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15 of the Best Sustainable Materials for Building

The world’s rapid shift towards urbanization has brought numerous unfortunate consequences such as the depletion of natural resources and climate change. One of the ways we can combat this issue is by using sustainable materials in construction.

In this article you will first learn some of the many advantages of building with sustainable materials. Next you will discover 15 of the best sustainable building materials we have today.

Advantages of Sustainable Materials

Eco-friendly building materials have increased in demand for the past few decades. More and more projects are switching to these materials because they offer better quality at a lower price. On top of that, sustainable building materials have lower carbon emissions during production and use.

Below are some of the advantages of using sustainable materials as building materials.

Increases Energy Efficiency

Buildings made from sustainable materials are specifically designed to run on low energy consumption and maximize environmental factors to reduce the cost of use, such as maximizing the use of natural lighting and increasing thermal regulation. 

In short, sustainable building materials produce more output with less effort.

Reduces Cost

An energy-efficient building using sustainable materials drastically reduces maintenance and operational costs. Throughout the lifetime of a building, 80% of its total cost is spent on maintenance, while the other 20% go on utilities, improvements, and furniture.

An energy-saving house using sustainable materials such as a solar roof and advanced water systems are durable and cost less in the way of bills and ongoing maintenance.

Improves Health

Rapid urbanization has caused the quality of air to deteriorate. Poor air quality can lead to several diseases and even cause serious illnesses. Sustainable materials help preserve good air quality in your home through technologies involving filtration, insulation, and reducing air exchange from outside to the inside.

Sustainable Construction Materials

Having a home is a basic human need. Using eco-friendly materials to built them is a great step towards living a more sustainable life.

Below are some of the best sustainable materials that are used for building. 

1. Recycled Plastic

Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year, and approximately 50% of it is for single-use purposes. Data also shows that 91% of the plastics produced every year are not recycled!

Plastic takes 1000 years to decompose, so it is a prime candidate for recycling. One of the major uses of plastics is in the emerging market of sustainable construction materials. We are now able to create a type of plastic concrete. This helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plastic bag pollution.

Plastic can also be recycled into other things like water pipes, PVC windows, or sustainable flooring materials, such as plastic foam insulations.

Plastic - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Plastic is one of our biggest waste products.

2. Recycled Wood

Wood is one of the most common renewable building materials for homes and furniture and is a great choice when it comes to cheap flooring alternatives and sustainable interior design materials. 

Unfortunately, old furniture is usually thrown away, and the same thing happens with demolished buildings – but we should reuse it. Wood holds carbon indefinitely, and materials that can hold carbon, last longer. This is why wood it can be continuously recycled even after decades of use. 

Wood - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Deforestation has shattered whole ecosystems. Let’s reuse what we already have.

3. Wool Insulation

Wool is slowly emerging as a sustainable insulation material. Unlike other materials used for insulation, wool does not deteriorate quickly. It is also easier and faster to produce. This insulation is pricey at the moment, but they are expected to go down as the world transitions towards sustainable living.

Sheep wool insulation is also used for soundproof insulation purposes. Soundproof walls are steadily increasing in demand, especially in highly urbanized areas..

Wool - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Wool is a long lasting and effective natural insulator.

4. Green Roof System

A green roof (also called a living roof) is one that is filled with vegetation. It is composed of waterproofed membranes and soil. One of the biggest advantages of a living roof is its durability. Traditional roofs last for around 15-20 years. A living roof lasts for 40! 

There are also several other major benefits of a living roof. A sustainable green roof can reduce the loss of cool air by up to 90%. This saves you considerably in cooling costs (such as air conditioning). 

It is also excellent for air quality. Some home designers specifically pick plants that can purify the air before it circulates through the house. 

Another benefit is sound insulation. Compared to traditional roofs, living roofs can reduce the sound coming in from outside by up to 60 decibels.. 

Green Roof Systems - One of the best sustainable materials for building
A living roof regulates heat and purifies the air in your home.
Image via Wikimedia.

5. Bamboo

Different types of bamboo are steadily increasing in popularity as a sustainable building material. This is partly because it is fast to produce, which in turn makes it cheaper. When the bamboo growth rate for harvesting is compared with lumber trees, bamboo outshines lumber six-fold. It takes about 25 years to harvest lumber. Bamboo only takes 3!

You can use bamboo for roof tiles, lumber, decking, and as a sustainable flooring option. Many indigenous homes, particularly in south-east Asia, are made entirely from bamboo.  

Bamboo - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Bamboo is incredibly versatile as a building material.

6. Rammed Earth

Rammed Earth is commonly used for making interior walls. It is produced by pressing raw materials such as wood and soil tightly together. It is often paired with rebar for additional strength. 

Rammed earth walls are very durable and great for structural purposes. The thermal capacity of this material also makes it suitable for insulated flooring to keep your home warm.

Rammed Earth Walls - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Many ancient ruins are made from rammed earth – a testament to its durability.

7. Bio-products

Bioproducts (also called biotech products) are products derived from animals, fungi, bacteria, or plants. As technology has progressed, it has become possible to produce construction materials from these things – some of which we have already covered in this list. 

Another example is the production of bioplastics as an alternative to regular plastic. Bioplastics, like other bioproducts in general, are easy to produce, have higher quality, and do not harm the environment.

Bioplastic - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Bio-plastic is a great eco-friendly packaging material.
Image via WikiMedia.

8. Atmosphere Purifying Paint

One of the biggest problems in highly urbanized areas is indoor air quality. The air inside a home is usually much dirtier than the air outside. This is because when a door or window is left open, the air can come in but does not escape. It is like a one-way valve. Dirt, chemicals, and other harmful pollutants are trapped in the house and they settle on the wall. 

Another contributor to poor indoor air quality is the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that come from common household products, including paint. Some bad effects of VOCs are skin irritation, dyspnea, nausea, emesis, and headache.

Air purifying paints are specifically designed to be free from Volatile Organic Compounds. At the same time, they are equipped with filtering technology that can absorb chemicals, solvents, and pollutants in the air. The paint has a molecular sieve that traps harmful molecules. 

Air Purifying Paint - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Atmosphere purifying paint is VOC free and purifies the air.

9. Solar Roof Tiles

The electricity demand is steadily increasing as the human population grows and more countries advance. One way to address the energy problem is with sustainable solutions such as solar panel tiles. One of the best places to put solar panels is on your roof so they capture a lot of sunlight. This will cut your ongoing electricity costs significantly and over a few years, the installation will have paid for itself.

A popular example of this are solar tiles sold be Tesla. Many agree that they look better than most standard roofs, and they can be customized to your taste and home design. On top of that, a Tesla roof is three times more durable than standard roofing. It is also very easy to install and remove. Tesla roof tiles are equipped with a waterproofed layer to help keep your home warm and dry.

Solar Panels - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Harness the sun’s energy with solar panels on your roof.

10. Structural Insulation Panels

Structural insulated panels are one of the best insulation systems available on the market today. They minimize the energy consumed for both heating and cooling. 

Insulated wall panels create an envelope for the building that reduces air exchange and increases the thermal resistance of the house. They also improve indoor air quality and reduce the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds in the house. 

Using structural insulation panels will save you a lot of time for wall construction. These insulation panels can be produced from recycled materials and require less energy to make compared to other insulation systems, which makes it a great sustainable alternative.

Structural Insulation Panels - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Once of the most efficient insulation systems one the market.
Image via WikiMedia.

11. Straw Bale Houses

A straw bale house is one that is built from locally-sourced agricultural waste. These bales of straw are used to replace concrete, gypsum, plaster, and other building materials. Straw bales homes are up to three times more fire resistant than conventional homes. They also have high insulation properties which makes them a great green alternative. 

Straw Bale House- One of the best sustainable materials for building
Re-use agricultural waste to insulate your home.
Image via WikiMedia.

12. Mass Timber

Mass timber is style of construction that uses large, solid, wood panels. The lumber used in these panels is cut from a single log (solid-sawn). When these pieces are glued together is it known as cross-lamented timer (CLT).

Mass timber is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative for concrete and steel. A mass timber house is strong enough to survive an earthquake due to its high strength to weight ratio. It is also a fire-resistant material and retains support even if a building is burning. In addition to that, mass timber buildings are built faster than traditional concrete buildings.

Mass Timber - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Mass timber is strong enough to withstand earthquakes and fire.
Image via Wikimedia.

13. Smart Glass Windows

Smart glass windows are a great addition to your home if you are looking for ways to save energy. The key aspect of smart glass is its ability to change its light transmission properties. By doing this, heat is maintained inside the house during winter but kept out during the summer.

Most models also block UV light which means it saves your skin while reducing your electrical bills.

Smart Glass Windows - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Smart glass windows change their light transmission properties to regulate heat.

14. Cork

Cork is a resilient and flexible material that can sustain high amounts of force. It is a water-resistant and fire retardant material which makes it great for buildings. Cork is also used to make insulation sheets due to its noise and shock absorption properties.

Cork tree harvesting is more efficient compared to traditional lumber. It is fast-growing and a tree will continue to grow and reproduce cork after the harvesting stage. 

Cork - One of the best sustainable materials for building
Cork is resilient, water resistant, fire retardant, and fast growing.

15. Ferrock

Ferrock is a green building material that is made from recycled materials such as dust and steel. It is commonly used as a cheap alternative to concrete. Although it can be bought at a lower price, it is stronger than concrete. 

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Conclusion

Using sustainable materials is one of the best ways to go green at home. They last longer and have lower maintenance costs. This means you will save money on bills while helping to reduce waste. And with all the options available these days, you can do it without sacrificing quality or style. 

Did you find this article about building with environmentally friendly materials useful? If so, please share it with your friends.




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