July 21, 2016
Consumers want to live greener, healthier lifestyles. Contractors and developers are growing increasingly keen on championing environmental stewardship. Materials producers are investing more in the research and development of sustainable building materials. These three forces, working together, have resulted in the proliferation of both the availability and use of eco-friendly materials in building construction.
Carbon-Negative Cement Alternative
Cement is cheap, durable, and stylistically adaptable. It also leaves a seriously heavy carbon footprint. Ferrock, a green alternative found to be five times as strong as Portland cement, is eco-friendly from the time it is manufactured until it is applied on site.
More than 65 tons of scrap steel are recycled every year, the bulk of which comes from old automobiles. Recycling steel requires relatively little energy and saves landfill space. When used in place of wood beams, which are less-resistant to the powerful forces of Mother Nature, recycled steel also saves a lot of trees.
Recycled Composite Lumber
When using wood in construction projects, the most environmentally responsible way is to use composite lumber made from recycled wood and plastic. Available in a range of shades and designs that emulate real types of wood, recycled lumber is exceptionally strong and durable. It is also more resistant to mold and rot than treated wood.
Low-emissivity glass keeps heat from entering a building in the summer and escaping in the winter. Low-E glass costs only slightly more than traditional storm windows, and can reduce heat lost through glass by as much as 50%.
San Diego-based Malama Composites was one of the first movers to enter the plant-based polyurethane rigid foam game. Today, the company’s plant-based foam insulation acts as an effective insulator against moisture and heat, boasting a higher R-value than fiberglass or polystyrene. The plant-based insulation, made from bamboo, hemp, and kelp, is also excellent for the acoustics of a room.
Plastic is not exactly the darling of the environmentalist movement. But we’ve produced a lot of the stuff, and we might as well recycle it. EcoStar carries sustainable roofing tiles made from 80% recycled plastic and rubber. Plastic Lumber Yard, another roofing manufacturer, makes plastic roofing slates from recycled materials that are themselves recyclable.
Sustainable building materials will be at the heart of research and development in the construction industry for years to come. Some day, it may even be the norm for buildings to be constructed of virtually 100% recycled or repurposed materials. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways for you to demonstrate your commitment to environmental stewardship in the projects you take on.