The building industry has always been infamous for its wastage and for its environmental impact. Demolition, transport of materials and unsustainable sources are all to blame for the industry’s sizable carbon footprint. However, as the younger generation enters the property market and gets onto the housing ladder, the demand for sustainable, eco-friendly building materials has soared, especially in South Africa. As a result, construction has become more sustainable, with more companies using sustainable building practises and eco-friendly materials to construct houses. Everything from sandbag houses to houses made of bamboo and straw bales is now completely viable alternatives as well as being far more sustainable than traditional homes.
The team at 4 Everdeck have brought you this article that looks at 10 new building materials that are all great options to lower your environmental impact when building a new home:
Use: This versatile grass can be used as framing for buildings and can even be used for drainage.
Qualities: Bamboo is prized for its tensile strength, versatility and lightweight build-quality. It is known for how quickly it grows meaning there is no shortage of supply when utilising it in construction projects. In fact, using more bamboo in construction would create more business for bamboo farmers in tropical and subtropical regions who are often unable to export their product due to lack of demand.
- Cellulose Insulation
Use: Cellulose can be used for roof, loft, ceiling and floor insulation. It has high thermal performance and sound reduction properties.
Qualities: Cellulose insulation is usually made from recycled newspaper combined with a fire retardant so it makes for high-quality insulation. As it is made from recycled material, it means zero emissions for the environment as well as a lower price. It can also be re-recycled unlike its traditional counterpart, fibreglass.
Use: Grasscrete can be used for both pathway construction and ground stabilisation.
Qualities: Grasscrete is a great alternative to regular concrete. Also known as void-structured concrete, 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. It is aesthetically pleasing, has excellent draining capabilities and can bear heavy loads. It offers significant performance advantages over traditional concrete when building an eco-friendly home and is being used widely in the eco-friendly construction sector.
- Sheep’s Wool
Use: Effective for thermal insulation
Qualities: Sheep’s wool makes for another clever and conscientious alternative to traditional fibreglass installation. Due to the crimped nature of the wool fibres, millions of small air pockets are formed that trap air, helping to provide protection from the cold. Also, sheep’s wool does not catch fire and requires just 15% of the energy required to make regular glass wool, making it much better for the planet.
Use: In construction, sandbags are most often used in building the walls of a home.
Qualities: Sandbags are a fantastic alternative for eco-friendly construction. They produce 95% less CO2 emissions than traditional building bricks. They are much cheaper to manufacture and are more readily available as sand is present at most building sites, lowering the cost of transportation.
- Low VOC Paint
Use: Low VOC paint can be used for decorating both the interior and exterior of homes.
Qualities: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can cause allergies and irritations as well as being bad for air quality. Low VOC paints are safer for your health and for the environment as well because they are water, not oil, based. They are readily available and deliver the same finish as traditional paint.
Use: Hempcrete is a good replacement for concrete and concrete-like structures.
Qualities: This concrete replacement is made from the woody inner fibers of the hemp plant. The fibres are bound with lime to create concrete-like structures that are strong and lightweight. Due to their weight, they require much less energy to transport and so reduce emissions both in production and in distribution.
Use: Ferrock is a strong concrete replacement, perfect for building the foundation of homes.
Qualities: Ferrock is a substance made from various recycled materials, particularly steel dust. This makes it even stronger and more durable than regular concrete. It also has another brilliant feature – the process by which Ferrock dries and hardens actually seals CO2 into the substance itself, making it much less CO2 intensive than its traditional counterpart.
Use: Cork is an excellent insulation material and can also be used for constructing flooring.
Qualities: Cork comes from the bark of cork oak trees, so it is highly sustainable. If it is left without any coat or finish on it, it is naturally fire-resistant. It can make for ideal flooring or insulation due to its noise and shock absorption capacities. This is a particularly great eco-friendly alternative because the tree the cork is harvested from will continue to produce cork and so does not need to be cut down for its product to be collected.
- Reclaimed or Recycled Wood and Metal
Use: For traditional building purposes
Qualities: Wood and metal require a lot of energy to both produce and transport. So, utilising reclaimed or recycled versions means much fewer emissions and much better sustainability in your project. Recycled metal can still be a durable and long-lasting material that can be used in roofing and structural supports. Wood is often easier to damage and so requires more vigilance when acquiring recycled versions but if inspected properly, they can be great alternatives, cheaper in price and every bit as effective.
Katie Myers has worked as a content writer for 5 years and is currently a writer at 4 Everdeck. She creates a range of written and visual content on a variety of topics. In particular, she enjoys writing about gardening, mental health and the environment.