Sustainable Construction

To be known as a sustainable building, constructions must meet various requirements, both in terms of the building itself and what takes place inside of it. The requirements used for designing Sesseljuhus are discussed here shortly. More information on sustainable constructions can be found in a book by Swedish architect Varis Bokalders, called Byggekologi (2004, translation:Building Ecology). His book is available in the library of Sesseljuhus. 

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Importance of Design
There is no single method for designing an eco-building that is applicable in all circumstances. The designers of environmentally friendly buildings must realize from the beginning of the project that it is important to protect the environment and need to think about how to minimize the negative effects buildings can have on nature. More often than not, it is most important to minimize the environmental damage to the immediate surroundings and this can vary in difficulty depending on the building function and location. Of course, the natural resources available and the wishes of the owner must also be taken into account. To optimize the relationship with nature, you need to ask the following questions;

Which resources are available in the area, and how can they be utilized? For example, can shade from surrounding trees be used to control indoor heath? Is there a natural hot water resource somewhere that can be used?  

Choosing building materials
The value and desirability of building materials depends greatly on the criteria used to judge them. When considering materials from an environmental point of view, it is important to look both at the material itself and at the production process. Raw materials retrieved from the ground or cut from a forest entail air pollution and require high amounts of energy in the production process. Some materials will also give off contaminants into the air when they are installed, or can cause damage to the environment at the end of their lives. It is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not materials are actually environmentally-friendly, and information of manufacturers can sometimes be quite biased. The following questionnaire helps to simplify the decision-making process when considering materials for sustainable building design;

  • Is the material suitable for its intended use?
  • Is the material a renewable resource?
  • Is the material used in accordance with the renewability of the resource?
  • Is the material produced domestically?
  • Is the material of good quality and high durability?
  • Is the material safe, i.e. not a health hazard?
  • Is the manufacturing of the material done in an environmentally friendly manner?
  • Is it possible to dispose of the material at end of life without causing environmental damage?
Read more about the materials used in Sesseljuhus here.
 
Conservation of natural resources
The goal in sustainable buildings is to minimize the use of energy and resources without compromising quality of life. A building’s energy and natural resource usage depends first and foremost on the lifestyle and habits of those living and/or working within it – with a little reflection and review of usage habits, changes can be made to save energy, natural resources and money.
 
bbEnergy; When it comes to energy use, a lot is dependent on the heating system of the building, and how much heat the building loses through walls, roofs, windows, etc… Conventional heating systems are not the only methods of providing space heating. Other sources include body heat, sunlight through windows, waste heat from electronic devices, or natural hot water. Architects can greatly impact the energy consumption of a building through their choice of insulation, shape of the building, and location of the windows. Sesseljuhus uses different kinds of renewable energy and heating mechanisms, more info can be found here
 
Water; While Icelanders are fortunate to have plenty of water, pumping the water around is still energy intensive, so there is no need to squander the water. With water-conserving shower heads, taps, toilets and dishwashers, it is possible to reduce household water use by half with little effort. 
 
Garbage; In today’s society there is a lot of garbage generated both from defective production methods and our wasteful consumption patterns. It is estimated that each Icelander produces 345kg of household waste per year. High costs are involved in its collection, processing and disposal, so it is therefore desirable to reduce the volume of garbage (for example by choosing products in conscientious packaging) and recycle where possible. The waste recycling system of solheimar is explained here .
 
Natural cycles  
There is constant cycling in nature of materials and energy. These cycles produce no waste or pollution and do not drain earth’s natural resources. Sustainable buildings attempt to mimic these natural processes as much as possible, using renewable energy sources both for heating and lighting. All buildings produce garbage and sewage, which can contain high amounts of organic material. This material can be returned back to nature through composting and specialized sewer systems with water treatment. More info on the organic waste handling in Sesseljuhus can be found here.
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Health
The use of various compounds harmful to nature, including the health of humans and animals, has increased enormously in the construction industry during recent decades. Some building materials give off a lot of harmful chemicals, polluting indoor air. the offenders to blame for poor indoor quality include common paints, wood finishes, adhesives and many cleansers. Overtime, buildings have also become more airtight, trapping more of these chemicals inside. And with people spending 90% of their time indoors in our western society, this polluted air can lead to deseases grouped under “sick building syndrome”, whose symptoms include headacke, irritation of eyes and nose, dizziness and nausea. It is therefore very important to take a close look at materials and their components. 
 

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