Sustainable Construction Materials: A Promising Future

Sustainable Construction Materials Are Promising, but What Makes a Material “Sustainable”? Let’s discuss.

By Rose Morrison, managing editor of Renovated

See our resource hub: Sustainable Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

Introduction: The Need for Sustainable Construction Materials

Sustainability is the future. To work toward a greener future and fight climate change so the world thrives for future generations, many companies will have to change how they run things, starting from the bottom and working their way up.

Future buildings must be made sustainably before other green choices can be implemented. In a world where 90% of people inhale polluted air daily, choosing green methods is the first step in creating a better environment for everyone.

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability allows people to continue developing civilization while advocating for the health of the earth and all of the beings that live on the planet. It helps the current generation solve any problems they have without stealing quality of life from generations that may follow afterward. Sustainability fosters the “sustaining” of life, including for long after the current generation of humans is gone.

Sustainable buildings can help the environment because their materials have been harvested in a way that gives back to the earth – or, at the very least, the environment doesn’t necessarily miss the things humans have gathered.

Humans stand to gain from living and working in sustainable buildings, too – they’re exposed less to materials that could make them sick and more to ones that can allow them to live cleaner, healthier, longer lives. Green buildings also typically don’t require much maintenance, thanks to their eco-friendly structures.

Buildings created using a green standard can implement eco-friendly features once the building has finished construction. Though costly at first, installing solar panels can change how energy-efficient a building is. Installing giant windows can maximize natural light, so people feel fewer symptoms of depression and use less electricity.

By building sustainably from the ground up, people can create buildings that are friendly to the environment and help the earth heal.

Of course, to ensure that environmentally friendly buildings are up to code, there are a few standards that every construction project must meet. At the bare minimum, sustainable construction must benefit the environment in some way rather than take away from or destroy it. At the same time, other items on the checklist – such as getting rated and certified for certain environmental needs being met onsite – are analyzed voluntarily.

Bamboo before a stone and wood building: Sustainable Construction Materials
Photo by 月辉 张 on Unsplash

What Makes a Material “Green”?

To determine whether a certain material is “green” or sustainable, you must examine it from all sources. People do find incentives to use green materials in their building projects. Some companies may get a tax credit for building sustainably and including eco-friendly elements in their designs.

Green materials might cost more in some circumstances, but because they’re long-lasting and better for the environment, they’re a better choice when thinking of the future and long-term goals.

1. Recycled

Unless something is recycled, it’s discarded and never touched again when it’s no longer of use. Using recycled building materials ensures nothing new is being produced specifically for this construction project. Instead, it relies on materials that have been recycled and have the strength to continue working.

Recycling gives extra life to materials that haven’t served all of their uses yet. With around 50 million tons of steel recycled every year, it’s easy to see just how sturdy building materials can be when made out of recyclable items.

2. Non-Toxic Finishes

Some finishes, such as paint, are toxic to human bodies and the environment. By opting for non-toxic alternatives, people can improve their health. Things like wood stain don’t have to be toxic – greener options work just as well and can give a new construction the same clean, polished look as any toxic material.

An eco-friendly building can quickly become toxic if it uses the wrong finishes, so this element is almost as important as the building process itself.

Choosing to work with non-toxic materials can improve the air quality for the people who step inside the building. Using materials that aren’t green can increase people’s risks of coming into contact with carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and more. Sustainable buildings can help people have a better quality of life, both now and in the future.

3. Weather-Resistant

The best green materials to work with can resist all forms of extreme weather. When building a structure, you need to have materials that can protect the people inside from the outside elements.

Sustainable buildings aren’t just made from things that occur and grow naturally and that are harvested responsibly. They must be able to withstand the test of time, else the building isn’t really sustainable because it won’t last. More materials and resources will have to be used to replace it.

4. Locally Sourced and Abundant

When looking for materials for new construction, you or the project manager should always look close to the site. Buying locally sourced materials means less travel, which means less fossil fuel being burned in the process of transportation.

One excellent resource that people can find in many locations is bamboo. Bamboo is abundant and fast-growing, meaning you can take some of this unique wood to use as a building material and it will grow rapidly and replace itself almost as quickly as you took it.

When taking something from nature, you want to be sure it can regrow and heal. That way, you have more resources in the future and you didn’t disrupt the balance of ecology in that area.

5. Renewable

The resources used to build something must be renewable. They must be able to be replaced in nature. For example, solar energy is called renewable energy because people can always gain more energy from the sun. The sun isn’t a limited resource that can be depleted, like fossil fuels are. If something’s renewable, the environment will keep moving forward without missing it.

This reason is why new construction should install solar panels if possible. Since solar energy is renewable, people who reside in the building won’t have to worry about finite energy resources. They can reduce their carbon footprints by committing to a cleaner form of energy that doesn’t release carbon into the atmosphere – that of solar energy being converted to electricity.

Grow Sustainably Toward a Brighter Future

Sustainable materials are exactly what they sound like: materials that can be replenished and taken from the earth without worrying that growth will stop or their disappearance will disrupt the environment. Some countries have already taken it upon themselves to commit to creating buildings using only green and sustainable materials.

Sustainable buildings can be the buildings of the future. All it will take is a little motivation to change society’s current building habits.

Rose Morrison

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.