Green housing is the process of building environmentally friendly houses and is a popular design trend that is gaining traction both here in South Africa and across the globe.
Many professionals within the design and construction space, as well as their clients, are looking at green building as a way to reduce the impact on the environment.
Below we take a look at what elements impact green housing and the role that aluminium plays in this space.
What is green housing, and why does it matter?
Green housing refers to the building of eco-homes.
These are homes designed and constructed using materials and processes that are environmentally responsible, with a focus on ensuring resource efficiency throughout the buildings’ life-cycle.
This process takes into account the impact of building eco-houses from design through to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
Eco-home designs answer concerns around economy, cost, utility, durability and comfort, with a specific focus on reducing energy consumption within the house. This design trend was born out of the realisation that the built environment has a large impact on the natural environment and is responsible for the consumption of many natural resources.
There are several elements that impact eco home designs, including:
- Building with natural and eco-friendly house materials – green housing utilises building materials that are environmentally friendly, translating into recyclable, re-usable, local, responsibly and ethically sourced materials. Examples of which include aluminium, wood and glass.
- Energy efficiency and renewable energy – this building approach makes use of renewable energy as well as energy efficient materials and systems that reduce energy consumption within the home. Many architects that specialise in building eco-friendly homes also design the home around its environment, making use of the position of the sun, looking for ways to increase natural light etc. It is also vital that the house is insulated and able to withstand extreme weather conditions to ensure the longevity of the structure.
- Smaller low-cost eco-friendly homes – green eco-friendly homes are often smaller than conventional homes because a smaller environment has less of an environmental impact compared to a larger home. This makes the home more affordable and less expensive to heat or cool, which saves on energy consumption and monthly operating costs.
Why aluminium is an essential material for green housing
Aluminium falls into the category of eco-friendly house materials and has many benefits associated with green housing.
- Lightweight and strong: aluminium’s high strength-to-weight ratio makes it useful as a structural material, weighing up to 65% less than steel.
- Corrosion resistant and long-lasting: aluminium naturally generates a protective oxide coating that resists corrosion, thereby ensuring its durability. Different types of surface treatment can further improve this property to enhance longevity
- Flexible: aluminium is versatile and flexible and can be made into any form, shape, size, and gauge without compromising the integrity and performance of the metal.
- Reflective: aluminium is a good reflector of visible light and heat. This, paired with its low weight, makes this metal an ideal material for reflecting sunlight and saving energy.
- Recyclable: aluminium can be recycled consistently without loss of quality. The re-melting of aluminium saves up to 92% of the energy required for primary aluminium production.
- Safe: aluminium building products and their surface treatments are not hazardous to any home occupants or the surrounding environment.
Aluminium and green building certifications
The use of aluminium as a building material also contributes to several different global and local green building certification systems and codes.
The most widely used green building certification is the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification which provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost saving green buildings. The use of aluminium as a material for the construction of an eco-house contributes to a LEED v4 certification under the basis of the following green building factors:
- Energy and Atmosphere – the use of aluminium optimises a buildings energy efficiency by assisting with controlling and managing factors related to heating, lighting, cooling and ventilation. This is achieved by answering to the needs of the occupants of the home for temperature balance, enhanced natural light and airflow. This can be achieved by the installation of framing systems, curtain walls, windows, light shelves as well as shade and shutter systems.
- Indoor Environmental Quality – different elements impact the comfort of those living or working in a building, these include fresh air, natural light as well as a view. A high-quality indoor environment has benefits related to increased productivity and general health and wellness. The use of aluminium contributes to this environment as its application in the form of windows, sliding folding doors etc. all enhance the quality of airflow, amount of natural light that enters the building as well as providing unobstructed views which improve the lives of those in the building.
- Life Cycle of Materials and Resources – aluminium as a building material ticks all the sustainability boxes through its life cycle, from design to construction, use and demolition. This is because the metal is recyclable at any stage and can be reused, which reduces wastage.
- Innovation – the durable, flexible and robust nature of this metal lends itself to innovative new approaches to building design and construction. These properties allow for customisation and enable architects and designers to think outside of the box to solve challenges related to green housing and building, especially where low cost eco-friendly homes are concerned.
The move towards building environmentally friendly homes is one that is set to continue impacting the industry, especially as the sector moves towards incorporating green construction, resource efficiency and sustainable design principles.
Aluminium, as a construction material, is set to play an essential role in the building of eco-friendly houses in the future.
This lightweight and durable metal will reduce the environmental impact that building and construction has on the world around us and can contribute to several different green building-related certifications.