There is a huge difference between natural, green and sustainable structural design. Sustainability seems to be a more popular concept in professional building circles than all the other terms put together. Whichever the case, what does the prefix ‘green’ mean? For a majority of people, green simply means the end product reduces effects on the natural resources, resulting in less wastage in the process.
A lot of the backlash against the use of the phrase green steams from the trend to promote brands and businesses as environmentally friendly, even when they are not. This is commonly referred to as ‘greenwashing’. Luckily most of the underhand tactics utilized to make businesses to appear environmentally responsible have now been stopped by international advertising standards and regulatory bodies. Nevertheless, it appears that genuine green building construction companies in Hawaii prefer to promote their constructions as sustainable these days than just being green.
What does natural building entail?
Natural building largely focuses on utilization of local resources to negate the environmental effects of a structure. These resources include the surrounding ecology and geological factors. The utilization of plentiful of materials that haven’t been treated with synthetic chemicals is normally the key to minimizing the ecological effects. This simply means that most of the buildings are informed by historic processes of building. As such, natural or green building tends to heavily relay on human labor, more so than cutting edge technology.
The most commonly used natural building materials are such as locally sourced wood, sand, renewable wood, clay and stone. To create a more resilient structure, these materials are simply combined. For example, earthen architecture is one the oldest options where sustainable constructions are concerned. Adobe, rammed earth and cob are good examples of earthen architecture building techniques.
How does sustainable architecture compare to natural (green) building?
Sustainability as a concept can often be muddled and contradictory. To be sustainable is to be aware of the long-standing impacts on what is being done on your environment and the future. Simply put, to sustain isn’t to over-reach but to endure. So we can comfortably say that sustainability is about as much as being green. Nevertheless, a structure can claim to be sustainable without being truly environmentally sustainable. If a given building is energy efficient, then it can be argued that the structure is reasonably sustainable. As a matter of fact, energy efficiency has become the prevailing consideration for most of sustainable architecture.
Are there energy efficient buildings that aren’t green?
An architect might design a building that is fully energy efficient but that isn’t green. In this case, as sustainability assessment techniques such as passivhaus or LEED certification become more popular, the objective of most sustainable building projects have greatly shifted. The aim now is to achieve a given rating, for instance R-value, at the expense of the environment. A good example of this is the utilization of concrete as a building material. Because concrete has high thermal mass, it is quite efficient at insulating buildings and storing heat. This makes it an energy efficient building material.
Unfortunately, its production is quite energy-intensive. Concrete producing companies emit huge amounts of carbon emissions in its production and transportation. But because concrete is a resilient material, building built of it are quite long lasting. Moreover, the materials required for its repair are minimal. This all highlights how the construction material can be seen as sustainable but not necessarily green.
All in all, while some professionals might not want their projects defined as being green, others such as architects and construction engineers are not afraid to label their sustainable processes as green. By designing buildings that have a green ethos and holistic approach, architects can consider the overall effects on the environment and the climate for that matter.