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Eco-Friendly Building Trends for Contractors

Cynthia Cline
January 5, 2024

Environmental sustainability is a hot topic; contractors can make their businesses stand out by embracing the trend. In the construction industry, contractors are on the front lines of shaping and implementing these eco-friendly practices in their projects. The concept sounds nice, but not everyone knows which sustainable construction material trends and other eco-friendly practices deliver on preserving the environment while still meeting the demands of modern construction.

Clients may also not fully grasp the benefits of eco-friendly practices, and it’s up to contractors to educate them on how recycled materials, energy-saving devices, and new technology carry tangible benefits. The following nine points cover some of the most common eco-friendly building trends and their benefits.

How Eco-Friendly Practices Benefit Contractors

Eco-friendly and sustainability are more than just catchphrases in construction and other industries. Contractors have been reaping genuine benefits from integrating eco-friendly practices into their business operations. These benefits include the following:

Cost Savings: While some energy-efficient practices may cost more upfront, such as investing in newer eco-friendly technology, operating with energy-efficient equipment and sustainable materials can save operational costs over time.

Business Differentiation: Every business needs a unique selling point, and eco-friendly practices can enhance and differentiate contractors, increasing business among environmentally conscious clientele. Adopting green practices is a significant trend that enhances the firm’s image as long as the move is genuine.

Regulatory Compliance: Construction regulations continue to evolve to address environmental concerns, which can increase the cost and complexity of projects. However, adhering to eco-conscious regulations can help contractors by protecting them against legal issues and improving the public’s perception of their business.

Long-Term Benefits to the Environment: Some contractors and other businesses find it challenging to prioritize eco-friendly practices since the benefits often take time to realize. However, these trends are valuable investments in environmental conservation and sustainability, which enables contractors to continue doing business amidst the changing climate.

Innovation and Advancements in Technology: Many contractors are embracing new ways of building and using updated types of equipment, software and other tools that save energy and increase work efficiency. These innovations may require adapting and involve a learning curve, making them challenging for some contractors to embrace. However, those who follow through can further differentiate their business instead of being left behind.

The following trends represent some of the ways contractors contribute to sustainability on construction projects.

1) Sustainable Construction Materials

Sustainable construction material trends are gaining ground, with more contractors choosing materials like bamboo and recycled steel for projects. Using steel that's been recycled cuts down the impact of mining and steel production on the environment. When contractors use recycled steel in a building, it reduces the demand for new, virgin steel and the carbon emissions from the manufacturing process. Consequently, the resulting building has a lower carbon footprint, contributing to a more sustainable construction process.

Many other construction materials are reclaimed and recycled into new, usable products. Contractors use recycled crushed glass in concrete and for decorative patios. Manufacturers use recycled plastics for insulation and roofing tiles. Reclaimed wood is harvested from old bridges, buildings, and other structures for reuse.

New materials, such as hempcrete, use the inner fibers of the hemp plant combined with lime and water to create light, breathable construction materials. Contractors have a diverse array of sustainable materials available to prioritize resource conservation and environmental responsibility on their construction projects.

2) Green Roofs

Layers of plants installed on roofs provide improved insulation, air filtration, and other benefits, such as providing a new habitat for birds and insects. The vegetation of green roofs on commercial buildings reduces energy requirements and positively impacts the heat island effect in urban areas.

Concrete, glass, and pavement trap heat, and the temperature in urban settings is up to 7 degrees hotter than in non-urban environments. Vegetation absorbs the heat and provides a cooling effect, reducing the temperature difference in these urban locations.

3) Solar Panels

One of the easier-to-spot construction industry trends is solar panel installation. Many contractors use solar panels on building roofs to harness renewable energy for their clients. Homeowners and businesses can generate electricity and reduce reliance on traditional energy sources. This action leads to a smaller carbon footprint and long-term savings on energy costs.

4) Water Conservation

Eco-conscious contractors prioritize plumbing fixtures that handle water more efficiently, including low-flow faucets and toilets, to increase the sustainability of their projects and conserve water. Commercial building projects are often subject to various water conservation regulations, and these fixtures align with regulatory guidelines. By installing these fixtures, contractors help building owners lower utility costs and contribute to sustainable building practices and environmentally responsible construction.

Contractors also conserve water and protect structures from damage using deck coatings with waterproofing and other properties. Effective waterproofing can prevent leaks and minimize wasted water, contributing to conservation efforts. Waterproofing also protects wood and other building materials from water damage, which increases the longevity of building structures and minimizes repairs.

5) LEED Certification

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is awarded to buildings that adhere to a recognized standard of environmental efficiency and related criteria. The certification has stringent requirements, and contractors that meet them demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract more clientele who value environmental responsibility. LEED guidelines include using sustainable materials and incorporating energy-efficient LED lighting.

6) Recycling and Waste Management

During a renovation or demolition, contractors embrace sustainable construction material trends by separating and recycling their construction waste. Materials like metal, wood, and concrete are separated and diverted from landfills and into recycling plants. This action keeps significant waste from local landfills and contributes to recycled building products. These recycled construction materials reduce the need for virgin materials, contributing to a more circular economy.

7) More Efficient HVAC Systems

Newer, more eco-conscious buildings often have energy-efficient HVAC systems installed by contractors. Using current technological features, HVAC units in commercial structures can optimize ventilation and temperature control to create a comfortable environment while minimizing the amount of energy used.

This function reduces operational costs for the building and also meets building codes. Energy-efficient HVAC systems are another way contractors can influence constructed spaces' overall efficiency and environmental impact.

8) Green Building Design Principles

Green building incorporates many architectural trends and design principles that maximize the building’s natural resources while lowering energy consumption. Contractors might add a large skylight and windows into a residential renovation project to take advantage of natural light and reduce the need to rely on artificial lighting during the daytime.

The natural light creates a healthier, more pleasant living space while saving energy. Green building features also include prioritizing building orientation to moderate heating and cooling based on the sun’s position, planting trees and other vegetation for shade and insulation, and using eco-friendly materials to construct and furnish the building’s interior.

9) Native Landscaping

Native plants are one of the sustainable construction material trends that beautify a property in addition to their energy- and resource-saving benefits. They often change with the seasons and can provide beautiful shows of color and an attractive, aesthetically pleasing environment for clients and employees. Plants native to the area often require less water once established because they already acclimate to the local soil, water, and weather conditions.

Native plant landscaping can significantly reduce the need for water on commercial properties, which aids water conservation. These plants often have deep root systems, which keep soil from eroding and help filter stormwater while it soaks into the ground. This benefit protects the quality and health of local water bodies and prevents flooding during rain storms.

Native plants are low maintenance and typically less resistant to diseases and pests. They save resources such as fertilizers, pesticides, and labor time to maintain them. Native landscapes can provide new habitats for local flora and fauna, contributing to the area’s overall environmental health by providing food sources and homes for insects, birds, and other pollinator creatures.

Sustainable Construction Makes a Genuine Impact

Contractors are uniquely positioned to pioneer eco-friendly, sustainable practices for building projects. When they choose to integrate these principles, contractors contribute to the planet's health and become leaders in an evolving, growing industry.

By adopting these methods, contractors can enhance their reputation and attract more clients who take sustainability seriously. Building a future where construction is synonymous with environmental stewardship can happen, whether deck waterproofing, using new types of sustainable materials, or building with reclaimed wood. Contact the professionals at West Coast Deck today to learn how deck waterproofing can increase your property's sustainability.