Green Trends’ Forecast for 2012

Green and natural building designs are making a huge impact on the construction and architectural industries, with sustainable development underpinning the concept. “Green design will become the definition of good design,” says Jill Salisbury of Environmental Language Furniture. 


Being environmentally conscious is an ongoing challenge throughout the lifecycle of a green building, from conception to demolition. Green buildings respect the natural environment through the efficient use of energy, water and other renewable resources, while minimising waste and pollution. This positively affects the health and productivity of its occupants. 


Green buildings have progressed significantly since their inception during the seventies. The construction industry moved swiftly through the initial phases of understanding the basic costs and benefits of implementing sustainable building projects to taking advantage of renewable resources, e.g. using sunlight for passive solar power or using plants and trees to construct green roofing. 


Modern advances in sustainable development permit constructors, architects and interior designers to substitute concrete for wood as a building material, and packed gravel or permeable concrete for conventional concrete.  This enables the design and structure to be in harmony with the natural features and resources of its surroundings. 


To ensure a successful green project development, the architects, engineers, designers and client all need to cooperate closely as a team. Here are five green trends for 2012 that need to be heeded by all green developers and their collaborative teams:


Solar energy


More and more suburban homes are installing solar panels on their roofs. The use of solar energy has a positive environmental offset and assists with reducing the homeowner’s electricity bill. 


Solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and some alternative energy sources, as the end product gives off no carbon dioxide waste and uses the natural energy from the sun to generate electricity or hot water. Expect phenomenal interest in solar-powered sports stadiums that will produce enough electricity to support 80% of the surrounding neighbourhoods. 




Green building materials


Wood is seen as a green building material because it can be reused and recycled extensively. Experts advise considering using reclaimed wood, since this will prevent more trees from being felled. Reclaimed wood is also often stronger and more stable than freshly cut wood, due to having been exposed to more changes in temperature and moisture.


Bamboo (part of the grass family) is currently the fastest growing alternative to wood and absorbs the most carbon dioxide compared to wood. Bamboo is technically a giant woody grass that is able to grow within most soils. It can be used to create anything from flooring to kitchen units. With no need for the use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers to assist with the growth process, bamboo is regarded as extremely eco-friendly. 



“Go Green” or go home


Homeowners are actively seeking out green flooring, paint and appliances. Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) cleverly invented solar panels in the shape of artificial plants. The solar cell modules resemble a normal plant exactly and are incorporated with solar panel technology to tap the sun’s energy during the day time. 


Solar paint, an environmentally-friendly solar cell technology invented by Professor Paul Dastoor, a Professor of Physics at the University of Newcastle, Australia, will hopefully in the not too distant future become available globally. 


At the core of the invention are semi-conducting plastic materials dispersed in water to produce a coating containing cells that are capable of capturing solar energy and generating “clean” electricity. Initially, the coating will be attached to plastic sheets that will be attached to the roofs of houses, with the long term vision to simply have a paint that can be applied to a variety of large surfaces to harness solar energy. 

What sounds like science fiction will soon become science fact.


Eco-friendly lighting 


Incandescent light bulbs turn only about 10% of the energy they consume into actual emitted light. The remaining 90% of energy used is wasted as heat. Fortunately consumers are making a conscious shift to sourcing and implementing more efficient, energy saving lighting alternatives such as LED, Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs),Occupancy or Daylight Sensors and non-toxic copper light fixtures which are 100% recyclable and incredibly durable. 

Lighting is complex. To really achieve your maximum saving capacity in your home or building you need the expertise of a good lighting consultant.


Smaller homes


Large, expensive homes are giving way to smaller energy-saving eco-friendly homes with a smaller footprint, literally and figuratively speaking. Smaller homes cost less to heat and cool, with research indicating that over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions during a home’s 70-year life occur during occupancy and can be attributed to electricity and fuel consumption.


Smaller homes are becoming more open plan, which will introduce more natural light. Less walls translates into less electricity usage during the day. 


Post script


“What we take for granted might not be here for our children,” is a legendary quote from the book “An Inconvenient Truth”, by environmental capitalist and former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore.  


According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings account for 30 to 40% of energy use worldwide. Using green and environmentally considerate building materials and products promotes the preservation of our declining and valuable non-renewable resources. In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impact associated with their construction, saving our planet for the enjoyment of our children, and theirs, in turn.

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