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Top 10 Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable Materials

This list of the top ten sustainable building materials includes materials drawn from nature that are renewable, are recyclable, or that use scrap or waste from other processes to make new materials. Some are materials you’ve heard of, and probably used before, while others may be new to you. Using sustainable building materials can help reduce the impact of construction on the environment and help conserve resources for future generations.

  1. Bamboo

Bamboo is a versatile, strong substitute for wood products in a variety of materials. From flooring to textiles, this fast-growing grass has all the beauty and strength of wood, and it grows on every continent except Europe and Antarctica. In Asia, bamboo is often used for structural components for buildings, as it has a high strength-to-weight ratio and greater compressive strength than concrete and brick. Because it grows so rapidly (up to three feet within 24 hours), it doesn’t take long to replenish supply once its been harvested. 

  1. Cork

Cork is harvested from the outside bark of the cork oak tree, found only in the Mediterranean. After it is removed, the tree replenishes the bark, allowing more to be harvested. It makes a wonderful, soft flooring product, is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial, and is resilient and resistant to wear. It’s perfect for kitchens and bathrooms.

  1. Steel

You might not think of steel as being sustainable, but the majority of steel used in the construction industry is recycled and is recyclable once it’s reached the end of its useful life. Because it can be reused many times, it cuts down on the raw resources needed to create each product. So, instead of having to cut down new trees to create lumber, existing steel can be melted and recast without harvesting new metal.

  1. Mass timber

Mass timber is created by bonding softwood to form large prefabricated wood components which are used as structural members in the construction of a building. The process allows buildings to be constructed faster and with less waste than traditional building materials. It’s been shown that mass timber reduces global warming potential by an average of 26.5% over concrete and steel.

  1. Mycelium

Mycelium is a one-celled organism that is found in the root structure of fungi and mushrooms. It is being used to create bricks, blocks, insulation, and concrete. The organisms are encouraged to grow around a composite of other materials, like straw or sawdust, in a form or mold. Then it’s air dried to create a brick or other uniquely shaped building component. It’s durable, can withstand extreme temperatures, and is compostable.

  1. Linoleum

This versatile flooring product has actually been around since the 1800s, and it’s made up of all natural ingredients. Mix flax, pine rosin, wood flour, cork dust, calcium carbonate, and jute and you have it. It comes in a variety of patterns and colors to match any décor and requires little maintenance.

  1. Wool carpet

These days the most popular material for carpeting is nylon or other synthetic fibers, man-made materials. Wool carpet is a natural, durable alternative to these fibers. It is naturally moisture-resistant and provides additional insulation to keep your feet warm.

  1. Ferrock

Haven’t heard of this one? It’s no wonder, as it’s only been developed in the last few years. It combines recycled steel dust and/or ferrous rock left over from industrial processing and creates a concrete-like material that is stronger than concrete. It is a carbon neutral process and is less CO2 intensive than creating concrete.

  1. Plant-based foam

Plant-based polyurethane foam, originally designed for use in making surfboards, provides great thermal and sound insulation in buildings, and can be used for manufacturing furniture and turbine blades. The material is made from bamboo, kelp, and hemp.

  1. Sustainably harvested lumber

Yes, lumber can be a sustainable building material when the forest is managed responsibly, with longevity in mind. Practices such as selective logging, replanting, controlled burns, and pruning help forests produce timber products for generations to come, ensuring that these materials are available, while preserving natural habitats and microclimates. Look for branded lumber that has been harvested according to these practices.

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