7 Green Construction Mistakes to Avoid

Implementing renewables early in the construction process

Green construction is the next great commercial real estate boon waiting to happen in cities across the United States.

As the world has witnessed the precarious position of the energy sector through conflicts and government policy, going green can make businesses less dependent on the energy grid and traditional fuel sources for energy. 

In addition, as building materials rise in price, the need to remodel and reuse existing buildings in a green way could yield greater profits by reducing costs and improving ESG scores. 

However, green construction or energy efficiency construction requires more significant consideration than most people provide. For example, recycling building materials, sourcing local materials, and using facade buildings to reduce heating costs are excellent examples of green construction, often overlooked. 

Furthermore, accomplishing a net-zero or green building requires businesses to plan thoroughly ahead to account for every variable. Check out this list for common green building mistakes that engineers and builders frequently make so you can be best prepared to plan for a green or zero energy building. 

1. Not Recycling Materials

One of the largest sources of pollution is the embodied carbon footprint of building materials. Embodied carbon includes the pollution and ecological disruption required to harvest, build, and transport building materials. 

According to this Embodied Carbon in Building Materials for Real Estate report, 80% of all embodied carbon pollution comes from structural materials. The biggest sources of embodied carbon include refined concrete, aluminum, and plastics. 

Unfortunately, most builders overlook or don’t factor in embodied carbon in their projects. 

To cut down on embodied carbon, consider using these building materials:

  • Recycled concrete
  • Timber
  • Any recycled metal
  • Carbon sink materials (sourced from wood)
  • Green tiles manufactured from recycled glass
  • Low-carbon bricks

In addition, many cut materials like wood, aluminum, concrete, etc. can be recycled or actively reused in building projects without purchasing new materials. Inspect construction floors for waste materials and actively recycle or reuse these products to ensure they are properly utilized. 

Finally, one way to cut down on embodied carbon is to source local materials. For example, the United States is one of the biggest timber suppliers. Sourcing local timber helps cut down on transportation costs and having to source new materials. 

Many companies also specialize in salvaged building materials and sell them to builders at a low cost. 

2. Failing to Use Eco-Friendly Materials

Similarly, using eco-friendly materials helps cut down on embodied carbon and pollution. 

For example, several eco-friendly refrigerants, including Isobutane and Isopropane, are environmentally friendly and support clean air quality. 

In the same vein, utilize products with low off-gassing and low amounts of pollution that improve air quality and emissions. 

Furthermore, pair up eco-friendly products with eco-friendly equipment, such as EnergyStar appliances and HVAC systems. 

While many builders focus solely on the appliances, many don’t think about the physical materials that produce emissions and affect air quality. 

3. Poor Insulation

However, if you want your HVAC system to work its best, you need to ensure that all buildings are properly insulated. Fortunately, most modern builders and city codes require extensive insulation between walls, floors, and all places they can be installed in a home or commercial building. 

However, most modern builders and contractors still rely on old fiberglass insulation, which is inefficient and can even cause moisture to build up in applied areas.

Use eco-friendly insulation materials, such as foam, spray foam, shredded denim, cellulose, ThermaCork, and sheep’s wool. Be sure to search for formaldehyde-free insulation options and recycled insulation materials, such as denim and cellulose. 

Furthermore, seal off any holes, weatherstrip all available doorways and windows, and ensure that no heat or air is escaping. Proper insulation will cut down on future energy demands and make buildings significantly more energy efficient. 

4. Failing to Use Natural Ventilation

However, while heating is half of the battle, many builders often overlook ventilation to provide homes and buildings with fresh air. In fact, natural ventilation is required for LEED and LBC certification.

Providing natural ventilation starts in the preconstruction phase to design passive vents that use natural wind patterns to supply fresh air to the buildings. 

When combined with technology like facade buildings, these can save builders significant energy costs and usage over time. 

5. Not Using Green Power

While you can technically define any energy-efficient building as green, you can’t define it as zero energy unless it employs renewables. It’s a distinction we often find people miss when it comes to constructing carbon-neutral buildings. 

Implementing renewables early in the construction process can help builders achieve a zero energy building without any emissions. 

There are several ways to implement renewables into a new building, including:

  • Solar panels
  • Geothermal pumps
  • Biomass HVAC systems 

In addition, builders could purchase RECs, EEM loans, or green energy directly, if other options are unavailable. 

6. Overcomplicating Your Design

Perhaps the biggest mistake builders commit is building too big of a building. Ultimately, the bigger the building, the more carbon emissions.

First, paying to heat and cool unoccupied rooms is a waste of energy and costly. 

Secondly, while a lot of these tips can help mitigate emissions, building a multi-story building for commercial businesses will be impossible to keep energy neutral. Overall, you will have to rely on fuel from the grid, including natural gas, to power a massive commercial-sized building without jacking up costs. 

Thirdly, complicated building architectures can be difficult to properly install ductwork and HVAC systems that ensure the lowest possible power usage. 

Finally, we often find builders building new construction homes and commercial buildings in areas with existing buildings that are in disrepair. We often recommend builders consider reusing existing real estate to help cut down on building materials and to recycle land space for a better purpose. 

7. Not Seeking Proper Advice 

Last but not least, all builders should seek advice and professional assistance when constructing a zero energy or green building. 

Green construction requires advanced planning and the assistance of a qualified environmental and engineering consultant. These consultants will help you plan everything from where your windows should face to providing you with guidance on the best practices to reduce carbon and embodied carbon emissions. 

At Path Light Pro, we have over 15 years of experience working with builders and construction companies to save them money on energy and comply with local and federal regulations.

To learn more about how Path Light Pro can help your green construction project, contact us at (407) 604-3555 or toll-free at 844-500-PATH to speak to a representative.