As the world’s population increases and resources dwindle, sustainability, development that meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, has become a priority for homeowners, developers and governments. This shift in focus has driven improvements in building design and construction, including sustainable building materials. Green building materials impact energy and water consumption, waste reduction and occupant well-being by minimizing the negative effects that our built environment can have on the planet. Here are some new materials that are leading the way:
Producing standard roof tiles involves energy intensive techniques and their only function is to protect from the weather. Solar tiles have been developed as an improvement on traditional solar panels which are fixed on the existing roofing. They are integrated into the building, protecting from weather while generating power for its inhabitants.
The Steel Recycling Institute reports that, while a 2,000-square-foot house requires 40 or 50 trees to build, a frame from recycled steel would require no more than the material that comes from six scrapped cars. Recycling scrap reduces the energy produced in making the steel by 75 percent.
Made from recycled newspapers and cardboard, paper-based insulation is a superior alternative to chemical foams that can be blown into walls to create an almost draft-free space. Containing borax, boric acid, and calcium carbonate (natural materials with no associations with health problems), paper insulation is both insect resistant and fire-retardant.
Surfboard maker Malama Composites manufactures the foam used in surfboards from materials like bamboo, hemp and kelp. This so-called rigid foam is now used in insulation, wind turbine blades and furniture. As insulation, it has a higher R-value than fibreglass or polystyrene, high moisture resistance, excellent acoustics and protection against mold and pests.
With three layers of glass, krypton insulation and low-emissivity coatings, triple glazed windows do a better job of stopping heat from leaving the building than double glazed windows.
Made by adding wool and a natural polymer found in seaweed to the clay, wood bricks are 37% stronger and more resistant to cold, wet conditions than other bricks. They also dry hard, reducing the embodied energy since they aren’t fired like traditional bricks.