What are the best eco-friendly materials for green construction?
- Straw bale
- Recycled plastic
The majority of the construction materials used in the Philippines are far from sustainable and renewable. You may not know this but conventional construction actually has a substantial impact on the well-being of people and the planet. Conventional buildings emit greenhouse gases, generate waste, and use up our resources throughout their life cycle which typically lasts anywhere from 50 to 75 or more years.
The negative impacts of traditional or conventional construction and their resulting buildings have pushed developers, architects, engineers, and everyone else involved in the construction industry to look into other options. This search eventually led them to green construction or green building. While not an entirely new concept, it has not been considered a solution until recently.
Green construction is the practice of designing buildings that minimize resource use and reduce negative environmental impacts. A lot goes into this but the most important ones are the materials we can use in place of the traditional ones. There are many other materials that are less harmful to the environment which are listed below.
Straw bale is a rapidly renewable source that offers high levels of insulation—an important benefit in the time of climate change—and it is quite easy to build with. It can be used in its raw state without the need for further processing which also makes it affordable.
It is the best material for creating a home’s walls and a great replacement for building materials such as gypsum, plaster, concrete, fiberglass and/or stone. It has also gained mainstream acceptance from the public because of its low-impact and low-carbon properties.
Grasscrete is a building method of laying concrete walkways, flooring, sidewalks, and driveways in a certain holed-pattern that would allow for grass and other types of flora to grow. Think of a pattern similar to that of a beehive and fill the holes with grass and other flora.
This is a great alternative to the standard, flat-surfaced driveways and walkways because it offers drainage benefits and improves rainwater absorption. It also helps form a natural bio-filter which effectively removes pollutants.
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable building materials available and it is amazingly versatile. The combination of lightweight, high-tensile strength and fast-growing renewable nature is something you can only find in bamboos. It also has an aesthetic appeal that makes it ideal both as a structural and finish material.
It can replace expensive and heavy imported materials that are used for framing buildings and shelters as well as an alternative to concrete and rebar construction. On top of this, it makes for a great material during post-disaster building and in low-income areas that have access to locally-sourced bamboo.
HempCrete is a bio-composite material made from the inner woody fibers of the hemp plant and a lime-based binder. The resulting concrete-shaped material weighs about a seventh or an eight of actual concrete which makes it super lightweight and allows for significantly lower transport cost and energy.
Although not as strong as concrete, it is highly suitable for earthquake-prone areas because of its low density and resistance to crack under movement. Aside from this, it is also mold free, pest resistant, and slightly fireproof.
In recent years, recycled plastic or ground up recycled plastic to be more exact is being used to create concrete. Researchers have decided against the mining, extracting, and milling of new components and turned to this material because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, it provides a new use for landfill-clogging plastic waste and reduces the overall weight of concrete without affecting strength. There are many other ways the construction industry is using recycled concrete including roofing tiles, indoor insulation, structural lumber, PVC windows, bricks, and fences.
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus and it is used to make organic bricks along with organic waste. The end product has the feel and heft of styrofoam minus the toxicity.
In terms of performance, it is better than traditional fiberglass and acts as an eco-friendly insulation material. But what really makes mycelium such a futuristic building material is its ability to self-heal—a property that will reduce the need for high repair prices.
(Source: Build Abroad)
Ferrock is a carbon neutral material that is made from recycled materials like steel dust. What makes it carbon neutral is the fact that it absorbs and traps carbon dioxide during its drying and hardening process. This is the greener alternative to cement and concrete—two materials that are already rather sustainable and green.
Not only is it greener, it is also stronger than concrete. Structures made with Ferrock cement are guaranteed to last longer and won’t have any need for replacements, repairs or renovations.
Green construction isn’t really a new concept. We can see some of these eco-friendly construction materials in the Philippines. We, as a community, are not strangers to green construction and we have utilized many of these materials before. In fact, the Nipa hut, one of our most recognized icons is made from bamboo.
In truth, there are actually a plethora of eco-friendly materials but they will need further development before we can safely and confidently use them to build our homes. Does this mean that we have to wait before we switch to green buildings?
Well, not necessarily. If you want, you can make use of the ones available now. They are more than capable of replacing traditional materials that cause harm to the environment!