6 Innovations From Around the World That Can Make Structures More Climate Change Resilient

6 Innovations From Around the World That Can Make Structures More Climate Change Resilient

March 20, 2024
6 Innovations From Around the World That Can Make Structures More Climate Change Resilient

From carbon emissions to deforestation, humans continue to negatively impact the environment. To limit the amount of harm in the construction industry, some innovators are developing green building practices that either have a neutral or positive impact on the planet. These sustainable construction methods range from using recycled materials to keep waste out of landfills to installing solar windows and panels on buildings. 

However, there are ingenious practices around the world that have changed how buildings are made. The growing societal emphasis on sustainability has led to several innovations in climate change-resilient construction. Here are a few examples of green buildings from all corners of the world. 

Trombe Walls (France)

Trombe walls were first designed in 1967 as a way to use the sun’s rays to heat a home. Solar heating has existed for centuries, but this method uses physics to trap the sun’s heat and keep it within a house. Here’s how a Trombe wall works

The environmental benefit of a Trombe wall is that it heats homes without relying on electric-powered forced-air heaters or gas and wood-burning stoves. The sun naturally heats the space without impacting the environment.  

Water Harvesting Systems (Central Asia)

Central Asia has some of the driest countries on the planet. In Kazakhstan, for example, only 2.8% of the country is covered in water. A lack of access to water threatens the lives of millions of Kazakhstan residents and people in similar climates around the globe.  

Several innovators, such as SOURCE Global, are working to harvest water, with one solution using solar panels to pull water from the air. SOURCE’s solar-powered atmospheric water generator (AWG) uses a fan to pull air into a device and extract water from it. The device adds minerals to make the water taste better and improve its health benefits. 

Conversely, water harvesting in Central Asia doesn’t have to be high-tech. Farmers have been collecting rainwater for their crops for centuries and now use plastic-lined bowls for conservation. These rainwater collectors cost about four euros, making them affordable for rural farming communities.  

More than 2 billion people live in countries with high water stress, meaning they either currently face shortages or will. Water harvesting systems could become an essential part of living in dry climates.  

Green Roofs (Germany)

Heat islands occur when the sun's rays get trapped between buildings and roads because they aren’t absorbed. They are common in urban areas and can make cities feel hotter, thus driving up air conditioning use. Developers in Germany are working to prevent this phenomenon with green roofs, where they plant grass, shrubs, and flowers on top of buildings to absorb the heat. 

Building these structures isn’t as simple as hauling a few potted plants to the roof. The developers make sure the roof has great load-bearing capabilities to account for growth. There are drainage layers so water doesn’t build up. The builders even use a special root-resistant coating so the plants don’t break through the ceiling. This is a modern architectural marvel that also improves the aesthetics of German cities.  

Solar Terra Cotta Tiles (Italy)

“Terracotta” means baked earth. In Vincenza, Italy, a company is creating terracotta tiles that double as solar panels. Artisans coat the tiles in a polymer compound through which sunlight can flow and they install photovoltaic cells inside of each tile. This creates a durable, eco-friendly roofing material, and the concept can be replicated in walls and other structures.

More people are embracing terracotta in construction as a durable way to assemble buildings without importing materials or negatively impacting the environment. Terracotta tiles are affordable and resistant to temperature fluctuations. They can withstand hot summer days and cool nights.   

Evaporative Cooling (Egypt)

Evaporative cooling has its roots in ancient Egypt. People would make clay jars and fill them with water on hot days. Some of the water would evaporate, leaving cool water behind to drink. 

Modern evaporative cooling works similarly and allows people in dry areas to cool their homes. Outdoor air passes over a cool, wet pad and the moisture in the pad evaporates, cooling the air. This can reduce the air temperature by up to 40°F. The coolers also pass fresh air into the home instead of recycling the air inside. 

These systems are more efficient, lowering electricity costs while also contributing to indoor air quality. If you have poor air quality in your home because of dust or pet dander, clean air can help. 

Passive Solar (Greece)

People have used the sun’s rays to control building temperatures for centuries, but it was first documented in 4000 B.C. in China. In 500 B.C., the ancient Greeks adopted similar practices to use the sun to warm their homes while also blocking it during the hottest parts of the day. 

Today, passive solar systems look just as they did centuries ago but embrace modern technology. Windows are installed facing south to take in sun rays and heat is trapped and released based on the outside temperature. In cool months, heat is trapped during the day and released into the home at night. In warm months, heat is either reflected or trapped and released at night away from the home. 

These systems reduce the occupants’ dependency on forced-air heating and cooling systems, lowering their electricity needs.  

Best Practices for Planning Climate Change-Resilient Projects

Whether you’re investing in passive solar or unique materials, you can embrace green building practices and create more sustainable structures. Creating climate change-resilient buildings comes with different considerations and planning processes to make sure your efforts have a positive impact.   

Accounting for Local Environmental Threats

Resilient design is a major part of environmental planning. You want to invest in green solutions that reflect the opportunities and threats in your region. 

For example, residents in New Mexico and Arizona face extreme heat and little rain each year. Buildings need to be designed to stay cool so residents can use less electricity to cool their homes. This is different from threats on the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, where heat is less of an issue compared to flooding, wildfires, and rockslides. 

Consider the needs of the people you are designing for. While your customers might need construction innovations to block the heat, they can also take advantage of the sun’s rays and use solar panels instead of relying on fossil fuels. 

Sourcing Sustainable Materials 

Sustainable building materials come in different forms. The materials themselves can be sustainable — like bamboo that grows fast or Ferrock, which keeps construction materials out of landfills — and the sourcing of the materials themselves can be sustainable. 

Bamboo is a good example of knowing your materials source. You can buy bamboo from an international vendor that has to ship it across the globe or you can look for local vendors to reduce transportation emissions. There is also a different environmental impact in buying bamboo from a wild forest versus farmed bamboo. 

Green building means looking at all aspects of the construction process, from where the timber was grown to how your window selection and placement will impact the indoor temperatures. 

Planning for Material Costs 

Constructing climate change-resilient buildings may have higher material costs. You’re paying for advanced technology, sustainable materials, and local sourcing. As you evaluate your green options, make sure you’re staying within your ideal budget. 

One way to save money is to reduce waste in the materials you buy. Accurate takeoff software can help you measure exactly what you need so you aren’t left with excess materials that waste money and end up in a landfill. Quantity surveying tools can also help you better map out projects and track materials requirements. 

Investing in systems like construction takeoff software can make sustainable projects more feasible. You can eliminate waste in your spending and then reinvest your budget into greener products.

Inventors around the world are looking for clean ways to construct buildings. By investing in green practices, you can support these industries and increase demand for sustainable solutions.

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