The importance of sustainable material use in modern construction

The importance of sustainable material use in modern construction

Sustainability is a necessity for the modern construction industry. The Dictionary defines “sustainability” as “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level”. Moreover, and with greater relevance to the construction industry, the secondary definition is “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance”.

It’s quite a responsibility, isn’t it? And it’s not just materials, we should be considering energy-saving options wherever possible, such as highly insulated bi-fold doors.

The modern construction industry therefore, is torn between satisfying the demands of clients, and the responsibility to ensure that we don’t indelibly damage the planet that sustains us all.

The importance of sustainability can’t be understated. So, we’ve compiled some tips and hints to help convince you to choose sustainable construction.

Building for Longevity

If we’re building to create a more sustainable future, it stands to reason that your construction should stand the test of time. So, it’s about choosing robust materials that aren’t going to damage the environment.

Concrete, for example, is the third highest producer of man-made CO2 after transport and energy production. It requires a tremendous amount of fossil fuels – principally coal – to generate enough heat to drive the cement-making process. That’s before you consider the clinker, which induces the thermal decomposition of calcium carbonate.

One tonne of cement produces 780kg of carbon dioxide and that’s just in its production. There are other, durable cement substitutes, such as hempcrete.

Hempcrete is a bio-composite material formed by combining hemp (a non-psycho-active strain of the cannabis plant) with lime and water. Hemp is one of the planet’s most eco-friendly crops: it thrives on depleted land and helps to improve the soil, and it absorbs large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows.

Hempcrete has substantial insulating properties, negating the requirement for polyurethane foams, and is as enduring as concrete, without damaging the planet.

Of course, hempcrete is currently less widely available, but where many clients are insistent on sustainable construction projects, we can encourage them to consider this “zero-carbon” modern construction material.

Other sustainable materials are; Bamboo, Cork, Natural fibre wool insulation and carpeting, Reclaimed materials, such as wood, metals, plastics, and glass, Metal roofing and siding. Additionally, the installation of solar panels can help neutralise the carbon-impact of modern construction. Wherever sun is unreliable, wind turbines could be considered.

Using timber from sustainable sources

Wood, by nature, is renewable – if it’s grown in a sustainable fashion. Trees digest carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; so cultivating sustainably plays an essential role in the eco-system, protecting the planet from rising temperatures.

This makes timber-based advanced framing (or optimum value engineering) an option to consider if you’re aiming to reduce the environmental impact of your construction projects.

Advanced-framing saves timber in a wide variety of ways. And if the wood is grown in sustainable forests that replenish their own supply, you’re more likely to provide a solution that protects the planet’s resources.

Create highly insulated properties from sustainable materials

Of course, the sustainability of a building only begins with its construction – it has an entire lifetime to damage the planet; unless you consider the energy efficiency of the building, post-construction.

Energy efficiency is a requirement of most building regulations these days, but are you doing all you can just by meeting minimum requirements? By incorporating advanced-framing methods, you produce less waste during the building process, and, resultantly, less will be dumped in landfill.

But once the building becomes lived in, there are a number of measures that can minimize environmental impact –

Low-flow toilets
On-demand water heaters
Programmable thermostats
Greener insulating materials

All resulting in a building that consumes less energy. Energy efficient homes cost less to run.

Sustainable homes are healthier

Green builds emit fewer toxins. Much has been made of man-made materials such as asbestos, which produces carcinogens when disturbed.

Many sustainable materials can help improve a building’s air quality:
Natural wool carpeting
Laminates that avoid toxic glues
Air systems that circulate fresh outdoor air into the building.

Reclaimed Materials

Waste is a necessary evil as far as construction and demolition projects are concerned. A demolition produces waste concrete, metal, plastic, wood, glass, asphalt, and bricks, as well as countless other materials that get destroyed when a building is demolished.

All of this goes into landfill or incinerators, polluting the earth and the air; but the transportation of waste materials also has a massive impact on the environment.

Reclaiming used materials can be expensive, but if you can find a specialist deconstruction company, you’ll find that they dismantle reusable items exceptionally carefully, in order that they can be used again.

Reclaimed items can bring genuine character to a building – especially in the case of renovation projects where they can help retain the existing design integrity.

At present, only 1% of all new-build projects incorporate reclaimed items, but this is a significant area where modern construction companies can improve their sustainability.
Purchase locally
Transportation is one of the primary causes of carbon pollution, so it makes sense to source materials locally to minimise the impact of your project.

Sourcing close to the building site benefits the local economy and maintains the integrity of your building project.

The Importance of Sustainability

There’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that sustainable buildings secure a better investment. An article published in The Washington Post recently claimed that structures that employ third-party certifications for sustainability sell for at least 8% more than buildings without accreditation.

Of course, sustainability might cost a little more but, certainly in the case of hempcrete, the higher the demand for sustainable building materials, the more available and affordable they become. Become a trailblazer and insist on sustainable construction.

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