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7 Sustainable Construction Materials

Although concrete is a core component in homes, public buildings, and bridges, it’s not the most sustainable building material out there.

Commercial concrete production releases tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, contributing to environmental pollution and climate change. Fortunately, there are more sustainable construction materials that present a greener alternative to concrete in both residential and commercial projects.

1. Straw Bales

Straw bale building is a nod to the days when we built our homes from natural and locally-sourced materials. Instead of relying on technology and manufactured materials, we use what the earth provides. Straw bales are used to replace concrete, plaster, gypsum, and other building materials in walls. When sealed properly, they have a high insulating ability. As a renewable resource, straw is both sustainable and affordable.

2. Bamboo

The recent popularity of bamboo amenities such as furniture and utensils may make it seem trendy, but it has been used in construction for millennia. Its combination of light weight, tensile strength, and renewability make it an ideal replacement for expensive imported materials and an alternative to rebar and concrete construction, especially in areas with easy access to locally-sourced bamboo.

3. Recycled Plastic

Plastic is emerging as one of the more sustainable construction materials. Instead of sourcing, mining and milling new components, researchers are producing concrete made from ground-up trash and recycled plastics. This practice reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides a positive new use for plastic waste that would otherwise be clogging landfills.

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4. Wood

Wood, a tried and true construction mainstay, retains many advantages over concrete, steel, and other industrial building materials. Trees absorb CO2 as they grow and don’t need to undergo energy-intensive procedures to be converted into a construction product. When a forest is properly managed it is also renewable, resulting in a biodiverse habitat.

5. Rammed Earth

Another natural technology, rammed earth has been used by human civilization for thousands of years. Not only does it last a long time, when pressed tightly in wooden forms, it creates walls that have a similar feel to concrete. The rammed earth buildings being produced today can be fortified by bamboo or rebar for added safety, and mechanical tampers cut down on the labour needed to produce sturdy walls.

6. Ferrock

A newer building material, ferrock uses a wide range of recycled materials, such as steel dust, to create a building material that resembles concrete but is actually even stronger. In addition, this innovative material absorbs and seals carbon dioxide as part of the drying and hardening procedure. Ferrock is therefore not only less CO2-involved than concrete, it is also carbon neutral.

7. Timbercrete

An intriguing material composed of concrete and sawdust, timbercrete is lighter than concrete and the sawdust component both recycles a waste material and replaces some of the more energy-involved ingredients in traditional concrete. It also reduces transportation emissions. Timbercrete can be shaped into pavers, blocks, and bricks, making it both versatile and sustainable.

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