Green building and sustainability are words that remain at the forefront of conversations for many South Africans. It is a trend that has seen continuous growth within the building and construction industry and is now making a mark on the residential sector.
According to Michelle Cerruti, Head of Brand and Campaigns at Saint-Gobain, South African homeowners need to think beyond bricks and mortar and change mindsets around construction in South Africa. “Consumers are used to interiors with brick walls, yet the benefits of drywall are significant. Properly installed, good quality plasterboards are as strong and secure as brick walls, while offering better acoustic properties and flexibility to homeowners, and this is noteworthy both from a cost and comfort perspective.”
“When building or renovating homes, the comfort factor is often completely overlooked, yet it is something that should be actively addressed.”
She says while it is often believed that the building of an environmentally-friendly home is expensive, it’s worth noting that the opposite is true as the total installed cost of lightweight construction projects is similar to traditional building. It is also more sustainable as little to no water is used during the installation of drywalling.
Other advantages include speed of construction – time is money and a shorter build time can save costs. The accuracy of build means cleaner, neater and straighter building lines and translates to savings in material costs and less wastage needing to be removed off the site. Another key advantage is flexibility and ease of renovation, should the needs of the homeowner change in the future.
Within the strong focus on the sustainability of interior and exterior building and construction materials, there is a growing trend to modify the building’s structure specifically to enhance the comfort of those living or working in it. While it is being more widely embraced locally, this concept is nothing new and has been the basis of Saint-Gobain’s Multi-Comfort principles for several years.
“Most people spend the majority of their time inside buildings, so the way a building is designed and functions is crucial when it comes to health and general comfort. The Multi-Comfort concept relates to the design of living or working environments to human senses, incorporating feeling, seeing, hearing and breathing with a focus on thermal sensation, aesthetics and colours, acoustics and the quality of the air we breathe.
In an environment where consumers are faced with ever-increasing energy bills, the right thermal insulation is critical as together with other design measures, it reduces heat loss or gain, helps conserve energy required for heating and cooling thereby reducing costs.
Roof and ceiling insulation is the most effective energy saving measure as it offers the best cost/benefit ratio. Higher energy efficiency can be achieved with minimal costs which is notable as, depending on the geometry of the house, roofs and ceilings account for at least 25- 45% of heat gain or loss. Because of poorly-insulated roofs, occupants experience cold environments in winter yet a very hot interior in summer. Good roof assembly insulation ensures comfortable living all year round and has the added benefit of good sound insulation.
Homeowners should also consider exterior and interior insulation and should not ignore floors as a substantial amount of heat is lost through the foundations and floor into the ground and the surrounding atmosphere.
Along with thermal comfort, air quality is gaining more traction within the sphere of overall comfort. It’s simple – the fresher the air we breathe, the healthier we feel in the buildings in which we live, work and play. Yet we don’t often think about air quality as a factor in building design. Dust, mould and pollen can quickly reduce the quality of the air we breathe inside a building, and many everyday household products contain chemicals that can cause sensory irritation.
Good design, proper ventilation and specification of the right building materials is essential to increase the supply of fresh air in a building and to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants and odours.
“Comfort considerations should be one of the primary factors when building or renovating, and while comfort is being increasingly seen as a key priority in construction and development, there is still significant scope for this concept to be more broadly embraced. Saint-Gobain’s Multi-Comfort solutions can help to reduce building and maintenance costs and by factoring these different elements into the design and the structure of a home, we can create living spaces that truly transcend every one of the human senses,” Cerruti concludes.