The building industry is undergoing a shift. Most of the cities around us are built using a combination of steel and concrete. Concrete blocks are used to build our homes, offices, schools, bridges and pathways. Unfortunately, the production of these materials release tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, contributing to the decaying environment around us.
However, all is not lost! Bright sparks around the world are working to find and invent environmentally responsible replacements for these, with some tantalisingly close to the mainstream. Following are some of our top picks for the best environmentally friendly building materials:
Bamboo has been used ins some regions of the world for millennia, and for good reason. It’s an extremely promising building material, with a unique combination of strength and lightweight. It is also incredibly fast growing, meaning it can be replanted very quickly. It can grow almost anywhere as well, meaning it can be grown locally to most projects.
Sheep’s wool is a highly effective insulator. It’s more effective than most manmade options. And because it is completely natural and sustainable, it is a great alternative to thinner insulation like glass wool, cellulose and mineral wool.
Sometimes, radical thinking and ground-breaking new technology isn’t the answer. A great example is the use of straw bales as the building blocks of a building. They can replace other products like concrete, wood, plaster, gypsum and stone. And once they are fully sealed, the insulation is highly effective in both hot and cold.
Straw is also common, cheap and completely renewable, meaning this can lead to more efficient buildings which are cheaper than ever before.
On the other end of the technological spectrum is mycelium, a building material made from the root structure of fungi. It’s extremely adaptable and can be grown in any shape. It was used late last year by renowned designer Philippe Block to create a self-supporting structure completely constructed from grown mycelium.
The substance itself is strong and has unique shock absorbing capabilities. And, as with most of the other entries in this list, it is completely natural and can be regrown easily.
Rammed earth is a technique that has been used for millennia, with evidence found in sites dating back to 5000 BCE. Because it is simply earth which has been compressed massively, it has little to no environmental impact. If done properly, it can behave better than bricks or concrete. Often, buildings made using rammed earth need little air conditioning or heating.
Ferrock is a patented concrete technology which has some unique and revolutionary capabilities. It’s made from recycled waste materials for various industries.
It also happens to be five times stronger than your common garden variety concrete. What really sets it apart is its ability to absorb and trap CO2 during its hardening process – making it much friendlier compared to normal concrete. In fact, it almost carbon neutral!
Wood has been used for construction since time immemorial. It’s an extremely versatile material which is great for the environment. Of course, as it grows, trees absorb CO2.
The actual processing is significantly less intensive compared to other materials. Properly managed, forests are fully renewable and can help to grow diverse habitats.
Hempcrete is possibly one of the most successful and revolutionary building materials on this list. Thanks to its construction of hemp fibres bound with lime, it is ultra-lightweight, which dramatically reduces the environmental impact of transportation.
Hemp itself is fast growing and fully renewable. What really makes it special, is that, if managed correctly, the entire process from growth to building can actually be carbon negative. For a building material, that is truly extraordinary.
This article has been submitted by building merchant, BUILT/