10 materials ready to make building homes more sustainable

Photo: istockphoto.com

Not only is sustainability trending, but it’s becoming more and more critical as climate change and other environmental issues take hold more widely. You can make a difference by choosing sustainable building materials for your home, whether you’re building or renovating.

While many choose sustainable building materials to minimize impact on the environment and human health, there are several considerations when selecting an eco-friendly product. Whether or not it is responsibly sourced, energy efficient, contributes to minimal or zero carbon emissions, reduces waste, is made from renewable or recycled materials, non-toxic, reusable and/or recyclable, biodegradable and sustainable, it affects the impact of the construction product on the planet.

Here are some sustainable building materials to explore and consider including in your next home project.

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1. Hempcrete

durable hemp concrete building materials

Photo: Romancito77 via Wikimedia Commons

Looking for a durable insulation option for your home? Hempcrete is a vegetable product made up of sand, hemp fibers and lime. It is breathable, lightweight, durable, flame retardant, pest resistant, and resistant to cracking and shrinking. It also helps absorb carbon dioxide during the curing process. In addition, carbon dioxide is absorbed and compensated during the life cycle of the hemp plant.

The product is available in two forms: as pre-cured insulating blocks or cast in place, which involves the use of formwork panels to create walls. Ideal in most climates, hempcrete can be purchased from Hempimagecture as well as other companies that have started manufacturing the material.

2. By blocks

sustainable building materials

Photo: byfusion.com

ByBlocks is the first construction-grade building material developed entirely from recycled (and often non-recyclable) plastic waste. A single ByBlock is made from 22 pounds of plastic, keeping that waste out of landfills. They can be used in place of concrete blocks and are ideal for retaining walls, noise barriers, sheds, privacy fences, landscaping, accent walls and furniture.

These blocks have many advantages: water resistance, resistance to cracking under high pressure and 41% less greenhouse gas emissions than concrete blocks. Plus, they don’t require glue or adhesives and are created using a zero-waste process. ByBlocks can be purchased from the manufacturer ByFusion.

3. Solid wood

durable solid wood building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

Following changes in building codes, solid wood (short for hardwood) is gaining traction in the United States and could have a significant impact on the building industry by reducing carbon emissions, especially when paired with responsible forestry practices. Solid wood consists of thick layers of wood compressed to form large structural panels, posts or beams for construction.

The result is an exceptionally strong, versatile and load-bearing material that can be used for the construction of walls, floors and roofs. Solid wood is advantageous because it weighs much less than concrete and steel but serves the same purpose. Finally, solid wood construction is more efficient and less wasteful; it can reduce on-site waste and use wood that would otherwise be thrown away.

4. Solar shingles

sustainable building materials

Photo: gaf.energy

Thinking of going solar? Technology has improved, making solar easier to install and maintain. GAF Energy now offers a new Timberline Solar roofing system consisting of shingles rather than heavy panels or tiles. They are sleeker and offer a more traditional appeal as their design blends in with the aesthetics of the home. The company calls it a solar shingle – a marriage of solar power and roofing.

GAF’s solar shingles are water resistant, strong and guaranteed to withstand winds of up to 130 mph. The other huge advantage is that you can use the same installer for both. If you’re ready to invest in solar power and save on your energy bills over time, consider GAF Energy Solar Shingles.

RELATED: 12 Solar-Powered Products to Start Your Year Sustainably

5. Bamboo

sustainable building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

A more widely known trend in sustainable building materials is bamboo, which is mainly used for flooring, but also for wall coverings and countertops. Once installed, it looks like traditional wood. It is also a biodegradable and sustainable material since bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world.

When you choose bamboo for flooring or other surfaces, you are helping to slow the rate of deforestation. While traditional timber has a harvest cycle of at least 25 years, bamboo’s cycle is only 3 years. Bamboo is also affordable, durable and easy to install.

6. Ash concrete

sustainable building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

Ash is an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete made from approximately 97% recycled materials. It consists of fly ash and bottom ash (by-products of coal combustion) and borate, a chemical from the chlorine family.

However, Ashcrete is actually stronger and more durable than regular concrete due to its smaller pores. Additional advantages include high resistance to acid, fire and temperature changes. It also saves water, as it requires less water during the curing process.

7. Smart glass windows

sustainable building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

Replacing your windows with an eco-friendly option like smart glass can help make your home more comfortable and save money over time. Most often used in commercial and industrial construction, smart glass is similar to photochromic or light-adaptive eyeglass lenses that are clear indoors and darken automatically when exposed to sunlight.

Smart glass windows have the ability to change their heating properties based on the amount of light passing through them. Companies such as SageGlass have developed electrochromic coatings that use low voltage electricity to darken windows during hot summer months to reduce the amount of air conditioning needed to cool a building. On the other hand, the windows can be switched to transparency during the winter months to let in more light and heat.

8. Cork

sustainable building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cork is another green option with great potential for use in the construction industry. It is a renewable material that is harvested from cork oak trees that can be obtained sustainably and ethically. No tree needs to be cut down to produce it since it is made by peeling the bark off the tree by hand.

Currently, cork is generally used for flooring, with the possibility of future uses in the years to come. When it comes to usability, there are several advantages. It is an effective and affordable insulation that is comfortable, durable, naturally mold and mildew resistant, hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. Plus, it’s easy to install, maintain, and repair.

9. Logwood

sustainable building materials

Photo: journalwood.com

log wood is an advanced material actually reverses the process of paper production by transforming paper, which would otherwise end up as waste, into a material that resembles wood.

Developed using a special lamination technique and solvent-free glue to create planks, Logwood can be made into furniture and cabinetry. It can be produced in a variety of thicknesses for a range of uses, from thin to thick. Logwood is waterproof, fireproof, and 100% recyclable and biodegradable. It can be sawn, sanded and finished with wax, oil, paint or varnish.

10. Herbal Rigid Foam

sustainable building materials

Photo: istockphoto.com

The rigid foams used in many building materials are generally made from petroleum-based products which are not environmentally friendly. But now we have a better option: plant-based rigid foam. This new generation of environmentally friendly foams can be produced from a variety of components, such as hemp, bamboo and kelp or from biopolymers containing less carbon dioxide such as ethylene vinyl alcohol, polyvinyl alcohol, polysaccharide and starch.

These vegetable mosses are generally used for insulation, thermal barriers and floor coverings. They are durable, energy efficient, effective at minimizing noise and naturally resistant to heat, humidity, mold and pests. Given their natural and non-toxic composition, they are also better for our health.

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