Oct 1, 2015

The construction industry looks to renewable energy and sustainability

Adam Groff
3 min
Renewable energy is changing the environment for the better and, as a result, construction companies across the country are jumping on the renewable...

Renewable energy is changing the environment for the better and, as a result, construction companies across the country are jumping on the renewable bandwagon. That's right: The U.S. construction industry is setting its sights on renewable building practices.

RELATED: The science of new and old energy, part 3: renewables

From the production of materials to the building process itself, the construction industry is responsible for a large part of energy consumption: According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy, the country's building sector is responsible for 40 percent of primary energy consumption.

That's more than 97 quads of energy that's consumed each year due to construction taking place in the United States.

To put that number into perspective, 97 quads are 19 percent of worldwide energy consumption. Furthermore, in terms of commercial construction, roughly 90 percent of all energy used during the lifespan of a building goes to its operation and utilities.

RELATED: How energy-conscious homeowners can receive incentives from utility companies

To offset these numbers and create more environmentally-friendly building practices, construction companies across the country are turning to renewable energy.

Energy-efficient designs
Renewable energy in the world of construction starts with the design process. Architects are designing energy efficient homes and commercial structures that have sustainability in mind.

From structures that take advantage of natural light to renewable energy features such as rooftop solar panels, smart windows that block out UV rays, and ultra-energy-efficient HVAC systems and water heaters, architects are going the extra mile with their renewable energy building designs.

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Low-impact building materials
As mentioned before, the manufacturing of construction materials makes up a large part of the energy consumption equation. The U.S. construction industry is looking to reduce the amount of energy that goes into each building project by using low-impact building materials.

In the article appropriately titled, Thought leader series: Renewable energy and its effect on the construction industry, Kim Parr discusses the fact that green construction is no longer a niche market: As a result, manufacturers are setting their sights on building materials that don't take much energy to produce or deliver.

RELATED: Top 10 sustainable buildings in the world

Recycled and repurposed building materials such blown paper insulation and locally sourced composite lumber are great examples of low-impact building materials.

In addition, modular building is also helping to reduce the waste and transportation associated with energy consumption in the construction industry.

RELATED: 3 Things to learn from award-winning company American Waste Control

Updated building standards
The construction industry has changed immensely over the past few decades and with change comes new building standards.

Such is the case with LEED certified structures. LEED certification, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ensures all building practices use efficient resources and are environmentally responsible.

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LEED certification was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is growing in popularity across communities nationwide.

In addtion, the Associated General Contractors of America Environmental Services holds a Contractors Environmental Conference each year to educate construction companies about renewable and earth-friendly building practices.

RELATED: How Hexocover is bringing renewable energy to mining and solving the water shortage

When it comes to energy-conscious construction, it's plain to see that construction companies nationwide are concentrating on renewable energy and sustainability.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including construction and the environment.


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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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