To trace the start of the story for eco construction, or green building, we need to go all the way back to the 1970s. Although it seems like a relatively modern development, the concept of eco construction was really created in the 70s in response to the growing crisis over dwindling natural resources (especially fossil fuels) and environmental concerns. Back then, housing developers identified the need to save energy in the home and reduce environmental problems. This thought process started a ripple of innovation in eco construction that has continued through to what we recognise as green building today.
Eco construction is not really that easy to define or classify. Rather than being a method of construction itself, eco construction is a terms used to describe a variety of green building techniques and systems. Generally speaking, eco homes or buildings are situated, designed, constructed, refurbished, and run to energy efficiency guidelines. To be classed as an eco construction, a building will have the intention of impacting positively on the environment, economy, and community over its lifetime.
Although eco construction took off in the 1990s, to this day eco construction specifications are still in the process of being formalised into UK legislation and building regulation. Although not yet the law, eco construction provides good practice guidelines for new home developers. The Government also actively promotes eco construction in response to targets set by The Code for Sustainable Homes.
There are an ever evolving number of eco construction methods. Most have evolved from their traditional forerunners. For example, the materials used in eco construction have progressed into insulated panels from traditional masonry and timber frame construction. These new materials help to better insulate buildings, meaning you need less energy to heat them, reducing the carbon emissions produced from energy consumption.
Eco construction is not just about using new and innovative building materials – it’s about recycling old ones. And the idea of reusing and reclaiming building supplies isn’t a new one either. Remember the original 1970s recycling heroes: the Wombles?
In the past, eco construction has typically been a bit piecemeal. Concepts were used for their individual benefits. Today, eco construction requires a holistic approach. Builders, architects, and designers must think creatively about each component of the modern eco home in relation to the building as a whole. They also need to consider the wider social and economic impacts of the development.
Although it’s been around for 40 years in some form or another, eco construction is still pretty much in its infancy. But it is also one of the UK’s fastest growing trades. In a time of increasing energy prices and CO2 emissions, and decreasing levels of health, it seems that eco construction and greener homes are here to stay.
This is a post from James Mechan, a freelance writer for What House. James has a keen interest in new eco builds and how they can improve our environment.