From aesthetics to environmental concerns, not to mention local ordinances, there are so many reasons to start using eco-friendly building materials. From ancestral practices such as rammed earth to lab-grown mushroom material that’s stronger than concrete, there's no shortage of inspiration for these revolutionary practices. Here are seven eco-friendly construction materials for your new home.
1) Rammed Earth
When we think about creating eco-friendly homes, it’s easy to focus on contemporary innovations and new-age materials. Hybrid construction materials that have been engineered in a lab are great, but let’s not forget that humans have been building homes and coexisting with their environment for a lot longer than the green movement!
Looking back a few hundred - or even thousand! - years can be a huge source of inspiration to the eco-movement. Rammed earth is one such material, enabling early humans to build well-insulated walls and floors that utilize thermal storage. Nowadays rammed earth can be used in luxury homes as well as more rudimentary dwellings! Rammed earth construction costs are on the decline as more builders are becoming familiar with the product.
2) Straw Bales
Straw was a prized building material across the Western United States and it’s having a huge comeback as an eco-friendly building material. Straw is a byproduct of the agricultural industry and millions of tons are produced each year - it’s cheap, robust and environmentally friendly, making it a great material for construction.
Straw bales can be used in place of lumber in wall construction to create exceptionally well insulated, thick and aesthetic walls. It can also be treated to be fire retardant, making it a safe and effective building material.
For eco-friendly homes, insulation cannot be an afterthought. A house’s green credentials don’t just stem from what it’s built out of, but also how environmentally friendly it is to run - and if it’s leaking heat out then those energy bills just grow. HempWool is a fantastic natural material with powerful insulative properties and it’s increasingly used to replace fiberglass insulation in home construction. “As well as being 10% more insulative than its synthetic cousins, it can also store and release moisture without incurring damage - ideal for all climates,” says Matthew Mead, Founder and CEO of Hempitecture Inc., the leading hemp insulation provider in the US
Bamboo has been a popular construction material in the Far East for centuries, and the West has often appreciated it more for its aesthetic features rather than its eco-credentials. As a naturally occurring material, however, which covers vast forests in China, it’s an abundant and environmentally friendly construction material as well as a charming aesthetic feature. Bamboo can be used effectively in roofing and walls in modern construction.
This is a fast-growing plant and can be harvested every three years - compare that to once in a generation for traditional lumber. That means there’s no short supply of bamboo, and challenges of Western logging are removed.
5) Solar Shingles
“Drawing on the sun as a natural source of energy can have powerful repercussions for your environmentally friendly home, reducing your energy bill as well as fossil fuel consumption,” says Anthony Horne, a writer at Britstudent and Nextcoursework, “and traditionally, this meant the installation of huge solar panels - effective, but unaesthetic and costly.” Solar shingles, by comparison, can double up as roof tiles and solar panels, and create natural-looking roofing that absorbs the sun to heat your home. They’re also highly cost effective and often subject to tax breaks - check your local ordinances!
Hempcrete is a combination of hemp and lime, often referred to as a biocomposite. Biocomposites are natural materials joined together in a process of solidification through curing. The process of hempcrete solidifying actually takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the material itself. Hempcrete is an insulation material and so much more, it actually replaces the need for drywall, insulation, and your vapor barrier. Hempitecture Inc., a US based company has worked on over 15 hempcrete projects across the US. "Hempcrete solves some problems with our built environment, but the future will be with scalable solutions like building blocks," says Mattie Mead, Hempitecture founder.
7) Living Roofs
Ecologically friendly homes should connect us to our environment and the concept of living roofs has been introduced not only to create durable and green roofing materials but also to create holistic living practices that inspire deeper connection to the landscape. A living roof consists of waterproof membranes covered by soil and plant life to create a thriving ecosystem above our heads.
Inspiration for eco-friendly construction can come from many sources, both past and future, traditional and innovative technology. It can also give us deeper connections to the world around us, and even lower our energy bills to save us money. Going green is a no-brainer.
Bio: Michael Dehoyos is a writer and editor at PhD Kingdom and Write My Essay. He is passionate about exploring innovative solutions to the climate crisis both in private and professional spheres. You can read more of his work at Academic Paper Help.