In today’s world, it’s impossible to go a week without hearing about climate change. Temperatures are rising, and extreme weather events are popping up. What’s the solution?
No single answer exists. Instead, the effort must involve a multitude of industries and technologies. In construction, businesses are turning to eco-friendly building materials to do their part.
The green building initiative has generated more than 2 million jobs, totaling more than $134 billion in labor earnings. It’s also injected billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.
Which materials can we expect to grow in the future wake of green building?
Eco-Friendly Materials to Watch for in 2020
Are you interested in eco-friendly building? If so, keep an eye on the following materials in the year to come.
Earth construction, also called rammed earth, uses a technique where soil and binder are layered. Then, builders apply pressure to create a hard surface.
These durable walls and floors resemble sedimentary rock. They can be used for thermal storage, as they absorb the sun’s warmth during the day and slowly release it in the evening.
Builders initially used straw bales in the 1800s to construct various buildings — some of which you can still visit today. For example, the rapid expansion of farming equipment in Nebraska pushed the use of straw construction for churches, houses and museums.
Straw is a renewable material, making it a sustainable building choice. It also has insulative properties, allowing buildings to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. It takes little energy to manufacture compared to other materials, like fiberglass.
Bamboo is an excellent resource. It can feed people and animals, build houses, provide utensils, become rope and more. Plus, it’s the fastest-growing renewable resource known to man.
If you plant three or four bamboo plants, you’ll have enough mature material to build a comfortable house within eight years. In Costa Rica, the government uses bamboo to build 6,000 homes annually.
You pop the champagne cork, and then what? You likely toss it out. However, innovation in construction reveals cork is an excellent eco-friendly material. It has insulative properties that reduce energy usage. Plus, builders can use it for soundproofing.
Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used cork for insulation, ship flotation and footwear. While this material is primarily used to stopper beverages, architectural applications are on the rise.
Sheep wool is an up-and-coming insulation material used in building. It’s able to absorb, retain and release moisture without losing its thermal properties. Wool is pretreated with borate to resist pests, fire and mold. If it gets continuously wet, however, the borate will leach out.
This material is also known to soak up volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Studies show wool can absorb chemicals like formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, toluene and dodecane.
Hempcrete is a concrete-like material made with the woody inner fibers of a hemp plant. The fibers bond with lime to create strong shapes. Since hempcrete is light, it can dramatically reduce the energy needed during transport.
Hemp itself is a fast-growing renewable resource. Experts claim this crop is invaluable, able to produce more than 25,000 products ranging from cellophane to dynamite. Businesses can use it in geotextiles and automobile composites. In construction, builders use it as thermal insulation.
Plain old wood still comes with plenty of advantages. For one, as trees grow, they naturally suck in carbon dioxide (CO2), a chemical known to cause global warming. When used in construction, they require less energy-intensive methods compared to other materials.
The recovery and use of secondhand lumber are growing in popularity. Homeowners and architects often covet recovered wood due to its unique appearance. You can also use it as fiber in composite board or for landscaping mulch.
In 2015, the U.S. generated more than 34 million tons of plastic. Most of this material ends up in a landfill or ocean, unable to break down. Today’s builders are looking for a way to incorporate recycled plastic into blueprints.
Instead of mining and extracting new components, builders can use recycled trash to make concrete. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions and reduces landfill-clogging waste.
Mycelium is the root-like fungi fibers that grow underground. When dried, it can be mixed with organic waste to form bricks. This material is exceptionally durable, plus it’s resistant to water, fire and mold.
Builders can grow mycelium into specific forms, reducing processing requirements and energy consumption. You can also turn this material into composite board without using the dangerous formaldehyde that comes with MDF (medium-density fiberboard).
One new material researchers are testing is ferrock, a concrete-like substance made from recycled materials like steel dust. Ferrock traps CO2 during the drying and hardening process, making it carbon neutral.
Beyond environmental superiority, this material is stronger than conventional concrete. Due to the rusting of iron dust during the hardening process, it’s well-suited for use in saltwater or environments too corrosive for standard concrete.
Top Eco-Friendly Building Materials of 2020
Climate change isn’t an issue we can ignore. Many builders are turning to eco-friendly materials as a way to implement change. Ultimately, the goal is to design net-zero structures — buildings that produce more energy than they use. They can even feed the excess back to the power grid.
From rammed earth to mycelium, innovative new designs are on the rise. What will 2020 bring for the future of building materials?