Sustainable materials do not impact negatively on the natural environment and to any living organism’s health. Since most established building products are man-made, it has a net-negative impact on the planet, people, and animals. What we can do is to choose eco-friendly building materials. The materials selected for a project during the design stage determines how sustainable a structure is in the long run.
Here are green, local building products that you can use on your next construction project:
1. Straw Bales
Straw bales were first used as a building material centuries ago. It is used as thatch roofing or mixed with earth in cob, wattle, and daub homes.
This material comes from grass but it is undeniably strong. In fact, some straw bale houses rise up to three storeys high. Nowadays, architects use straw bales to fill the interiors of a frame. Framed strawbale doesn’t require much concrete, wood, gypsum, plaster, fibreglass, or stone anymore. In addition, straw bales have high-grade insulation properties: the most cost-effective insulation available until now. It’s also safe and breathable, allowing air to permeate the structure without seeping moisture.
Grasscrete is a green alternative to concrete outdoor surfaces such as parking lots, walkways, sidewalks, and driveways. The material is permeable, thus draining stormwater, avoiding erosion. As its name says, grass can grow in spaces between the Grasscrete blocks.
3. Rammed Earth
What’s more natural than feeling natural dirt and rocks under your feet? (insert photo) Rammed earth is an ancient way of building wherein builders tamped down and compress gravel, sand, silt, and a small amount of clay into a formwork. For a more stable construction, builders add a small amount of cement or use rebar or bamboo. Most of the energy used in the construction of rammed earth is in quarrying the raw material and transporting it to the site. We can lessen the energy consumed by patronising local quarries than importing from farther locations.
Under an ideal environmental condition, bamboo plants can grow up to 30 centimetres a day and can be harvested without killing the plant. Its characteristics: fast growing, light weighted, tensile strength, versatility, and carbon absorption are the reasons why it is one of the world’s most sustainable building material. While most of the country’s supply of bamboo comes from South East Asia, it remains affordable because of low labour cost in production and manufacturing. Architects substitute bamboo to heavy and imported framing materials for buildings and homes. Sometimes, craftsmen dry or laminate its fibres and wove them into furniture.
Build with Bamboo
Timber is the most common building material on earth. It is easy to work with, flexible, and readily available. With the latest changes in Australia’s building codes, architects can now explore the use of timber for more innovative, environmentally advantaged, and sustainable structures.
Another unique innovation in the construction industry is the Hempcrete, a concrete-like material from the woody, fibrous hemp plant. It’s made through combining hemp aggregate, water and lime-based binders.
Lime bounds all the fibres together in the shape of a block. Similar to bamboo, hemp plants are fast growing and renewable. Structures made from Hempcrete can last long for its fire and termite resistant. The material also a natural insulator, making the entire structure thermally comfortable.
7. Recycled Plastic
Researchers found a way to make building materials from waste plastic. Plastic materials are grounded and machine-compressed to the size of a concrete block. Through this, the construction industry will help reduce the number of plastics that clump in our landfills. Since plastic doesn’t need a binding agent or adhesive to stick together, it’s carbon footprint is less compared to concrete.
Scientists who got a hold of the Mycelium mushroom think of it as a marvel of nature. This kind of mushroom grows despite the lack or absence of light! This amazing characteristic of fungi leads to the discovery of insulation which grows itself in the dark. At the same time, it has a natural way of killing insects such as fire ants and termites.
Read: Mushrooms emerging in the construction industry as insulation and The Technology That Will Build Our Future May Be Found In Mushrooms
Ferrock is a promising substitute for concrete. It’s made up of steel dust and other discards of processes in the steel industry. It has a great bending force which can make structures resistant to earthquake. The best part? Researchers found out that this material absorbs and traps carbon dioxide. Turns out, CO2 plays a part in its drying and hardening process.
Ashcrete is another concrete alternative. Australian ashcrete is made from quality fly ash, a fine, grey powder coming from coal power plants. It reacts with lime to create a cement-like material. Commonly known as supplementary concrete material, it’s available in premixed, precast, road pavements, road bases, and concrete masonry.
Timbercrete is the outcome when we mix sawdust and concrete together. It is lighter than regular concrete, hence it has fewer transportation emissions. It also makes use of sawdust which we considered as ‘construction waste’ before. Nowadays, you can find timbercrete bricks, pavers, and cladding. All are fire resistant, impervious to termites and decay, and bulletproof.
The materials on this list have a low environmental impact on all stages of its life — from the manufacturing to operation until disposal or reuse. Most of them are manufactured in the country and available via local distributors.