SUSTAINABILITY IN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION – WHERE DO WE FIT IN?
How does Tella Firma contribute to sustainability?
We hear a lot about sustainability throughout business, and the construction industry is no exception. As one of the largest components of the industrial sector, construction accounts for as much as 10% of the world GDP and around 12% in the U.S. At Tella Firma, we’re part of a much larger multidisciplinary industry that may have an impact on the environment. As such, the industry as a whole has both the opportunity and the responsibility to seek ways to utilize sustainable processes and minimize this impact.
Looking around the industry, there are several key areas of focus where stakeholders in the building and construction sector are beginning to make an impact in terms of sustainability: building design, use of materials, energy use, and impact on land.
In the area of design, the concept of “cradle-to-cradle” design is gaining traction, based on the principles of using materials that can later be reconstituted into other products, and designing buildings that can serve multiple purposes. For example, designs that allow for reconfiguration, that provide easy access for maintenance, and that facilitate replacement of shorter-life-span components, will support the transition from one use to the next. Cradle-to-cradle builders use production techniques that are not only efficient, but are essentially waste-free.
As construction is believed to consume about half of all resources we take from nature (including about 25% of the wood harvest), building materials are a prime focus in sustainability efforts. Solutions include not only an increased use of recycled and reclaimed materials, but also innovative efforts such as utilizing recycled construction and demolition (C&D) materials in new construction, thus avoiding the need to mine untouched resources while also eliminating the disposal of construction waste.
On a related note, the selection of materials in the building process also has an impact on energy usage. Since much of the energy used in construction relates to the production of bulk materials including steel, cement, paper, plastic and aluminum, designing buildings with alternate materials, or with more efficient use of materials, also will reduce energy consumption.
For example, the production of cement, which is indispensable for construction, accounts for about 5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Tella Firma’s process for building a slab-on-grade foundation consumes on average 25-30% less concrete than alternate methods, which not only saves money but also helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced through cement production.
The use of land has many potential effects on the environment, caused by factors including deforestation, agriculture and land development. Some types of land development, such as suburbanization, can contribute to a number of environmental concerns, including increased air pollution and the formation of urban and suburban heat islands. In addition, land pollution caused by the deposition of solid or liquid waste materials, on the land or underground, is a concern in terms of public health and longer-terms effects on the environment.
Introducing chemicals into the environment through the land is one particular area of consideration when thinking about sustainability, and Tella Firma is proud that its innovative process for building an elevated slab-on-grade foundation does not require any type of pre-treatment for the soil, such as water or chemical injections that might change the composition of the soil or harm the environment.
One thing is certain: Responsible construction and development must continue, to keep up with growth in population, communities and businesses. With Tella Firma’s green foundation solution, we’re doing our part to help the construction sector work toward a more sustainable future.