Many architecture firms are embracing the concept of “sustainable architecture,” defined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as “architecture that performs to its highest design potential: producing not consuming, providing resilient structures and communities, and fostering opportunities for health and well-being.” In fact, 9 out of 10 architects consider sustainability when specifying products and materials, according to findings from a 2016 survey conducted by ACC and AIA.
So how can products and materials made possible by chemistry enhance a building’s sustainability?
- Energy-efficiency: Plastics products used in roofing, insulation, exterior claddings and windows in the United States can save up to 467.2 trillion BTUs of energy per year, enough to power 4.6 million homes annually. Spray foam insulation installed between the walls of a building prevent cold air from coming in and heat from escaping during the colder months. In fact, building insulation made from chemical ingredients help save up to 40 times the energy used to create it, and plastic house wrap that creates a weather-resistant barrier saves up to 360 times the energy used to produce it.
- Durability: Pipes made from plastics materials, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), crosslinked polyethylene (PEX), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP), among others, have a low likelihood of corrosion or of being affected by freezing or thaw impacts, minimizing leaks and breaks and associated maintenance and costs. Plastic pipes also won’t degrade with exposure to water purification chemicals and they resist mineral build-up.
- Resource Conservation: Structural composite lumber, created by layering dried wood strands or flakes with a moisture-resistant chemical adhesive, can be used in rafters, beams and floor joists. Architecturally sound structural wood products also make use of recovered wood waste that would otherwise be burned or disposed of in a landfill.