Best Sustainable Building Materials That Are Transforming Construction
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Sustainability is a word that is lately often heard in terms of green or eco-friendly living. But what does it actually mean? We have all heard it at some point or the other, especially if we are becoming more interested in a sustainable way of life.
The main principle of sustainability is taking care ofnatural resources. It also means the ability to create, have and maintain something for a long time.When talking about construction, sustainability means using natural, reclaimed or recycled materials that don’t harm the environment and can last longer.
Let’s look at some of the best green building materials that have become increasingly popular:
Rammed earth: What can be more natural or easier to obtain than earth from the ground? It can be found literallyeverywhere, it is free, and it is one of the oldest building materials, used for thousands of years.
To be used as a building material for walls, the dirt first needs to be tamped down very tightly intoplywood forms. Thisis usually done manually, but with the development of the construction industry, there are now pneumatic tampers making the job much easier.
Image courtesy of Moshirah at Wikimedia Commons, published under CC-BY 3.0
Among the many benefits, one of the most significant is a great thermal mass that rammed earth walls have. This means that they store heat very successfully and keep the indoors warm during cold periods, as well as nice and cool when it is hot outside. They are very sturdy, durable and non-combustible.
2. Reclaimed wood: Wood has many advantages over some more common building materials, such as concrete or steel. With reclaimed wood, construction is going even further when it comes to sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
Reclaimed wood is any kind of wood or lumber that is salvaged from demolitions and then reprocessed for new purposes. Using it is more environmentally friendly because it decreases the need to cut new, fresh trees and therefore helps preserve forests, as well as natural habitats of different plants and animals.
When it comes to its benefits as a building material, old, reclaimed wood is much stronger and more durable than new, fresh lumber. It has already been exposed to different kinds of weather and changes in humidity, which makes it more stable when it comes to contraction and expansion, and more capable of handling the wear and tear.
3. Straw bales: Houses and walls built from straw bales can be much stronger than you would first imagine. They are a byproduct of harvesting grain such as rice or wheat, a waste that would otherwise be disposedof.
Straw can, therefore, be bailed and conserved to be used as a building material. If kept properly dry, it can last more than any other material. Straw bales function as great insulation, they are natural, affordable, they can be found locally, and, above all, they are a sustainable building solution and a renewable resource.
4. Sustainable concrete: Concrete is the most common building material and can be found in almost any building. It is not a very environmentally friendly material due to its high CO2 emissions.
Precisely due its common occurrence and usage, new developments have been made to make concrete more sustainable. It can be mixed with different recycled and sustainable materials, such as crushed glass, wood chips or slag. These materials would otherwise go to waste, and in this case, they can reduce carbon emissions in concrete and reduce its impact on the environment.
5. Wool bricks: Wool bricks are a zero-carbon, energy saving product. They are not made by firing, as the traditional bricks, but they are naturally dried. This means that already in its production phases, a wool brick creates less or no pollution and has little impact on the environment. Apart from that, they are manufactured using locally-sourced products.
The regular clay used for bricks is combined with wool fibers and a natural polymer extracted from seaweed, which makes wool bricks much stronger than regular bricks. They will not crack or warp easily and can withstand wet and cold climates better.
Image courtesy of Carmen Galán and Carlos Rivera, Study conducted by University of Seville and Glasgow's University of Strathclyde
6. Solar tiles: New developments have been made in the roofing material sector as well. By combining roof tiles and solar power, the idea of solar tiles has now emerged.
These tiles would be installed just like the regular ones, except they would have the function of solar units, or solar panels traditionally installed on top of your roof. Apart from protecting you from the elements, this kind of roof would also generate power.
The construction industry is one where changes don’t occur too often or too quickly. However, there are always new developments and constructions manage to keep up. These new changes in recent times almost always include sustainability and eco-friendly practices that strive to alleviate problems related to changes in the Earth’s climate.
By using natural, recycled, reclaimed and sustainable building materials construction is taking steps to act responsibly and decrease the carbon footprint on the environment.
Short bio: Mattea Jacobs is a freelance writer who mostly writes aboutboth interior and exterior home design, and environmentally-friendly ways to improve homes. Sheis also a green activist, and a mother of two beautiful sons. You can reach her on Facebook and Instagram.
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