Blueprints for a Greener Tomorrow: 8 Leading Eco-Friendly Construction Materials

Blueprints for a Greener Tomorrow: 8 Leading Eco-Friendly Construction Materials
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Blueprints for a Greener Tomorrow: 8 Leading Eco-Friendly Construction Materials. Image Unsplash.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Blueprints for a Greener Tomorrow: 8 Leading Eco-Friendly Construction Materials

Sustainability has become necessary in construction due to tightening regulations and industry standards. How can project planners make their buildings more environmentally conscious while achieving the same strength and durability as traditional materials? 

Here are eight eco-friendly construction materials that reduce emissions and waste worldwide.

1. Bamboo

Bamboo has risen as a sustainable choice because of its strength, resilience and quick harvests. While this plant looks thin when it grows in the forest, it’s surprisingly strong due to its tensile strength — in fact, that resistance to compression is even better than steel. Bamboo is also popular in construction because it’s flexible and remains strong during storms.

While its strength is commendable, bamboo sets itself apart through sustainability. A colony only needs about five years to grow fully, while oak, maple and cedar trees take decades to mature. Additionally, bamboo reduces water consumption because it needs less than other plants and trees.

2. Reclaimed Wood

Wood is a complicated building material because it is a renewable resource and, thus, sustainable. Also, its biodegradability makes it a popular choice for eco-conscious construction crews. However, harmful practices like deforestation make wood less desirable for some consumers. Increasing its sustainability is easier with reclaimed versions.

Reclaimed wood is an eco-conscious way to use lumber because you’re retrieving it from existing sources. Therefore, you won’t need to cut down any trees to construct the shed in your backyard. It’s popular among consumers because you get beautiful aesthetics while lowering your environmental impact. Just ensure your reclaimed wood is free of warping, holes and other deterrences.

3. Cork

When you see corks, you may think about wine bottles, drink coasters and various crafts. However, times have changed and cork is now a prominent building material for eco-friendly projects. This material comes from trees and is easily sourced in most places, making it accessible and affordable. With cork, you can make your insulation, roof, flooring and walls more sustainable due to its versatility.

Cork is a top choice for sustainability because it’s biodegradable and easily reusable once someone wants to repurpose it. Its ability to absorb moisture makes it suitable for walls and flooring, especially if you live in an area with a lot of rain and thunderstorms. If it can withstand wine, cork has a place in nearly any home.

Another benefit you get with cork is its soundproofing abilities. When you use it, you’ll have an easier time constructing a music studio, an office space or a study room in an eco-friendly way. One drawback of cork can be its cost, considering it already has high demand in other uses. Plus, you have to wait for oak trees to mature before harvesting the bark, so cork manufacturers must be patient.

4. Insulated Concrete Forms

Concrete is a widely used building material because it’s durable, affordable and versatile. The climate can significantly vary depending on where you’re building, so concrete aids in making your structure weatherproof. But how can you ensure your house stays comfortable, especially in the frigid winter? If your area experiences hot and cold temperatures, you need insulated walls to ensure your interior is livable all year.

An excellent concrete choice is insulated concrete forms (ICFs). This building material uses interlocking forms with concrete inside to act as insulation. ICFs are advantageous because they regulate temperatures in any climate and lessen the strain on heating and cooling systems. Your wall’s R-value increases when using them, as the outside air has a much harder time penetrating the walls.

5. Recycled Concrete

Another viable alternative for concrete is the recycled versions using aggregates. Recycled concrete reuses material from defunct highways, bridges and sidewalks. This process heightens sustainability because the old slabs aren’t going to landfills and fewer resources are necessary to build strong structures in the future.

Recycled concrete aggregates materials from various sources and converts them into a singular finished product. While some question the viability of recycled materials, research indicates aggregate concrete has a place in construction. A 2020 Journal of Cleaner Production study concludes it can self-compact if the manufacturer carefully designs the material. Using recycled concrete demonstrates sustainability and affordability, making it popular in modern construction.

6. Hempcrete

Concrete is one of the most popular building materials worldwide, so it’s no surprise to see companies replicate it with numerous innovative alternatives. Another widespread concrete substitute is hempcrete, originating from the hemp plant. It’s emerged as an eco-friendly building material because of its thermal insulation and breathability.

Facilities with hempcrete walls can better control their interior temperatures and humidity levels while fighting off fire risks. This building material is apt for construction in areas concerned about wildfires because hemp stalks resist extreme temperatures much better than most other building materials. Another feather in the sustainability cap comes from hemp’s minimal need for water, giving it a lower environmental impact and higher eco-friendly score.

7. Recycled Plastic

Plastic waste is a significant problem, with research indicating the world discards 400 million metric tons annually. The world uses so much plastic that drinking from a reusable water thermos may seem like a small step toward a big problem. How can the planet redirect plastic waste for the planet’s health? Some construction professionals have found ways to use it in building processes.

For example, recycled plastic is a standard replacement for roofing tiles because it’s durable despite its lightweight and easy installation. You can also use recycled plastic for indoor insulation and concrete. Utilizing it for indoor insulation is a popular option when retrofitting older homes to make them more energy efficient.

8. Mycelium

Mycelium is another sustainable building material you wouldn’t guess could be used for construction. However, it has quickly become a favorite for eco-conscious builders due to its durability and minimal waste. This material comes from the root of fungi and becomes usable in construction when you dry it. Some typical applications for mycelium include bricks, panels, insulation and light furniture.

Sustainability is high with mycelium because it’s a plant-based material, like bamboo and hemp. When mycelium reaches the end of its life, you can easily recycle it or use it for compost because it doesn’t harm the environment. While it’s not widespread yet, mycelium has received praise in construction because it resists water and is much stronger than it looks. Plus, it can make buildings safer with its fire resistance.

Increasing Sustainability While Decreasing Emissions

The construction industry has faced scrutiny for its energy consumption and CO2 emissions. However, it’s heading in a new direction by utilizing more sustainable building materials.

These eight selections stand out by requiring less energy in production, being biodegradable and reducing the need to consume virgin materials. As they become more widespread, the construction industry will increase sustainability and better support the planet.

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