Housing and sustainability. The construction boom in Spain

Housing and sustainability. The construction boom in Spain

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By Javier Unceta Morales

For better and for worse, it seems that today's business in this country is building more and more homes. Not only the usual professionals aim at this activity; more and more fans appear, who appear when you listen to them, who have dominated the trade all their lives.

For better and for worse, it seems that today's business in this country is building more and more homes. Not only the usual professionals aim at this activity; more and more fans appear, who appear when you listen to them, who have dominated the trade all their lives. This building fever has made Spain today the first country in Europe in terms of the constructed area of ​​houses.

I say for the worse, because it seems to me that this activity is driven by an overwhelmed lucrative spirit, which is causing highly speculative movements. Ultimately, this situation determines that a fixed asset becomes a disorderly investment and business element, with sales prices so excessive that this essential asset is totally out of the economic possibilities of those who really need it.

But I also say that for the better, because it is desirable that there is more supply of social housing to live in, and because we are facing an excellent opportunity worth taking advantage of that the environment will appreciate. Construction covers with greater or lesser influence almost all the productive processes of the country. Within construction, housing is the most important section. As such a large-scale industrial process, its influence on the environment is enormous.

Therefore, we are facing a magnificent opportunity to create sustainable architecture in this immense market.

I am only going to present a list of ideas, with the hope that those who take themselves for granted or implied, apply them within their possibilities. I am referring to a large number of people: public administrations, professionals and workers in construction and urban planning, developers and builders, extractive companies and manufacturers of materials and systems used in construction, transport, home users ...

- Project an architecture that respects the environment, from all aspects: visual, energetic, social, economic. Let's call it bioclimatic, sustainable, ecological, “bio…” architecture, whatever we want, but let it be truly environmental.

- Design the buildings with the optimal orientation; correct location; consistent shape and layout; special treatment of the building envelope, with an impact on inertia, insulation and the arrangement and size of the gaps, so that it results in a minimum need for energy consumption to achieve the necessary comfort; choice of efficient and controlled air conditioning systems.

- Take advantage of the energy that nature gives us, in its various renewable forms, to apply them to the construction of houses: the sun, to heat it in winter, the air and shade, to cool it in summer, natural light at any time, the topographic environment, the surrounding plants as moderators and regulators of thermal comfort, as well as the bodies of water. Spain is a country with a notable amount of solar energy, but precarious in terms of conventional energy. And it is that those renewable energies that we must take advantage of are clean energies. To promote its use is to reduce that of conventional energies, especially fossil fuels, which are polluting. Apart from the direct use of renewable energies, the technologies that allow greater efficiency are usually simple and of limited cost.

- Incorporation of limited consumption systems in homes. I am referring to electrical appliances and lighting systems, which are efficient and energy and water saving.

- Systems that save water consumption and recycle it. More and more mechanisms are available that reduce the flow of water in taps, cisterns, without compromising comfort. Rainwater can also be used in many buildings. And it does not suppose a considerable incidence to have a separative network of gray and fecal waters, that allows to recycle and reuse the former, as well as biological purification of these waters.

- Control systems for the operation of energy and water installations to enhance their efficiency.

- The house generates a significant volume of waste. It is necessary and a simple process to get used to the selection of garbage for recycling.

- Prior to the actions in housing, it is necessary to plan an urban planning consistent with the natural system, which allows establishing on a large scale the benefits that will later be applied to the houses and their surroundings. It should also be borne in mind that future users of a new site will need transport. Transportation is a system with a great impact. On the other hand, urbanized spaces, outside the buildings, must also be subject to the application of ecological criteria, in terms of vegetation planning, which requires little consumption of irrigation water, as well as the use of source water. recycling.

- Use of healthy materials and construction systems, both for the health of users and the environment, due to their life cycle of minimal environmental impact throughout their useful life, that is, from the moment the raw material is extracted to the building is demolished and the material becomes waste. Use of ecological materials, low environmental impact, recycled. If possible, with environmental certification.

- In the construction process of the works, cleanliness must be maintained on site, minimizing impacts such as dust, dirt and noise; selection and recycling of the immense amount of waste and rubble, especially in demolition works.

- Developers, public and private, have to put efficient housing on the market. In a process that should not be delayed in time, the buildings will have an energy rating and certification.

- The various administrations must gradually regulate the regulatory aspect so that the building is directed along these paths.

- Users have to know what to demand when buying a home. Information is missing but no desire to demand the product

As it can be concluded, there are many of us who are involved in this exciting process, and we have to be willing to collaborate to the extent that each of us can.

I do not want to forget two other groups that I also want to involve, which are the education systems and the information and communication media. The former have a fundamental task from the earliest childhood; the second, to reach all areas of society.

Ecodes -Ecology and Development Foundation

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