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18 of the Best Sustainable Materials for Building

There are many different materials used in constructing a green house. Here are 18 you should consider.

When it comes to sustainable building, choices are abundant—from insulation to windows and even paint. If you want to construct a sustainable building, it is essential to understand how these materials affect the environment. For example, some coatings used on paints contain chemicals that could be potentially harmful to humans and the environment. In this article, we will discuss 18 of the best sustainable materials for building.

1. Straw Bales

Straw bales are a great way to build with sustainable materials. Straw is a byproduct of grain farming, so it's a green material that doesn't require any new resources to produce. It's also easy to work with: straw can be used as insulation or the bale itself. Straw has been used in construction for years due to its insulative properties: it can keep heat in and out during the summer. It's also very fire-resistant, making it a good choice if you're building near a forest or other flammable area. Strawbale houses are also very sustainable, because they use less energy than traditional homes—you don't need much more than a hammer and chisel to build one.

2. Wheatboard

kirei_wheatboard4Wheatboard is a composite material made from wheat straw and resin. It's an excellent option for building because it's fireproof, mold-resistant, and doesn't off-gas toxic chemicals. In addition to being used as insulation in walls and ceilings, wheatboard can be used as a flooring material. Wheatboard is also very easy to work with and can be cut with standard tools. It can be nailed or screwed into place without special equipment or adhesives.

3. Recycled Steel

Recycled steel is an excellent sustainable building option. It's made from recycled automobile parts, a renewable resource. And because it comes from automobiles, you can be sure that it's durable and sturdy. Another benefit of recycled steel is that it's easy to work with, so you'll have an easier time putting together your building materials. You won't have to deal with trying to cut or shape the metal—it's already in a form that works well with construction projects. And one more perk–Recycled steel is relatively affordable. This means that if you're working on a budget, this could be a good choice.

4. Engineered Lumber

The best sustainable materials for building are engineered lumber and cross-laminated timber. Engineered lumber is a type of structural wood manufactured to be stronger than conventional lumber, and it is an ideal choice for use in construction projects. It's made by gluing together layers of wood veneer, which are then pressed into a mold called a "blank." This process results in a product that has the strength and stability of solid wood but can be manufactured more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively than solid wood.

5. Rammed Earth

Rammed earth, also known as pisé, is a building material made from natural soil. It is an excellent option for sustainable construction because it's made from local raw materials that are easily accessible, and it can be built with little or no waste. Making rammed earth involves mixing clay and sand in a wet state and then placing them into a formwork—usually wood or steel. The mixture can be pressed into a mold using hand tools or power equipment. Power equipment typically needs a lot of energy to operate, so hand-pumping is often preferable for sustainability. After the soil has been placed into the mold and compacted by hand or machine, it's left to dry out for several months before being used as a building material.

6. Wool Insulation

Wool insulation is one of the best sustainable materials for building. Wool insulation is made from recycled wool, making it an environmentally friendly product. This material is also fire resistant and can help prevent mold growth in your home. In addition, wool insulation is non-toxic and contains no bromine or formaldehyde. It's also biodegradable and doesn't off-gas any harmful chemicals into your home's air quality.

7. “Green” Concrete Blocks

New types of cement reduce the polluting  impact of concrete blocks by up to 70 percent. For example, Solidia blocks can be incredibly strong and durable. Concrete blocks are typically made from cement, water, and gravel or sand, but Solidia blocks dry without water. When you mix these ingredients in the right proportions, you get concrete—a material that can last for centuries. Blocks can also be created by combining other materials with green cement, such as hemp or other natural fibers.

8. Treated Bamboo Poles

The best sustainable materials for building include treated bamboo poles. Make sure the poles are treated with relatively benign, borate-based chemicals, which makes them last longer and more durable. Treated bamboo poles are an excellent option for building a fence or wall because they are sturdy and won't rot or decay quickly like other types of wood do. They also have a very light color, so they can be painted any color you like without worrying about them getting splotchy or unevenly covered with paint. Another good thing about treated bamboo poles is that they don't need any maintenance or upkeep once installed in your yard or garden area. You can leave them alone and let nature take care of itself.

9. Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum is a dense, water-resistant, and durable material that has been around since the late 1800s. It can last for decades without needing to be replaced, and it's made from natural oils and resins. It's also straightforward to install yourself! The only drawback is that it's not quite as good at insulating as other options. But if you're looking for something affordable and easy to install, linoleum is a great choice.

10. Cork Tiles

Cork tiles are made from the bark of cork oak trees. The bark is harvested by hand and then compressed into sheets that can be cut to size. The material is strong and water-resistant, making it great for flooring in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Cork tiles also come in a range of colors to get exactly what you want for your home. Cork isn't just a sustainable building material—it's great for the environment! Cork trees proliferate, they're easy to harvest, and they don't need a lot of fertilizer or water to thrive. And when they're done with their work of producing cork, they can be replanted or used as firewood.

11. Bamboo Plywood

Bamboo plywood is one of the most sustainable materials for building, because it's made from a renewable resource and has a low carbon footprint. Bamboo is a fast-growing, environmentally friendly grass that can grow in many climates, unlike trees, which require more water and nutrients to thrive. It's also naturally resistant to insects and disease. When bamboo is harvested, it's thinned out so that the remaining plants can continue to grow. This allows farmers to harvest the same plot of land repeatedly without damaging the environment or wasting resources.

12. Salvaged Wood Floors

Wood is one of the most sustainable materials for building. It's easy to work with, can last a long time, and is beautiful. Salvaged wood—previously used in construction, removed and repurposed—is an even more sustainable option than new wood. The benefits of salvaged wood floors are many: they're eco-friendly, typically sourced locally (which means fewer carbon emissions), and they often come with great character and history. Salvaged wood floors are also a great way to give new life to an old building. For example, if you have an old barn on your property that needs a new purpose, you can use it as a workshop or studio space by installing new salvaged wood floors inside it.

13. Recycled Glass Tiles

Recycled glass tiles are an excellent option for sustainable building. They are made from recycled glass, which means they're beautiful and help reduce the environmental impact of your project. Recycled glass tiles are available in various colors and styles, including mosaics and other decorative pieces. They can be used as countertops, backsplashes, and flooring for commercial or residential projects. When used as countertops and backsplashes, recycled glass tiles are low maintenance and easy to clean. They have a matte finish that resists fingerprints, so you won't worry about constant cleaning or polishing. They're also scratch-resistant.

14. Paperstone Countertops

One of the most sustainable materials you can use to build your home is paperstone countertops. Paperstone is made from recycled paper and cement, which means it is an excellent material for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Paperstone has been used in construction for centuries, but it was not until recently that architects began to recognize its potential as a building material. The first modern paperstone structure was built in France in 1866, but it wasn't until the late 1960s that this material became popular with architects and builders throughout Europe and North America.

15. Reclaimed Brick Veneer Tile

Reclaimed brick veneer tile is a great sustainable material for building. Reclaimed brick veneer tile is made from old bricks that have been salvaged from demolished buildings and repurposed as flooring and wall coverings. The reclaimed bricks are usually cleaned, sanded and coated with a protective sealant to prevent them from deteriorating in the future. The color of each reclaimed brick varies based on its origin, but most reclaimed bricks are a light tan or grayish color. This type of tile is often used as an accent wall or as an exterior cladding material because it's easy to install, can be laid horizontally or vertically, and is durable enough to withstand foot traffic.

16. Soy-Based Spray Foam Insulation

spray foamSpray foam insulation is one of the most energy-efficient, sustainable building materials on the market. It's also one of the most versatile: it can be installed into almost any part of a home, from exterior walls to basements and attics. The beauty of spray foam insulation is that it bonds tightly to just about any material. The most common type of spray foam insulation is made with polyurethane. However, some brands include a small percentage of soy-based filler (typically about 10 percent), reducing the foam’’s CO2 pollution and environmental  “footprint.”

17. Hemp

Hemp is another excellent material for building sustainable homes because it's easy on resources while still providing strength and durability. Hempcrete is made from lime, water, and hemp shivs (the woody core of hemp stalks). The lime acts as a binder, while the woody core provides insulation qualities similar to straw bale construction but less weight than straw bales. It's also fireproof, mold-resistant, and has an R-value between 2-3, which means it keeps its temperature well, so heat doesn't escape through walls or roofs.

18. Recycled Concrete Aggregate (RCA)

Recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) is made from recycled substantial pieces that have been crushed into tiny pieces and mixed with new concrete ingredients (usually sand).

Wrapping Up

With increased environmental awareness over the last few decades, sustainability has become a top priority for architects and builders alike. Now more than ever, those looking to build a new house, residence or commercial building are looking for materials to reduce the negative impacts of building on the world’s ecosystems. For more information about sustainable materials for building, you can visit greenbuildermedia.com.


Publisher’s Note: This content is made possible by our Today’s Home Buyer Campaign Sponsors: Whirlpool, Vivint, myQ, Sonos and Jinko Solar . These companies take sustainability seriously, in both their products and their operations. Learn more about building and buying homes that are more affordable and less resource intensive.