Sustainable Building Materials: A Complete Guide

Good, Better, Best: How to Choose the Most Sustainable Building Materials For Your Home’s Renovation

By Rose Morrison, managing editor of Renovated
Original Article By Carolyn Mitchell

When beginning your home renovation project, consider the environmental impact of your chosen materials. Sustainable building materials help reduce your carbon footprint and improve your living environment. Here’s how to select the most sustainable materials for your home renovation.

See our resource hub: Sustainable Construction: A Comprehensive Guide


Good: Bamboo

Bamboo is a renewable and rapidly available resource that makes for a durable and affordable flooring option. As one of the fastest-growing plants, it has a harvest cycle of three to five years, making it a suitable choice for those seeking sustainability on a budget. Bamboo flooring is available in various styles and colors — a versatile choice for any renovation project.

Better: Cork

Cork is another eco-friendly flooring choice. It’s harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, allowing the trees to continue growing. Cork is soft, comfortable underfoot and has natural insulating properties – reducing the need for heating. Additionally, it’s mold and mildew-resistant, making it an excellent option for homes.

Best: Reclaimed Hardwood

For the ultimate sustainable flooring, reclaimed hardwood is the way to go. This material is salvaged from old buildings, barns and other structures, reducing the demand for new wood resources. It offers character, history and unparalleled beauty, making it the best choice for those committed to eco-living.

Sustainable Building Materials: Bamboo Forest
Bamboo ranks highly among sustainable building materials
Image by Tuan Nguyen Khac from Pixabay


Good: Asphalt Shingle Roof

Asphalt shingle roofs are a popular and budget-friendly option. While not the most sustainable choice, they are durable and readily available in various styles and colors. Because of their durability, there’s less need for replacements, where manufacturing can have a negative environmental impact. Asphalt shingles can reflect some sunlight, which helps reduce cooling costs and emissions during warmer seasons.

Better: Tile Roof

Tile roofs, made from materials like clay or concrete, are a more sustainable choice compared to shingles. They have a longer life span, typically up to 100 years or more, and are known for their energy-efficient properties. They can keep your home cooler in hot climates, reducing the need for air conditioning.

Best: Solar Panels

Solar panels offer a dual-purpose solution, providing roofing and renewable energy generation. They help reduce your home’s carbon footprint and energy bills, contributing to a sustainable future. While solar panels can be expensive upfront, they can lead to significant savings over time.


Good: Double-Glazed Vinyl Windows

Double-glazed vinyl windows are cost-effective for homeowners seeking improved energy efficiency and insulation. They consist of two layers of glass separated by a layer of inert gas, which helps reduce heat transfer and noise. While vinyl isn’t the most sustainable material, double-glazed windows are an upgrade from single-glazed ones in energy savings.

Better: Fiberglass Windows

Fiberglass windows are a more environmentally friendly choice compared to vinyl. They offer excellent insulation, are highly durable and have a longer life span. Fiberglass is a low-maintenance material and can be recycled at the end of its life, making it an excellent choice for those looking to balance sustainability and performance.

Best: Wood or Wood-Clad

Wooden windows or wood-clad windows offer the best in terms of sustainability and aesthetics. Wood is a renewable resource and an eco-friendly choice when sourced from responsibly managed forests. Wood windows are highly energy-efficient and provide a timeless, warm appearance that complements various architectural styles. Wood-clad windows have a protective exterior layer for added durability and weather resistance.


Good: Recycled Glass Countertops

Recycled glass countertops are made from post-consumer or post-industrial glass. They’re durable, heat-resistant and come in different styles and colors. While they might not be the most sustainable, they divert glass waste from landfills and give it a second life as a functional and appealing countertop material.

Better: Wood Butcher Block

Butcher block countertops made from sustainably harvested wood, like bamboo or maple, provide warmth and character to your kitchen. When sourced from certified sustainable forests, these countertops offer eco-friendly options that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Best: Quartz Countertops

Quartz countertops are considered the most sustainable, made from a mix of natural quartz stone and recycled materials like glass and ceramics. They’re durable, low-maintenance and attractive. They combine beauty with environmental responsibility and are available in different styles to suit the design of your kitchen.


Good: Steel Doors

Steel doors are a popular and cost-effective option for exterior doors. They provide security, durability and energy efficiency. Due to its energy-intensive production, it’s not the best sustainability-wise. However, it can be recycled at the end of its life, minimizing its environmental footprint.

Better: Fiberglass Doors

Fiberglass doors are a better choice than steel. They’re incredibly long-lasting and resistant to moisture and temperature changes. They usually have excellent insulation properties and can resemble wood, providing aesthetic appeal while remaining environmentally-friendly.

Best: Solid Wood Doors

Solid wood is the best choice for those prioritizing sustainability and timeless beauty. Wood is renewable and natural when resourced from responsibly managed forests. They last a long time and their appearance improves with age. They’re known for superior insulation and can be customized to match the style of your home.


Good: FSC-Certified Wood

Look for cabinets made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC certification ensures the wood comes from responsibly managed forests. While these cabinets are a good choice, there are even better options.

Better: Bamboo Cabinets

These are a step up from FSC-certified wood. Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource that matures in just a few years. It’s durable, stylish and available in various finishes, making it a better option for eco-conscious homeowners.

Best: Salvaged Wood Cabinets

For the most sustainable cabinet choice, opt for salvaged wood. These cabinets are crafted from reclaimed wood from old buildings, minimizing the need for new resources. Salvaged wood recurs waste and adds unique character to your home.


Good: Recycled Fiberglass

Recycled fiberglass insulation is a budget-friendly option for improving energy efficiency. It’s made from recycled glass bottles and offers adequate thermal performance.

Better: Cellulose

Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newspaper and cardboard, treated to be fire-resistant and insect-proof. It offers excellent insulation and is considered more sustainable than fiberglass as it’s biodegradable. It helps reduce landfill waste by repurposing old paper products.

Best: Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam provides the highest level of thermal efficiency. Although not made from renewable materials, it significantly reduces energy consumption, which can offset its environmental impact over time. Choose closed cell-spray-foam, which offers better insulation and durability than open-cell alternatives.



Good: Limestone

The abundance of limestone and its regional availability across the country make it a great sustainable choice when it comes to choosing aggregates. This along with its resistance to wear, low maintenance, and overall visual appeal make limestone aggregates a great sustainable option for home renovations

Better: Recycled Concrete

With most home renovations involving the use of concrete or some level of aggregate in some capacity, the ability to source recycled concrete has made home renovations that much more eco-friendly. 

With concrete being disposed of from demolition sites, it seems like a no-brainer to avoid those disposal costs by simply repurposing it, which also removes the environmental impact of new concrete production.

Best: Geosynthetics

Now, when it comes to your best choice, the facts and numbers all point to geosynthetics, the newest developments in sustainable aggregates. These synthetic materials, such as geomembranes and geotextiles, provide superior soil stabilization and erosion control when compared to typical aggregates. 

Their weight and ease of transport reduce and almost remove entirely the need for extensive excavation and transportation, which is one of the most unsustainable aspects of sourcing generic aggregates. Geosynthetics are durable, long-lasting, and promote efficient drainage, making them ideal for a wide range of home renovation and construction projects.

Conclusion: Building a Sustainable Future

When renovating your home sustainably, numerous options are available to suit different budgets and preferences. Choosing the most sustainable materials for your project can have a more positive environmental impact. Whether you choose good, better or the best options, each choice contributes to a greener future for your home and the planet. It’s all about making the decision that suits your tastes, wallet and sustainability goals.

About the Author

Rose is the managing editor of Renovated and has been writing in the construction industry for over five years. She’s most passionate about sustainable building and incorporating similar resourceful methods into our world. For more from Rose, you can follow her on Twitter.

houses with solar panels and green pastures beyond
Image by Mirosław i Joanna Bucholc from Pixabay

Deeper Insights in the Role of Bamboo

By Carolyn Mitchell

Green building supplies are the wave of the future. Builders are choosing green products in part due to rising interest from their clients, but also due to municipal coding structure changes that prefer green materials. As local municipalities move to make sustainable products a requirement of new buildings, homeowners can take action now to update their real estate investments with alternative building materials.

There are numerous options in the sustainable building material industry. Many of these options are multifaceted and can be applied to various projects to update or build a home while others are specific applications that are best for certain products.

You can marvel at the advancement in clean technology from industry leaders and small startups alike when you start exploring these sustainable options. Reap the benefits of choosing green technologies and sustainable building materials for building projects in the backyard or around the globe.

Introduction to Sustainable Building Materials

According to the World Green Builders Council a whole global market is growing to satisfy worldwide demand for green building materials. That means there are plenty of options and opinions on what to buy and what to avoid. People want to be a part of this Earth friendly trend and make their space out of green building products, and with a bit of research the right sustainable building materials for each building project will be clear.

It is important to note that although these products are meant to reduce the carbon footprint of the builder and property owner, they also provide an opportunity to show the rest of the community the importance of green building products. One project can illustrate to the whole neighborhood how responsible and resilient green technology can help bring the home into the future.

Here are several houses in a community that have moved to solar power. These panels allow for relatively inexpensive additions to the home in a small amount of time. This enables the homeowner to begin benefiting from the use of sustainable building materials sooner than replacing a whole roof.

Whole roof systems or Solar Roofs are a bit different than the panels pictured above. The roofs are replacement for traditional shingles and cover the entire roof and in fact it acts as the roof itself. These also produce electricity, but are a better candidate for a whole roof replacement or new building whereas the solar panels are usually preferred for a green update to the home.

How about ethically harvested stone or even a departure all together with K-Briq. An exciting new product designed to reinvest construction waste back into the supply chain of building materials. K-Briq’s innovations allow them to harvest construction waste, wash, refine and produce new brick for building.

Innovators like the people who first brought bamboo flooring to market or the geniuses behind the K-Briq have sought for ways to increase our happiness and decrease our pain. With continued research and excellent execution of ideas the green building material industry continues to bring to market new, functional and affordable options for the homeowner or the professional builder.

Bamboo to the Rescue

The builders that use green products are pleased with the materials’ workability. It is one thing to build a great product, but that product must eventually be installed. The green building material industry puts forth great effort in making the installation of their productions as easy or easier than traditional building supplies. Bamboo flooring stands out on the sustainable building materials market, and with consumer confidence, price, durability and ease of install.

Bamboo is always an intriguing and alluring product designed for durability, weather resistance, and strength. This super material is used in many building and decorating applications. One very effective and common application for bamboo is flooring.

Everyone with kids and pets knows the difficulty in keeping flooring in good shape. There are many modern and traditional styles with their own set of materials offered to consumers. However, very few if any provide the shear confidence and effectiveness as bamboo.

Bamboo is an excellent choice to replace kitchen, bathroom, living room, basement, hallway or anyplace you want a beautiful floor that will resist damage even in high traffic areas and areas prone to moisture or wet spills.

Bamboo grows fast and is easily fit into growing situations where other sustainable building materials place more of demand on their respective environments.


Products like magnesium oxide boards and magnesium oxide impregnated products provide the homeowner or business owner with yet another choice in the sustainable building material market.

This unique product is powered by using and curing magnesium oxide in such a way as to add longevity and versatility to many different products. Strength is not the only attribute that makes this a good sustainable building material option, but also the fact these products are fire resistant.

Fire resistance combined with its insulating power makes magnesium oxide building products a major contender for the consumer dime. When a builder is considering material to minimize the amount of work the furnace or air conditioner must put forth to heat or cool the building, magnesium oxide boards present a great solution. Magnesium oxide materials shine forth as a solution to heat loss and heat absorption.

When starting any project it’s a good idea to go through the options and find sustainable building materials that will work with what is already installed. The alternative is to purchase traditional products that will get the job done, but without any of the added benefits of years of learning.

Magnesium oxide can be used to make thin concrete tiles for an attractive and resilient choice for many applications. These boards and concrete tiles and products like them provide almost limitless options for use in a multitude of applications. These products are revered for their fire resistance, affordability, durability and insulating factors.


Unprecedented time and energy went into producing long lasting and beautiful products. When competing with the traditional market it is important to not only meet the demands of the competitor, but often beat them out. This is especially true in terms of damage resistance. It is hard to find a product more verstial and long lasting than green products like bamboo flooring.

Dependable and long lasting options from the roof to the floor. Many builders give preference to bamboo flooring for its premier look, affordable and durable nature. There are many choices, but one thing that is clear: renewable and green products are built with a focus on the consumer using the product for years to come. The alternative to green building supplies is traditional building supplies which use built in obsolescence that encourages waste of material and consumer finances.


The only way a new technology or material will be adopted by the masses is to increase affordability. It is a fine thing to produce a product that saves the whole world, but what good does it do if no one uses it? Modern green building supplies currently used by builders world wide offer value and quality.

While sometimes it is clear the product will be a time and cost saver, other times it is less clear and requires some slight sleuthing to figure out what will pay off in the long run. There are many examples of sustainable green building supplies that offer savings, but only over time.

ROI or return on investment is an important consideration when debating between two technologies that do the same or similar thing. An example mentioned earlier was solar roofing versus solar panels. While one offers a more comprehensive coverage and usability the other lends itself to smaller projects with quicker turnaround times and less demand on the budget.

There are options to pay exorbitant amounts of hard earned money on vanity materials that focus on luxury without concern for the longevity of society or the project. However, green building supplies are still the height of luxury without lowering the renewable earth friendly attributes that are so important.


All of these attributes combine to make a valuable addition to any home or business. These examples of sustainable flooring and other products provide everyone a means to exercise their power of choice. By selecting products that are beneficial or in the least not harmful to the environment enables the whole of society to benefit from the decision to go green.

The products currently being produced benefit from years of research and design all working toward making a functional clean product that improves the environment instead of robbing from the environment.

Together with knowledgeable consumers the industry can make a real difference not only for the future of humanity, but also for the humans living right now. Many times when discussing going green the focus is on the future, as it should be. However, another area of concern is not the future, but the present.

Focusing on the inclusion of green building supplies in the construction of any project enables the whole community to reap the benefits of wise decision making. Good choices can often be contagious. When one person improves their property with green building products, individuals around that person begin to look into how they may also contribute. Relieved they find numerous examples of products that usually far surpass that of traditional building materials.

bedding plants in a room
Photo by Elifin Realty on Unsplash

The Future of Green Building Materials

When there are choices it is clear that many builders and even municipalities are moving toward the inclusion of renewable products for their building projects. Materials like the tried and true bamboo flooring to the more cutting edge magnesium oxide boards provides builders the opportunity to select the right material for the job. Sustainable building materials that are engineered with the world and consumer in mind.

Make the most of your next project by reaching out to experts in the industry.

1 thought on “Sustainable Building Materials: A Complete Guide”

  1. I found it interesting when you told us that a lot prefer bamboo since apart from it being a renewable and green product, it also offers great affordability and durability, so it’s a good choice if we want a long-lasting option from our roof for our floor. I recently bought a land property in Queanbeyan where I plan to build a holiday house soon, and I wanted the project to be a green building. I’ll be sure to remember this while I look for a trusted building supplier to contact about the products needed for the construction soon.

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