Sustainable Materials in Construction
Sustainability in construction means using natural materials that are locally available, use less energy to produce, help conserve energy when used instead of other materials, and emit low to no volatile organic compounds or VOCs. They seem like a tall order, but with more awareness that these products exist, builders are realizing that everyone truly benefits from their use.
A Few Examples of Sustainable Building Materials
Some examples of more mainstream sustainable products include bamboo flooring, low-flow toilets, on-demand water heaters, natural fiber floor coverings, rammed earth walls and programmable thermostats. Other materials include the following:
Bricks have been used in building for more than 6,000 years. It comes from the earth and therefore is about as natural as it gets, but over the years, the binding agent used in the clay mixture can create some difficulties in the drying process. Adding wool to the clay instead of a synthetic binder helps the bricks become more water resistant and more durable than traditional bricks. It’s a natural and non-toxic recipe, and uses local materials. It also reduces the amount of energy required to dry and fire the bricks.
Humans have used concrete for more than 5,000 years, but the new aggregate can create more CO2 emissions. Sustainable concrete can use slag (created during the steel manufacturing process), crushed concrete, wood chips or even crushed glass. By using products that may have gone to a landfill, new concrete mixtures are helping re-use and repurpose previously discarded materials.
Paper has been around since the time of the Egyptians. It’s a natural material that comes from trees and cotton. Although it can be found in-between the floor joists of old houses as an insulator, it wasn’t thought to have a superior R-factor. Until recently. Paper and cardboard waste are ground up with borax, calcium carbonate and boric acid, making the new insulation bug resistant, fire retardant and a great alternative to spray foams. The spray-in paper formula can be used in place of the spray foam, and has no associated allergen triggers.
Another, less obvious way to increase the sustainability of your remodel or new build is to use local materials. You’ll reduce the amount of energy required to get the products to your construction site, and you may save a little money on the shipping charges, too.
Overall, sustainability isn’t about exotic materials. It’s using the ones we have more responsibly, and tapping our local resources. It’s about creating home and work spaces that are comfortable for generations to come.