For years, concrete has been the go-to building material for everything from commercial buildings to residential homes. While concrete lasts for many years without needing to be replaced, the truth is that it is still vulnerable to damage. Concrete is also known for releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the air every day that contributes to climate change.
Now that people know more about how human behavior impacts the environment, it is simply not possible to continue to bury your head in the sand, or concrete, if you care about reducing your footprint. Instead, it is high time to start turning your attention to these eco-friendly building materials that add interest and sustainability to the benefits of your next project.
1. Use straw bales for insulation
Yes, you may still remember the old story of the little pig that built his house out of straw. Yet, modern houses can stand up to heavier gusts of wind than the big wolf could ever blow. You can use straw bales just about anywhere on a building where you would use other materials. With a proper seal, they’ll provide excellent insulation against changing temperatures. This is also a low cost option that is high on the sustainability score since it can easily be regrown after harvesting.
2. Go back to the basics with cob
Longer strands of straw can be mixed with other materials such as subsoil and water to create a unique building material that hearkens back 10,000 years. Back then, people used this material for its durability and the ease of finding the ingredients. Now, people are going back to using it for its energy-efficiency.
If you’ve got a creative building project to manage, then you’ll also love that this material is easily moldable. You can achieve those rounded corners or decorative accents with only a few swoops of your tools.
3. Reuse materials with recycled steel
Unlike other types of materials, steel retains its same properties after the recycling process is complete. This means that you can enjoy the benefit of reusing non-renewable resources without having to sacrifice on strength.
Steel can be used as support on the interior of the building, and many home builders are using the material to create a modern, streamlined look on the exterior of houses. Either way, you’ll enjoy using one of the most highly used recycled materials on earth.
4. Fill it in with wool
Sheep’s wool may leave you thinking about soft sweaters and warm blankets, but it also has a place in the construction industry. Sheep constantly regrow their coats, and shearing a sheep can help them to stay cool and comfortable in certain climates. In exchange for the shearing, the wool remains as an eco-friendly form of insulation that you can use along ceilings and attic spaces. Wool also works well as insulation inside of walls.
5. Create beauty with bamboo
Anyone who has ever had to deal with bamboo on their property knows how well this plant can survive in the wild. Bamboo plants can grow back fully within three to five years after being harvested and replanted. The rods also have axial fibers that provide it with a high level of strength. Years into the future if the building needs to be torn down, bamboo is also biodegradable so that there is less waste left in the environment.
You can even use this material on the outside of a building to create a beautiful natural look that shows off everything that there is good about using sustainable materials.
6. Make the best of it with recycled plastic
The emphasis on using less plastic today is a huge benefit for the future. However, there still remains tons of plastic on the earth that can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose. Since some plastics can’t be recycled, it is better to figure out how to put them to good use. Recycled plastic is durable and an excellent insulator against sound. It can even be mixed with wood fibers to produce composite wood — a product that can then be used as wall cladding for homes or commercial projects.
If you are looking for recycled plastic, make sure to source it from a company that uses a carbon-neutral recycling process that further reduces the release of greenhouse gases.
The bottom line
Tackling the housing crisis and climate change all at once could be as simple as putting careful thought into your building materials selection. If none of the options listed above are suitable for your home project, consider purchasing materials from companies that have made a pledge to sustainability. For instance, Formica — a company that makes high-pressure laminate for kitchens and bathrooms — has been taking steps to improve their environmental footprint by reusing the water and incorporating recycled materials into their products.
Whether you love the adobe-like quality of cob or prefer the sleekness of recycled steel, you’ve got tons of options for making your stand against waste in the construction and building industry.