Thinking Sustainably in St. Louis: Your Home, Your Wallet, Your Planet

Written by Josh McDermott

mcdermott remodeling sustainable architectureAfter countless years of building and production using wasteful methods and materials, conscientious homeowners are looking to try things another way. Before we go any further, let’s define sustainable architecture. What is it, and why is it a more eco-friendly way to live?

Sustainable architecture, as its name would suggest, is an approach that seeks to mitigate ecological and environmental damage. Sometimes called ‘green building,’ this building method challenges us to rethink how we design, create and construct the world we live in. Sustainable architecture is all about investing now for a happier and healthier planet in the future.

The Impact of Building

We spend our lives surrounded by buildings. Our homes, apartments, office buildings, community centers, churches, cafes, libraries – the list goes on and on. For the most part, we probably don’t think about what it takes for these buildings to remain functional. 

But what you don’t know is that the construction and upkeep of these buildings have a massive impact on our world. Development space, materials, and energy all contribute to the ecological footprint of architecture and construction.

These processes all have the potential to cause devastating short term and long term effects if not mindfully managed. While unsustainable building practices may only impact the environment for the duration of the construction period, the materials that they use in the building itself can take a toll well into the future.

mcdermott remodeling sustainable architecture

Energy

Shockingly, 41 percent of the world’s energy usage goes towards powering our buildings! A massive chunk of this comes from the electricity buildings require to operate. Lighting, HVAC systems, and electrical outlets are significant contributors to the electricity bill’s bottom line.

Materials

Once unsustainably-made materials reach the end of their lifespan and have to be replaced, they’re likely to end up in a landfill where they will leach harmful chemicals into the groundwater. Beyond that, they may be inefficient during their lifespan, leading to increased waste and costs.

Output

We’ve all heard about greenhouse gases and the adverse effects on the environment. Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, and these days, the climate is changing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, building construction and the buildings themselves account for a hefty chunk of all CO2 emissions – 38 percent, to be exact. To make matters worse, buildings are a huge water hog: between water use and wastage, buildings use approximately 15 trillion gallons of water each year.

It’s pretty mind-boggling to think about the scale of the effect architecture and construction have on our natural world. With mass damage being done on a global scale, what can we do to make a difference?

mcdermott remodeling sustainable architecture

What Does Sustainable Architecture Look Like?

Here are some of the hallmarks of sustainable architecture:

  • Reducing ecological impact on the environment.
  • Choosing renewable energy sources over non-renewable.
  • Striving for a net-zero effect.
  • Alternative or sustainable housing solutions like tiny houses or modular homes.
  • Water conservation methods, like collecting rainwater and recycling greywater.
  • Green roofs, living walls, and other biophilic design components.
  • Use of renewable building and decorating materials.
  • Developing innovative and eco-friendly composite materials.
  • Reusing and upcycling materials.
  • Eco-conscious land development.
  • Integrating into the landscape rather than building over it.

In your home, sustainable architecture can mean using materials like cork, soy, and bamboo in place of vinyl and laminate. It can also come in the form of renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines to provide electricity and heating.

Sometimes materials are deemed “all-natural,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” or “sustainable,” adopting the title without the research and effort to back it up. Don’t be fooled by “greenwashing” marketing ploys. Leadership in Energy and Energy Design (LEED) offers certification for materials and methods that meet their sustainability standard.

mcdermott remodeling sustainable architecture

The Benefits

Sustainable architecture doesn’t just benefit the environment. It’s also better for the building’s occupants, and surprisingly, your wallet. Even though we might mentally associate “green” with expensive, sustainable home solutions generally prove more affordable in the long run. 

With the introduction of sustainable new buildings and retrofits, properties have consistently become more valuable. Because the homebuying market prioritizes eco-friendly designs, homeowners experience increased asset value. Lower daily operational costs mean more significant year-over-year savings.

Plus, nature soothes our minds and bodies. Studies suggest that biophilic design can make us feel more connected to nature, and generally more at ease. But even if you can’t bring the outdoors into your home, you can still reap the rewards of sustainable architecture. 

With so many benefits to going green, there’s no reason to put it off any longer. To learn more about green building and how we can help, reach out today.

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