As the green lifestyle becomes increasingly mainstream, more and more homes and office buildings are rising thanks to sustainable construction materials.
These materials run the gamut from hardwood flooring to plush carpet to wall plaster. And the field of sustainable construction materials is multi-faceted: It includes renewable and recycled materials.
Here’s a sampling of sustainable construction materials:
Mohawk Industries’ EverStrand carpet collection is arguably one of the most singular products in the sustainable construction material field.
Its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) carpet fiber is made of recycled plastic soda bottles. During the manufacturing process, the plastic bottles are chopped up into little chips, which are vigorously cleaned and then melted into polyester resin.
Mohawk, which is based in Calhoun, Ga., is one of the world’s largest producers of carpet and other flooring products. In connection with the EverStrand line, the company operates the world’s largest integrated plastic bottle recycling facility in Summerville, Ga.
Tackling plastic bottles is no small task environmentally. According to Mohawk, the U.S. recycles only 30 percent of the plastic bottles discarded each year. Mohawk purchases 215 million pounds of the recycled plastic, or 25 percent of the amount recycled each year. That's only a portion, but if you stacked the bottles end to end, the result would be the equivalent of 6,926 Empire State Buildings stacked from end to end. That’s food for thought!
For information on the carpet line, visit Mohawk's website.
Lumber is such a key part of any structure, be it residential or commercial, that the need for sustainable construction materials in this sector is paramount.
Enter NW Sustainable Building Products, which offers western juniper wood for use in fences, decks, arbors, retaining walls and interior trim.
Western juniper has been overgrown in the western United States, where it’s a native plant, and in many cases is invasive. That’s led to problems with the water table and wildlife habitats in that region of the country. As a result, much of the juniper growth has been cut down and burned — and not reused, until now.
According to NW Sustainable Building Products, western juniper is naturally rot and pest-resistant, which precludes the need for chemical treatment.
For information on wood products made from western juniper, go to the company website.
Natural plasters for interior walls are an important part of the green home. There are a variety of sustainable construction materials for eco finishes including clay, which is 100 percent natural and non-toxic. Ecohaus sells a variety of American clay that’s composed of 75 percent recycled or reclaimed content. The clay is produced in New Mexico from local materials, using a low-energy, low-waste manufacturing process.
The clay helps regulate temperature by absorbing excess moisture and letting walls breathe.
Ecohaus sells the clay in flour sacks, rather than plastic, and ships it in powder form, which decreases its weight and makes shipping less fuel-intensive. And there’s little waste: excess plaster can be scraped up, rehydrated and thus reused.
To see the product, visit the Ecohaus website.
In addition to carpet made of recycled plastic bottles, Mohawk also makes sustainable hardwood flooring.
Mohawk’s Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring consists of salvaged materials, some of which are as old as 600 years. The wood comes from buildings that have been dismantled, and it would otherwise end up in landfills.
The wood features natural distress, since it’s already had a life in another building. In addition, Mohawk does not use formaldehyde when processing the wood planks. Instead it uses a process called PureBond, which results in a low-emission product.
For information on Mohawk’s green hardwood flooring, go to Mohawk's Greenworks webpage.
The Internet offers numerous resources for consumers looking for sustainable construction materials. But it’s important for consumers to distinguish between what is truly sustainable and what merely sounds sustainable.
The Forest Stewardship Council maintains a database of purveyors of sustainable construction materials. The FSC is a third-party monitor based in Germany that ensures manufacturers and retailers are producing and selling authentically sustainable wood.
The FSC has developed a set of 10 forest management principles that include maintaining the ecological functions and the integrity of forests.
For more information on the database, visit: the FSC website.
Know about other sustainable construction materials? Leave us a note in the comments below.