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Six Elements of Building and Developing a Sustainable Community

Developing a Sustainable Community

Building a sustainable community saves money and natural resources. Sustainable communities also promote the well-being of present and future generations. The methods and materials required for sustainable development promote energy-efficiency, durability, and excellent indoor air quality. Sustainable building methods and materials also reduce their impact on the environment by limiting waste, reducing the use of natural resources, and lessening carbon dioxide emissions. Importantly, builders and developers of sustainable communities should follow current green building standards and best practices. 

Current Green Codes and Standards

Creating a sustainable community requires builders and developers to follow the most current green codes and building standards. For example, the 2018 International Green Construction Code  (IgCC) has been adopted in 14 states and provides the design and building industry a mod­el for codes and reg­u­la­tions that can deliver sustainable, resilient, high-performance buildings. These stan­dards promote sus­tain­able con­struc­tion methods and comply with the Inter­na­tion­al Code Coun­cil Fam­i­ly of Codes. 

Six Vital Features of Sustainable Communities

1. Energy-Efficiency

Sustainable community developments conserve energy and save money through energy-efficient design and the use of renewable, clean energy. Specific features of an energy-efficient sustainable community include:

  • Passive solar design involves proper site orientation of the buildings that take advantage of the sun’s energy. For example, orienting buildings north-south in the Northern hemisphere saves energy because it reduces direct sunlight in the hot summer while maximizing sunlight in the cold winter.
  • Utilizing high thermal materials, like concrete and stone, to the walls and foundations, can stabilize temperature shifts within a building by slowing the rate of heat transfer, which saves energy.
  • All buildings in sustainable communities must include continuous insulation (CI), as required by ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (2018 IECC). Proper application of CI stops thermal bridging, increases the effective R-value, and eliminates condensation. CI saves energy by reducing mechanical ventilation costs and heating and cooling expenses. 
  • Cool roofs contribute towards energy-efficiency by lessening solar heat gain. Cool Roofs reduce energy costs and improve indoor comfort by keeping the building and attic space cool. They can also lengthen the ‘roof’s service life.
  • Good cool roof products include low thermal mass materials like tiles, slate, or clay reflect the sunlight. 
  • Sustainable community should use of efficient HVAC systems, installed according to ENERGY STAR homes. 
  • Sustainable commute must also include energy-efficient appliances, electronics, and lighting. Energy-efficient HVAC, appliances, and lighting reduce a buildings energy use, emit less air pollution and increases a building’s resale value.
  • Renewable energy sources create as much energy as the community uses. Common renewable energy measures include wind system, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, small “hybrid” electric system, or microhydropower.  

2. Durability

Durable, sustainable communities strive to provide a long period of time to amortize the environmental and economic costs that were incurred during its construction. Long-lasting, durable products replacement, and maintenance costs. Elements of a durable, sustainable community include:

  • Moisture-resistant, durable products protect structures against the growth of mold, which will degrade the integrity of a building or home. 
  • Durable products must protect against thermal stress. Thermal stress may cause the material to expand and contract, which can affect the products long-term performance. Thermal stress can also degrade the performance of some products. 
  • Durable building products must be ultraviolet (UV) resistant. UV rays can degrade or damage plastics, paint, wood, and more.
  • Pest-resistant construction contributes towards durability and low maintenance. Techniques to protect buildings from termites and other pests include specialized barrier products, and insect-resistant materials, such as treated wood.
  • Designing for durability must include natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. Disaster-resistant construction protects a structure, and it’s occupants. It also lessens maintenance costs. 

3. Good Indoor Air Quality

Sustainable community development creates structures with good indoor air quality (IAQ) that ensures the health, comfort, and productivity of the building’s occupants. Building structures with good IAQ include:

  • The air-tightness of sustainable buildings may trap pollutants (like radon, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds). Therefore, these buildings should use an energy recovery ventilation system that optimizes ventilation rates for health but minimizes energy loss by transferring energy from conditioned air going out to fresh incoming air. Other useful methods of ventilation for sustainable buildings include spot ventilation, such as exhaust fans and (where possible) natural ventilation.  
  • Air and moisture-resistant exterior walls prevent the growth of unhealthy mold by stopping air and moisture infiltration and accumulation to the interior of the buildings and homes.
  • Sustainable products do not contain volatile organic compounds (VOC), chemicals, and adhesives that compromise the IAQ. 

4. Reduced Waste

Sustainable communities reduce waste by utilizing products packaged with recycled materials and electing to recycle, reuse, or compost as much construction waste as possible. 

5. Limit the Use of Natural Resources
Sustainable communities aim to reduce the use of natural resources like water. Limiting water use not only saves money but helps stop the overloading of a municipal sewer system, which can lead to untreated sewage flowing into lakes and rivers. Sustainable communities can avoid costly sewage system expansion with community-wide household water conservation. Effective measures for limiting water use include utilizing indoor and outdoor water-efficient appliances and equipment.

6. Decreased Air Pollution

Sustainable communities suppport pollution control by promoting the use of public transportation, construction sidewalks to encourage foot traffic, and supporting local food sources; all of which decrease air pollution due to emissions from trucks and cars. 

Georgetown, Texas’s Sustainable Community Uses ICF Wall System

Georgetown, Texas, 25 miles north of Austin, leads the way in the country towards developing a sustainable community. Notably, in 2017, Georgetown became the first city in the Lone Star State powered by 100 percent renewable energy.  

To help maintain this community’s sustainability efforts, builders in Georgetown are constructing new homes with ICF Wall System. An ICF wall system produces energy-efficient and durable structures that are key to sustainable community development.

  • Energy-efficient ICF Wall System( R-14) stops thermal bridging and creates a tight building envelope, compliant with the latest building codes( ASHRAE 90.1 and 2015 IECC).
  • ICF Wall system produces a durable and low-maintenance building. ICF is  Moisture- and pest-resistant. ICF Blocks also create fire- and wind-resistant structures.  
  • An ICF wall system produces excellent IAQ because it lacks VOC. Also, ICF’s ensures moisture-resistance, which prevents the growth of mold. 
  • ICF Blocks contains a minimum of 28 percent by weight recycled content.

Why Build a Sustainable Community 

Construction, designing, and developing sustainable communities require methods and materials that foster energy-efficiency, durability, and excellent IAQ. Sustainability also reduces the impact on the environment by limiting waste, lessening the use of natural resources, and carbon dioxide emissions by minimizing the transportation needs of the community.

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