Building Green Homes: What Materials to Use?

Living in a stone structure requires little maintenance and is environmentally friendly, and any additional stone left over from the construction can be used for home finishes, such as countertops or tiles. Did you know that the oldest known cob structure is more than 10,000 years old? Straw bale constructions are a sustainable method of construction, from supply to energy efficiency. In addition to bales, straw can also be compressed and converted into ceiling and wall panels for insulating home cladding. Compressed straw has a wide variety of sustainability benefits, such as being 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable.

Once straw panels have reached the end of their long life cycle, they can be shredded and used as compost in gardens or can be recycled into panels, ready to be used again. Bamboo is a type of plant that grows back quickly in just 3-5 years. It is 100% biodegradable, antibacterial and environmentally friendly if not chemically processed. That said, bamboo is a perfect choice in the construction world. It's considered one of the best environmentally friendly building materials due to its incredibly high rate of self-generation and being the fastest growing plant on Earth, some reported to have grown to one meter in 24 hours.

In addition, unlike trees, bamboo continues to spread and grow without having to replant it after harvest. It's also a perennial herb and not wood, meaning it grows on every continent except Europe and Antarctica. Of course, that means it's also stronger than concrete and brick, and will last much longer than either of them. As such, bamboo is not only a sustainable material, but it's also strong enough for use in floors, cabinets, and other areas.

However, it requires treatment to resist insects and rot if left untreated as it contains starch which can be a great attraction for insects. The other option that we must consider when building are prefabricated concrete slabs. These slabs are formed at the manufacturer's site and sent in whole sections to the construction site. Some are made entirely of concrete with large hollow air spaces, such as concrete blocks. Prefabricated concrete slabs are used for walls and facades of buildings, as they withstand all types of weather conditions well, while others can be used for flat floors and roofs.

Using concrete slabs is an excellent way to control heat inside a building and is affordable as a building material. In addition, the sustainability of precast concrete slabs is greater than that of many traditional concrete options, as the production and assembly of the slabs usually require much less energy. Precast concrete also allows the material to cure properly in a controlled environment, rather than exposing it to unfavorable weather conditions while curing on a construction site. As such, precast concrete slabs prevent cracks and structural failures within the concrete and eventually demolitions. Cork is the third environmentally friendly building material on our list.

It's a lot like bamboo in the sense that it also grows very fast. In addition, this material can be harvested from a living tree, and the tree will grow and produce more cork. That's different from wood where you have to cut down trees. In addition, cork also absorbs noise excellently making it perfect for insulating sheets and due to its excellent shock absorbing qualities is perfect for subfloors.

It can only be obtained from the Mediterranean making shipping a bit expensive but fortunately it's extremely lightweight and only requires less energy and emissions to ship. In addition straw bales can be easily harvested and replanted with minimal environmental impact. Instead of obtaining extracting and grinding new components for construction manufacturers use recycled plastic and other milled garbage to produce concrete. A 2,000-square-foot house requires about 50 trees to build but a structure made of recycled steel requires the steel equivalent of just six discarded cars. Steel is 100% recyclable and significantly reduces the ecological impact of new constructions. The new surfboard material is made of rigid plant-based polyurethane foam which comes from bamboo seaweed and hemp rejuvenating the surfboard industry when pressed firmly into wooden shapes it creates walls that feel similar to concrete.

Buildings made of rammed earth are made safer or fortified with the use of reinforcing bars or bamboo in addition its greatest sustainable property is that it is negative in CO2 meaning that it absorbs more CO2 than it emits. Hemp itself is a fast-growing renewable resource which makes ferrock carbon neutral and much less CO2 intensive compared to traditional concrete when maintained well terrazzo floors can last up to 40 years without losing their luster. The original terrazzo was set in cement and was inspired by an Italian work from the 20th century instead of fiberglass block insulation spray insulation made from soy foam can offer the same insulating value shredded and treated with fire retardants shredded newsprint and other cellulose materials it provides excellent pouring insulation for attic beam cavities. Shredded blue jeans and other fabric materials are also good thermal insulation for attics along with cellulose insulation another injectable insulation is made from recycled plastic granules such as milk cartons.