Urbanised designs of the future - the eco-friendly movement

Richard Walker, marketing manager at waste management and recycling company, Reconomy.

In order to reduce future carbon emissions, buildings need to be designed and built with eco-friendly designs and construction methods in place from the outset, says Richard Walker

As we build public infrastructures that will take us into the future and drive our economic and cultural lives forward, year on year, our consumption of oil draws us closer to our peak-capacity, which will become a reality in the next 20 years or so. 

However, demand continually appears to rise as the global production of oil decreases. This is why in the future, town planning, city developments, and public spaces will all need to be considered with eco-friendly designs and construction methods in place. 

Surprisingly, within the UK, 50% of all carbon emissions produced by machinery and production are accounted for by the construction industry, which will directly impact the way urban designs and town planning initiatives are considered in the future.

If we are to reduce our carbon emissions in the future, then plans need to be put in place that utilise environmentally materials after they are built, whilst using practices that benefit the environment whilst town planning is finished and construction begins. 

Attitudes are, however, beginning to change when fossil fuels are considered, even though this is a slow and gradual process. Post-construction, urban designers are now encouraged to incorporate green technologies within the build to benefit the environment and the people that live within these urban public spaces. 

Waste management and recycling company Reconomy is helping town planners, urban developers, and the construction industry to become more environmentally friendly.

Before a new urban design or public space can be considered, three benchmarks should be considered. 

  1. Establishing whether materials have been locally sourced or if they’re renewed; if they aren’t, can they be recycled in the future within another design?
  2. Once a design has been implemented and construction begins, is there energy being wasted by machines within the process? Electric vehicles and machines with hybrid-engines should be used so that when a motor is being overworked an electric engine can be engaged to cope with the load. Similarly, can towns and public spaces accommodate electric forms of public transport, or cycle paths and walkways?
  3. Finally, once the building of an urban structure or space is complete, is there any energy generated within it that is wasted?

Instead of purpose-built insulation that is used within any public building, recycled paper can be used as a cost-effective, environmentally beneficial alternative. By using a cheaper and practical alternative, the cost of producing insulation for one roof will be minimised drastically by using already existing materials. 

During the planning stages of urban development, locally sourced timbers should be considered for the exterior of a building, which helps the local environment as well as new developments that are greener in their design. As well as reclaimed wood, this is an alternative to chopping down trees that are used within construction. 

Implementing green processes within design implementation

Eco-friendly techniques and practices can be utilised and implemented in many different ways. Here are some of the best examples:

  • Solar energy panels. To generate electricity within a building, or domestically to power boilers and other electrical equipment, solar energy is fast become a cheaper alternative to other forms of domestic power.
  • Drainage systems and water filtration. With these systems in place, water can be re-used when biological waste is treated safely, which can then be recycled. Rainwater can also be collected in specific drains and storage taps, as opposed to always relying on water from a tap. 
  • Low-energy lighting. Accounting for an energy saving of 100%, low energy lighting lasts twice as long as a regular lightbulb. 

The benefits of environmentally practices

Within any infrastructure, operation and maintenance costs account for 80% of a building design’s overall costs. Green initiatives reduce the total running costs of a building by one third, which amounts to around 53.3% of a building’s running costs. 

In order to save on electricity costs, daylight should always be incorporated into a building’s design. The ‘indoor environment quality’ of a building can also be improved when daylight can shine through a building, which benefits the health of all of the occupants of the building. 

If recycled and recyclable materials are used throughout the construction stage once a building or infrastructure has been designed, fewer new materials will be used within the structure, helping to reduce costs whilst less energy is consumed (from crude oils) in order to produce the structure. 

Environmentally friendly design techniques alone won’t solve the problem of climate change and reverse its effects, but it will slow-down the rate of climate change, whilst using materials and practices that aim to benefit the natural world around us. The end goal for the construction industry then should be to produce homes and buildings that are greener, economically efficient and conceptualised with the environment in mind. 

Richard Walker is the marketing manager at waste management and recycling company, Reconomy.