The green building sector has seen explosive growth recently, managing to double in size every three years. Fueling this growth is increased consumer interest in sustainable building materials, as well as a desire to reduce maintenance, lower the environmental impact of building, and increase the value of property, which stems from growing interest in energy efficient home upgrades like energy star-rated windows and doors. The wide array of sustainable materials also drives growth by delivering many elegant alternatives to traditional building materials. Here are some of the top sustainable materials in use today.
Demand for hardwood has not slowed, and reclaimed wood allows property owners to enjoy the rich look and feel of hardwood without contributing to deforestation. Wood is reclaimed from barns, old homes, factories, and other buildings. Reclaiming wood not only conserves natural resources, it keeps materials out of landfills by reusing materials that are in good condition.
Bamboo is a preferred green choice for flooring as well as fencing, cabinetry, and other uses. The bamboo fibers offer the richness of wood, but without the negative environmental impact that comes from using freshly harvested wood. Because bamboo regenerates rapidly, it is considered sustainable. Bamboo also grows well on land that is not suitable for agriculture, and the plant reduces environmental toxins.
Cork is a favorite green material. It’s naturally springy, naturally sound absorbent, hypoallergenic, and antimicrobial. Cork is also sustainable, because the trees are not cut down during the cork harvest. Instead, the outer layer of bark is stripped away. Cork lasts for many years when it is properly cared for. Since it holds up to foot traffic, cork works well in hallways, living rooms, and other areas where people gather. However, cork is not recommended for use in places like bathrooms, where water may splash on the material.
Recycled metals — namely, copper, aluminum, and steel — form the backbone of many green buildings. Scrap metal recycling not only keeps materials out of landfills, it contributes positively to the economy. In 2008 alone, scrap metal recycling generated $86 billion in revenue, and 85,000 individuals worked in the scrap metal industry. Recycling also greatly reduces metal’s environmental impact: Recycled steel uses 55 percent less energy, while recycled copper uses 92 percent less energy in fabrication. Recycled metals are predominantly used in the construction of buildings, although appliances and finishings may be available as well.
FSC wood, which stands for Forest Stewardship Council, is the gold standard for sustainable wood. The FSC certification indicates that wood came from sustainable managed forests. These forests are managed carefully to prevent illegal logging, limit pesticides and clear-cutting, protect ecosystem, and reduce environmental impact. FSC wood is not the only sustainably certified wood product, but it has the strictest standards, so green building contractors prefer it.
Recycled carpet tiles
Recycled carpet tiles reuse carpet fibers and padding to keep waste out of landfills. Recycled carpet tiles promote better indoor air quality, since they’re made without the petroleum chemicals, which can off-gas into homes, that traditional carpets are made from. Since the carpet is in tile form, homeowners can remove and replace individual tiles to extend the lifespan of the material. Tiles can be recycled again, further extending their use.
Recycled glass tiles
Despite the wide availability of municipal recycling programs and bottle redemption shops, 70 percent of glass ends up in landfills, where it does not break down. This includes scrap material from windows, automotive windshields, light bulbs, and more. Glass recycling captures this waste glass, melts it down, and converts it into tiles.
Recycled tile makes an attractive decorative options for a kitchen backsplash, bathroom shower enclosure, decorative accent, counter, glass floor, and much more. These tiles can be used outdoors as well as inside.
With so many options for sustainable building materials, property owners can find a beautiful material that’s also sustainable, whether they’re planning a remodel, home addition, retrofit, or outdoor living project.
– Dylan Snyder