10 eco-friendly building materials changing home design

Wood composite decking.
Wood composite decking.

The construction industry has traditionally been known for being one of the more wasteful industries with a large carbon footprint. Everything in the construction process from the demolition process, the materials used in building and the transportation of these materials have not been eco-friendly. In recent years, however, the demand for eco-friendly housing has increased and as a result, we are seeing more sustainable materials being used to construct houses.

Quite a few of these materials are more unconventional than traditional building materials; everything from straw bales, sandbags and bamboo are now viable alternatives. However, they are equally as effective. In fact, a lot of people are choosing to live in eco-friendly houses because they are often more durable and save more energy whilst cutting down the cost of utility bills.

The team at 4 Everdeck have looked into which eco-friendly materials are now being used in construction and are transforming home design for the better.

Straw bales were traditionally used in building during the 1800’s, popular because straw was so readily available. Straw bales have recently reentered mainstream construction, and are often used for building the walls of houses as they are very effective in creating strong structures that are thermally efficient. Despite building straw bales being a very old building technique, they are very reliable in building and, if properly maintained, create houses that should last over 200 years.

Hempcrete is made from the inner fibers of hemp plants to create a very durable and strong building material. It’s also cost-effective and lightweight, which makes it cheap and efficient to transport to building sites. Hempcrete creates low-maintenance structures and is both fireproof and earthquake-resistant.

Ferrock is a material made from a combination of various recycled materials such as steel dust. The result is a building material that has a strong resemblance to concrete but is actually even stronger. Ferrock is unique in that it absorbs more CO2 than it creates, unlike cement. It’s also low-maintenance, lightweight and sustainable to make, so is ideal for building with.

Sandbags are often used in construction for building the walls of houses. They are cheap to source and quick to build with. Because clean, usable sand is available at the majority of construction sites, there are no transportation costs required to build with sandbags. Manufacturing with sand doesn’t use any energy unlike traditional building materials such as brick; sandbags use 95% less CO2 emissions than brick walls.

Bamboo is a building material often used in the construction of housing frames. It’s tensile strength and versatility make it great for building with. Increased use of bamboo for building doesn’t pose a threat to bamboo forests because bamboo is very fast-growing; bamboo plants grow three times faster than most other plant species, making it a renewable resource.

Grasscrete is an eco-friendly alternative to concrete, used for building pathways and for ground stabilisation. Grasscrete is a ready mixed concrete that has a pattern of voids which allows for either grass to grow through or stone to be placed there. These voids also allow water to pass through the structure, giving it extremely good drainage.

Composite plastic is a popular building material often used for constructing decking, fencing, railings, windows, floors and more. As well as being a highly durable material, composite plastic is also corrosion-resistant so ideal for houses. It has the same, attractive appearance as natural wood but requires far less maintenance, making it a popular choice with many home-owners.

Sheep’s wool is an excellent insulator often used for energy-saving purposes in houses. Because of the crimped texture of wool fibers which form lots of tiny air pockets which create a highly effective thermal barrier, sheep’s wool is great at keeping homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Since the average sheep will produce between 2.3 and 3.6 kg of raw wool annually, it’s also highly renewable.

Low VOC paint is often used for decorating the interior and exterior of homes. They are popular in home design because Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can cause allergies and irritations as well as being bad for air quality, so low VOC paints are much safer for your health. Compared to traditional paints, they are also better for the environment because they are water, not oil, based. They are readily available and deliver the same finish as traditional paint.

Cork is a great insulation solution because it is 100% natural and renewable material made from cork oak trees. When the cork is harvested for building with, only the bark required for the insulation material is stripped, the entire cork tree isn’t cut down. It’s very light and versatile, making it ideal for designing houses and transporting to building sites. As well as insulation, it’s also great for damp-proofing and sound-proofing homes.

(Sources: Hempcrete & 4everdeck)

Written by Katie Myers, 4everdeck.