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Review low/zero-carbon design technology under the aspects of,

1) selection of low carbon construction materials,

2) innovative construction process,

3) management of operative energy consumption and consumption behaviour,

4) choice of renewable energy systems,

5) recycle and reuse. 

Impact of Traditional Construction Methods on the Environment

It is increasingly catching up as a trend to be mindful of sustaining the environment, in almost all aspects of life. Given the level of awareness that is being made viral amongst the general public; the development in technology and innovation; people are becoming aware of the harmful effects of carbon footprint (Park and Kim 2018). The issue of reducing the carbon footprint and making use of environment friendly materials is also becoming a challenge for the construction industry. Concern for mother earth, health of the people, and also partly because of the depletion of certain naturally available resources, that the construction business is looking for options to switch over to alternatives that shall be strong enough to withstand the pressure it is meant to bear, and at the same time be environment friendly. Much of the reason behind the carbon footprint being left behind is the energy intensive manufacturing process of the building materials, the transportation of it from one corner to the other, and also in the process of construction (Adazabra, Viruthagiri and Ravisankar 2016).

The very generic requirements that go into the making of a building is sand, cement, stone chips, iron bars and bricks, apart from a substantial amount of energy (Park and Kim 2018). Sand is mined out of river beds, seashores and also from underneath of the earth; one of the key ingredient that goes into the making of cement is silica which is derived from sand; stone chips are derived by causing dynamite blasts in the hilly regions; bars made of iron to form the basic support structure of the edifice cannot be derived without mining activities; and bricks require a substantial amount of earth which has to be shaped and baked in kilns to gather the strength and the waterproof characteristic feature. All of the process involves an immense amount of exploitation of the natural resources which not only depletes the natural resources but also leaves the environment damaged heavily (Adazabra, Viruthagiri and Ravisankar 2016). The purpose of this essay is thus to provide an overview of the various methods and processes which can be employed in making constructions environment friendly and at the same time sustainable, by giving due consideration to reducing the release of carbon footprint. Not only is it eco-friendly, but at the same time also very cost effective.

It is however not feasible to totally eliminate the usage of materials for construction purposes which shall be totally free of carbon, but attempts can be undertaken to ensure a reduction in the level be affected. Researches have led to the development and creation of low carbon content construction materials, and they are quite good substitutes of the materials which are being generally used in construction.

Alternatives to Traditional Construction Materials

Ever since 2009, the usage of low carbon bricks has been becoming quite popular, primarily because of the low cost of the bricks, light weight of it making transportation easier, and with no compromise on the strength factor (Pacheco-Torgal et al. 2014). Low carbon bricks are made by mixing an approximate 40% percentage of fly ash into the mixture that is generally used to make bricks. The use of fly ash is symbolic of constructive usage of by-products. The composition of fly ash is made up of silica, alumina and iron, in powdered form. It is derived during the process of combustion of coal in huge quantities mainly during the process of generation of electricity in thermal power plants (Pacheco-Torgal et al. 2014). Fly ash when released along with the flue gas into the atmosphere acts a serious air pollutant, which not only spoils the aesthetics of the surroundings by depositing them and forming layers, but can also be very damaging to persons having respiratory problems like asthama, or even dust allergy (Pacheco-Torgal et al. 2014). Thus using it in the recipe meant for producing brick mixture, it will not only be an environment friendly alternative, but also a respite from pollution.

Not just in the making of bricks, fly ash can also form an important part of the composition of the cement. The generic Portland cement is quite rich in carbon, hence fly ash can be a suitable substitute, along with other by-products of industrial processes. They can include copper slag and granite slag from sites filled with debris, that way it will lead to utilization of the waste products in a constructive manner, and at same time also eliminating the problem of waste disposal which more often than not is not done in a proper way. This kind of cement is termed as green cement (Pacheco-Torgal et al. 2014).

Wood is another vital material that goes into the process of construction, and scientific researches have deduced that more than 50 % of wood is composed of carbon rich substance. Woods derived out of plantations that are sustainably managed can be however be got rid of the high carbon content (Yu, Spiesz and Brouwers 2015). Hence it is important that adequate steps be taken to ensure that unprocessed wood not be used, the ones which are derived out of illegal logging and felling activities.

However the application of these substitutes are dependent upon certain factors which can might as well act as barriers if not given due importance and the necessary effort to overcome them. The primary and perhaps the most important factor in this aspect is that of general awareness, which involves not only the consciousness of the academicians and of the environmentalists, but also of the industrialists and of the real estate agents, who are directly involved in the process of construction. The role of the government in enabling people to use their discretion is also quite important. It is supposed to be the duty of the legislature to pass laws that shall be making it mandatory to adhere to labelling of products with the green tag and the carbon level tag. Singapore and Taiwan has already implemented it, and have already shone as pioneers in the field (Yu, Spiesz and Brouwers 2015). The government, along with the private agencies can also provide assistance by providing for the logistical help as much as possible, in terms of boosting up the capacities of the professionals and the technical support as well. The scientists can also make their valuable contribution to it by keeping up with their researches in this field so that they can come up with novel ideas an innovations to deal with the already prevailing scarcity and to make the best use out of whatever resources are available (Yu, Spiesz and Brouwers 2015).

Innovation in Construction Processes

As it has already been mentioned in the previous section that adequate amount of research is encouraged in order to come up with innovation in construction process. In this regard, the innovation is however pertaining to reducing the carbon footprint and being sustainable. As opposed to the usage of costly timber which are priced highly for their quality, durability and texture, scientists have discovered a new alternative in form of bamboo. Laminated bamboo is as good and as gorgeous and aesthetically appealing as the conventionally used varieties of wood. It can also be a good substitute for the carbon rich soft steel as well (Weishi et al. 2018). Metal products used in construction can be a serious generator of carbon footprint right from processing to transportation due to the high level of energy that goes in to it, hence laminated bamboo is being highly preferred these days for flooring, for manufacturing the furnitures, cladding and also for creation of supporting frameworks for the doors and windows. Bamboo is quite sustainable and is abundantly found in the tropical regions. It also takes quite less time to mature into full grown shoots perfect for harvesting (Weishi et al. 2018).

With the increase in vulnerability of the environment and the growing instances of natural calamities like earthquakes for examples the stability of the constructions are at stake. Japan for example has developed technology which facilitates the construction of earthquake resistant buildings. The engineers in that country uses flexible materials in construction so that the buildings do not collapse on the occasion of earthquakes. The earthquake which had occurred in Japan in the year 2011, had witnessed the dramatic swaying of buildings but none of them had given way under the impact of the trauma of the vibrations (Bories et al. 2014). Similar example has also been followed by a South American country, Columbia. There bamboo has been given national recognition by virtue of its capacity to be resistant to earthquakes, keeping in mind the sustainability, and environment friendliness of it (Bories et al. 2014). Further researches must be conducted in this field to come up with more innovation and technological sophistication.

Proper management of energy resources is indeed necessary to ensure the lessening of the carbon footprint on earth. In this section, methods to combat the consumption of less energy shall be dealt with in terms of the plans provided by several scholars.

Halliday’s model has outlines certain principles which ensures an adequate balance of economic and environmental measures. The model calls for ensuring sustainable project management that shall be effective for both long term and short term projects equally well; judicious usage of the resources which include both money and construction materials; abandoning the usage of those materials which have the potential to damage the environment and overuse the scarce resources; and also using the minimum amount of energy possible for the sake of constructing and transportation of materials to reduce pollution (Wang et al. 2017).

Management of Energy Resources

Miyatake talks of a model which calls for supplementing of the minimization of the consumption of resources by means of maximization of re-using and recycling in the entire process of construction. The model calls for greater reliance upon renewable and recyclable resources for ensuring a clean and healthy environment which free of the toxic elements (Wang et al. 2017).

Having talked about the theoretical propositions, now the discussion shall be focusing upon how the principle has been implemented. Inspired by natural surroundings and the way animals develop their abodes to shield themselves from the brutal forces of nature, architects have deigned buildings which are very effective in managing resources and at the same time also in terms of being judicious with regard to the use of energy. This form of technological innovation is known as Biomimicry. The construction of the Eastgate Centre of Zimbawe can be cited as an example to substantiate the example of environment friendly cooling. The building has been designed by architect Mick Pearce who has borrowed the design from the technique used by termites to keep their abodes cool, by creating pockets to allow the free flow of air through the process of convection. The building is a novel example of how natural cooling can be as effective as the electricity run cooling system, and that too at a rate of energy consumption that is just 10 % of the total conventional power consumption (Huynh, Vo and Hwang 2018).

The example of the Eastgate Centre building is a modern example, such methods of natural ventilation are however not very new as a concept. In the city of Yazd of Iran, one can witness huge tower-like structures on top of the ancient buildings. They are called as ‘badgir’ in Persian language, which literally translates itself to windcatchers. Those setups are meant for capturing the flow of find and transferring down into the rooms to ensure that it remains cool even in the scorching heat of the summer (Huynh, Vo and Hwang 2018).

Other systems which are commonly used to ensure insulation from either atmospheric heat or cold, are stuffing hay or glass wool in between the walls, or constructing windows with two layers of glass. The science behind it is to utilize the usage of bad conductors like hay or glass wool, or air to ensure that the atmospheric heat or cold does not affect the people living inside the houses much (Huynh, Vo and Hwang 2018). They are also sustainable as they also enable the reduction in the level of the consumption of energy to a great extent. These techniques should be utilized more as they are not only for the environment, but at the same time they are also very much cost effective in the long run.

For the sake of being sustainable in the long run, a judicious usage of the resources is extremely essential. Electricity is inevitable for construction process and that has no other alternative which can provide with the same amount of expediency in tandem with the demands of today’s world. However, it is not an unsurmountable feat, it can be solved by means of increasing reliance upon non-conventional sources of energy like hydel energy, solar energy and nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants are very much in vogue these days, and can be abundantly found in the Scandinavian countries to generate energy, and also in other parts of the world like Japan and Iran. The electricity derived out of it is extremely eco-friendly and the long term cost is also quite nominal (Romanova 2016).

Transportation of materials involve the usage of a great deal of energy. Hence it is advised that reliance upon locally produced or available resources be utilized as much as possible in order to cut down upon the cost that is involved in transportation of the materials. Emulating the example of the lavish buildings found in the Gulf Region of the Middle East is not something desirable. The construction of those iconic buildings involves transportation of sand, rocks and marble stones from various parts of the world. Environmentalists are rallying against such unchecked real estate boom which is causing shortage of resources elsewhere in the world (Maskell et al. 2016).

Reducing the reliance upon the resources is contingent upon reusing and recycling of materials from construction sites and demolition sites. Common materials like the metal bars, concrete rubble and even plastics can be recycled and used in the construction process. Metal bars can be processed and be made fit for use once again. The concrete rubble cannot be reused in construction of building edifices, but it can be effectively used to be the base for pavement (Tulashi et al. 2017). Plastics can be melted and added to the mixture for paving the roads as well to make it waterproof, and more resistant to the damaging forces of nature. Wood panels can also be recycled which have been derived from construction sites, if not for construction purposes but at least for other purposes as in making it a part of compost. The tiles and marble slabs are re-usable if they are carefully dismantled. The ground rule for bringing down an edifice lies in following careful methods so that the materials can be reused and recycled (Nakamatsu et al. 2017).

Conclusion

Having reached at the concluding section of the essay, it can be said that enough measures have been taken to ensure that sustainable construction if building is carried out. The most important factor now is the spirit to implement those principles and examples into practice. The consciousness that any harm to the earth can be having a cascading effect on everyone else has to be essentially cultivated in the minds of people, only then can effective measures be holistically undertaken to counter the exploitative and hazardous building practices.

References

Adazabra, A.N., Viruthagiri, G. and Ravisankar, R., 2016. Cleaner production in the Shea industry via the recovery of Spent Shea Waste for reuse in the construction sector. Journal of Cleaner Production, 122, pp.335-344.

Bories, C., Borredon, M.E., Vedrenne, E. and Vilarem, G., 2014. Development of eco-friendly porous fired clay bricks using pore-forming agents: A review. Journal of environmental management, 143, pp.186-196.

Huynh, T.P., Vo, D.H. and Hwang, C.L., 2018. Engineering and durability properties of eco-friendly mortar using cement-free SRF binder. Construction and Building Materials, 160, pp.145-155.

Maskell, D., Reddy, V., Heath, A. and Walker, P., 2016. Modern earth construction techniques–an overview. In 16th International Brick and Block Masonry Conference, 2016. University of Bath.

Nakamatsu, J., Kim, S., Ayarza, J., Ramírez, E., Elgegren, M. and Aguilar, R., 2017. Eco-friendly modification of earthen construction with carrageenan: Water durability and mechanical assessment. Construction and Building Materials, 139, pp.193-202.

Pacheco-Torgal, F., Cabeza, L.F., Labrincha, J. and De Magalhaes, A.G., 2014. Eco-efficient construction and building materials: life cycle assessment (LCA), eco-labelling and case studies. woodhead Publishing.

Park, K.G. and Kim, J., 2018. The Design Characteristics of Nature Inspired Architecture. Modern Environmental Science and Engineering, 4(5), pp.381-414.

Romanova, E., 2016, May. Studying of Innovative Qualities at Experts in the Field of Production and Use of Eco-friendly Construction Materials. In Materials Science Forum (Vol. 871).

Tulashie, S.K., Kotoka, F., Mensah, D. and Kwablah, A.K., 2017. Investigation of the compressive strength of pit sand, and sea sand mortar prisms produced with rice husk ash as additive. Construction and Building Materials, 151, pp.383-387.

Wang, L., Yeung, T.L., Lau, A.Y., Tsang, D.C. and Poon, C.S., 2017. Recycling contaminated sediment into eco-friendly paving blocks by a combination of binary cement and carbon dioxide curing. Journal of cleaner production, 164, pp.1279-1288.

Weishi, L., Guoyuan, L., Ya, X. and Qifei, H., 2018. The properties and formation mechanisms of eco-friendly brick building materials fabricated from low-silicon iron ore tailings. Journal of Cleaner Production, 204, pp.685-692.

Yu, R., Spiesz, P. and Brouwers, H.J.H., 2015. Development of an eco-friendly Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) with efficient cement and mineral admixtures uses. Cement and Concrete Composites, 55, pp.383-394.

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