Building Your Own Home? Consider These Eco-Friendly Materials
by Cora Gold
The construction industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. When building your house, you must choose eco-friendly materials to do your part in addressing pressing environmental problems, including climate change, pollution, and habitat loss.
Consider these 10 options for your project>>>
Clay is a naturally occurring material that releases zero volatile organic compounds into the environment when extracted and used. Manufacturing clay bricks, blocks, roof tiles and pavers is organic and nontoxic because it involves no chemical additives and preservatives.
Cork is a darling of green building enthusiasts because it comes from the cork oak’s outer bark. Harvesting it eliminates the need to cut down trees. Cork oaks can last up to 200 years and regenerate their bark at least every nine years. Harvesters can collect cork up to 16 times without damaging the tree throughout its life span.
As a building material, it can come in various shapes to manufacture a wide range of flooring, insulation, and surface finish products. Cork is 100% biodegradable and doesn’t harm the environment as it decays. It’s recyclable forever, so it may never end up in landfills.
Bamboo is a desirable housing and scaffolding material from quality and sustainability points of view. Its fibers have superior tensile strength compared to timber.
This tall grass is regenerative, so it doesn’t contribute to deforestation. It also grows lightning-fast, allowing it to satisfy massive construction demand. When it reaches the end of its life span, it biodegrades completely, lends itself to recycling, and is as compostable as coffee grounds, lawn clippings, and food scraps.
Straw is the hollow stem of cereal grain grasses, so it’s widely available in agricultural areas and is environmentally sustainable. Farmers may burn unused straw, so increasing demand can slow climate change.
Early humans used this material for shelter thousands, if not millions, years ago. Thanks to Nebraskans, baled-up straw is enjoying a renaissance. It’s bound to become more popular because of having its own section in the International Residential Code.
Living in a straw house promises comfort, fire safety, and earthquake protection. This recyclable material is an excellent insulator, emits zero allergens, resists fire exceptionally, and withstands the effects of quakes.
Wool is a natural fabric derived from sheep. It’s breathable and has remarkable insulating properties to reduce heat transfer and outdoor noise pollution. It meshes well with wood because it absorbs moisture, making it suitable for humid climates.
Wool is natural, renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. It also cleans indoor air by removing toxins and unpleasant odors and acts as a flame retardant to slow the spread of fire. Some wool sources may be unethical, so research relevant laws and regulations to find a compliant supplier.
Sustainable wood is either reclaimed or recycled. Either way, it weakens the demand for new timber, slows deforestation to prevent habitat loss, and intensifies the fight against climate change.
You can also opt for construction alternatives that use less wood, such as veneer doors. These are made from a different core material with a thin layer of wood on top. You can have the appearance of solid wood with a smaller environmental impact.
This composite consists of subsoil, a fibrous organic material — like straw — and water. It can also contain additional sustainable ingredients, such as clay and lime, to achieve more desirable qualities. Cob made with sand has a higher carbon footprint, though.
This green concrete alternative mostly comes from industrial byproducts of steel dust and glass silica. Its manufacturing process involves no water pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Ferrock is CO2-negative, absorbing, trapping and binding carbon with itself as it dries.
Plastic takes eons to decompose, polluting the planet and poisoning its inhabitants as it slowly breaks down. Using reclaimed plastic for construction financially rewards collectors and recyclers and helps dramatically reduce waste. Plastic is a magnificent insulator, too.
Steel is as ubiquitous as wood as a building material, so choosing recycled products benefits the environment tremendously. This alloy loses none of its properties when recycled and decelerates mining activity since most of the elements that make it up originate underground.
Build Your Home the Eco-Friendly Way
The growing list of sustainable building materials makes it easy to construct your house without harming Mother Nature. Buy local to minimize greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation that can offset your choices’ environmental benefits.