If your business has adopted an environmental ethos, perhaps in response to the ongoing rise in temperatures globally, then you’ll want that decision to be reflected in every aspect of your decision-making – including the materials from which your premises are built. After all, there’s no point in talking about carbon footprints and deforestation if your actual practices are environmentally questionable.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to make eco-friendly choices when it comes to construction materials. Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the most appealing options, and exactly what makes them so compelling.
The Rise of Sustainable Building Materials
There are several factors driving the trend toward sustainable materials. They tend to reduce waste, while limiting the strain on the natural world. Certain materials are notoriously costly to extract and process, and this has forced many project managers to consider the alternatives.
Many sustainable materials, despite a reputation for poor value, actually end up being cost-effective. This is partly because truly sustainable materials tend in many cases to also be long-lasting ones. Treated timber, which is capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions, would fall into this category.
Finally, we should consider that sustainable materials will also tend to signal to the general public that your business is serious about its green ambitions. This goes particularly for buildings that are extremely visible and prominent: making them from visibly sustainable materials will tend to send a convincing message.
Types of Sustainable Building Materials
Let’s take a look at some of the options when it comes to truly sustainable building materials.
Reclaimed timber has a major advantage over every other variety, in that the timber doesn’t need to be extracted and processed all over again. No more trees need to be chopped down, and timber that might otherwise be destroyed can remain useful.
Certain kinds of metal, like aluminium, can be used again and again. Steel is by far the most recycled material in the world – but we should be aware that the process of recycling steel imposes a considerable environmental cost relative to some of the alternatives. However, steel can do things that other materials simply cannot – so, if we are going to use it, we should aim to use the greenest possible form of it.
Bamboo has an excellent reputation for sustainability, because it grows extremely quickly and can be replanted again and again at very low cost. It is completely biodegradable and naturally strong thanks to the structure of its fibres.
Some forms of concrete impose a higher environmental cost than others. Look for alternatives like AshCrete, which makes use of ash instead of cement. While you might end up spending more, the end result may well be stronger – and greener!
Case Studies in Sustainable Construction
For a real-world example of these principles put into action, we need look no further than the Science, Engineering and Environment Building at the University of Salford. Built over two years at a cost of just under £50 million, it makes heavy use of aluminium panels and windows that allow for trickle ventilation during winter and high airflow during summer.