Sustainable construction trends, smart & sustainable buildings around the world
“Sustainable” and “smart” are two keywords in construction today. As the industry looks to do more in terms of sustainability and protecting the environment, there is an increasing focus on processes and trends that will make this possible. Technology is a big driving factor here, making it possible to reduce emissions and improve performance by the application of digital systems and providing more insight, as well as methods for tracking results. Technology features in many of the key sustainable construction trends around today and is the foundation of the smart buildings revolution that is taking the world by storm. Of course, there are some designs that are already hitting the right notes where it comes to eco-standards and these sustainable buildings are going to provide much of the inspiration for how the industry evolves, going forward.
Sustainable construction trends in 2022
Given that sustainability is trending across all industries, it’s no surprise that sustainable construction developments have come under the spotlight in 2022. Currently, only 1% of global buildings (both residential and commercial) are net zero, according to the World Green Building Council. This shows just how much work there is to do when it comes to improving the impact that construction has on the environment. These are some of the sustainable construction trends that might help to achieve this.
- Increased use of technology. From Building Information Modeling (BIM) to artificial intelligence, there are many ways in which technology can help construction processes become more sustainable.
- Modular construction. The advantages of modular construction are many – and they don’t stop at sustainability. Where modular construction is being used there tends to be more focus on manufacturing in factories where environments and emissions can be better controlled than on sites where these can escalate. Sustainable materials are easier to integrate into modular design, which can be produced quickly and often more cost-effectively than many traditional methods.
- Greater use of more innovative materials. For example, graphene, a one atom thick carbon layer that is 200 times stronger than steel, flexible, transparent, and highly conductive. Graphene could be used in making the production of concrete more sustainable.
- Retrofitting existing buildings. This trend will ultimately mean that less new construction is required and existing buildings will function more sustainably.
The rise of smart buildings
Smart buildings are a vital part of efforts to help improve sustainability and reduce emissions. Given that buildings account for around a third of all global emissions, the smarter our buildings get, the easier it will be to achieve net zero targets. That’s because smart buildings provide a whole range of insight about how buildings function, which can be used to improve performance across established metrics, such as water use or energy management – and to future-proof buildings against future challenges.
The advantages of working with smarter buildings
Whether they are buildings that have been designed to be smart from the start – or those that are being retrofitted for the purpose – buildings that are enhanced with digital technology have a lot of benefits.
- Most smart buildings today will integrate the cloud, which makes it much easier for all the systems in the building to work together.
- Smart buildings can respond flexibly to the needs and comfort of occupants, whether that relates to building temperatures or how light is let in.
- Smart buildings can automate demand response, taking into account fluctuations in renewable power generation.
- Smart systems in buildings present opportunities to reduce cost as well as energy usage. For example, together heating, lighting and air conditioning account for 50% energy usage and digitising these for smarter management can significantly bring costs down.
- Smart technology helps older building stock to achieve more energy efficiency, which is going to be crucial in ensuring that we have the buildings we need without wasting existing construction.
The sustainable buildings that are inspiring change
Inspiration can help us to move mountains – and meet net-zero targets. While many sustainable goals might seem challenging or out of reach for modern construction, there are actually plenty of examples of buildings around the world that are already achieving them – these are some of the best:
- Bosco Verticale, Italy. The two towers of the Bosco Verticale are located in Milan and have an extensive green facade. The two trees, eight shrubs, and 40 plants for every resident help to absorb 30 tons of carbon dioxide and generate 19 tons of oxygen every year.
- The Museum of Tomorrow, Brazil. The design of this building focused on answering questions like where did we come from and how do we want to live together in the next 50 years? The answer has been a wealth of sustainable features, including natural heat and light sources as well as water from Guanabara bay to regulate internal temperatures.
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium, USA. When it opened in 2017, this was the first professional sports venue in the USA to receive the LEED Platinum Certification. Some of the most sustainable features include the use of renewable sources to reduce energy use by 29% and LED lights that use 60% less energy than traditional stadium lighting.
- Anandaloy, Bangladesh. The name of this building means ‘a place of deep joy’ and it has been designed to reflect this with dancing curves, instead of rectangular spaces. The community centre/textile studio in Rudrapur was built using locally sourced mud and bamboo with traditional, sustainable construction practices.
- CopenHill, Denmark. As well as being a recreation and sports centre CopenHill is also a waste-to-energy plant converting 4,40,000 tons of waste annually into clean energy.
The world of construction is changing and sustainability is filtering into every aspect of how the sector operates today. From building trends and increasing integration of innovative technology to the real-world examples of sustainable buildings in action, there is a lot going on when it comes to sustainable construction today. And many reasons to be hopeful about what can be achieved in the future too.