Wallet

Home is where the heart is, but it is also where you spend the most money. For the average American, 22.1 percent of their income goes towards maintaining their house, with another 4.6 percent for utilities. That is a huge portion of their income.


The main culprit here is inefficiency. Many houses are constructed from unsustainable materials, thus producing so much heat and energy waste that costs homeowners thousands of dollars. There is a solution, however, and it’s sustainable architecture.


Just as with technology, medicine and science, we know more about designing buildings today than we ever have. What we’ve discovered is that just by constructing buildings smarter, we can save money on materials, energy, heat and water. It works in cities, suburbs and  rural areas. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is also astronomically more economical in the long term.

New construction needs to discard outdated materials like concrete and steel. They may still have their uses, but aluminum is lighter, cheaper and recyclable. New techniques, such mass timber, are making wood a more viable building material, even for large-scale construction. Unlike typical stick-frame houses, mass timber is not very flammable.


There are many more alternative materials out there from cutting edge to old-school. Experts suggest new environmentally friendly materials such as rammed earth, straw bale and bamboo could also revolutionize architecture. 

New construction can  harness natural light and heat to cut down on electricity and gas costs. Technologies like rooftop solar and solar water heaters use the sun’s energy to provide heating and electricity needs. Geothermal installations while expensive can cover the majority of heating and cooling needs year-round.


However, design starts with  construction, and for new buildings, intelligent design is everything. In northern latitudes, where it gets significantly colder, designing south-facing windows with an overhanging roof can harness the natural movement of the sun. In the warm months, when the sun is high, the roof provides shade so the house does not overheat. In the winter, when the sun is low, it shines in through the windows and heats the house. Want to go a step further? Install a trombe wall that absorbs the heat from the sun coming through the windows and releases it overnight, eliminating the need to turn up your thermostat when you go to bed.


Whether you believe in reducing your footprint to mitigate climate change or just want to save money (or both), sustainable architecture makes sense. It saves building expenses for construction companies, saves housing and utility costs for consumers, and helps conserve our resources.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Desjardins, Jeff, and Pallavi Rao. “How Americans Make and Spend Their Money, by Income Group.” Visual Capitalist, 19 March 2019, https://www.visualcapitalist.com/how-americans-make-spend-money/. Accessed 30 June 2023.


Easton, Taj. “10 Eco Building Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction 10 Eco Building Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction.” Elemental Green, https://elemental.green/10-eco-building-materials-revolutionizing-home-construction/. Accessed 30 June 2023.


Phillips, Zachary. “Mass timber 101: Understanding the emerging building type.” Construction Dive, 24 May 2017, https://www.constructiondive.com/news/mass-timber-101-understanding-the-emerging-building-type/443476/. Accessed 30 June 2023.


“Trombe wall.” Energy Education, https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Trombe_wall. Accessed 30 June 2023.

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