By using green construction materials, you can increase the efficiency of your home and save money without putting undue stress on the environment. Building a sustainable home not only preserves natural resources and minimizes pollution, but also creates a healthy, nonhazardous environment for you and your family.
A fast-growing grass, bamboo is recognized as a green construction material under LEED that requires minimal fertilization or pesticides. Whereas oak takes 120 years to grow to maturity, bamboo can be harvested in only three years. Most bamboo flooring available in North America is made in Hunan Province in China where bamboo is harvested from both natural and plantation groves. This bamboo is typically certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning it meets strict criteria for environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
Cork tiles are a rapidly renewable flooring product that comes from the bark of the cork oak tree and can be harvested every 10 years. It’s rot- and fire-resistant, transmits little sound and has low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and its manufacturing process produces almost no material waste. Plus, suberin, a substance of cork, is a natural insect repellant that keeps termites away.
Linoleum is made from dried and milled flax seeds mixed with other plant materials, such as pine resin, wood flour and ground cork. In fact, linoleum is made entirely of natural, renewable resources that are 100 percent biodegradable. This type of flooring also repels dirt and dust — making it hypoallergenic — and is fire-resistant.
Buying carpet made from animal hair is much more sustainable than buying synthetic carpet because it comes from a renewable, biodegradable resource. Synthetic carpets are often made from Middle East oil while wool carpets are typically made from the hair of sheep and llamas in New Zealand.
Wool isn’t merely an eco-friendly material — it’s also resistant to soiling, moisture, static and fire, and it’s been shown to be less hospitable to dust mites than synthetic fibers. These carpets are also considered superior to synthetic ones because of their texture, durability and natural crimp that preserve the springy quality of the carpet.
Plant fiber carpet
Carpet made from plant fibers is chemically untreated, biodegradable and free of VOCs. One of the most popular types of plant fiber carpet is sisal, which is made from leaves of an agave plant that’s grown without pesticides. The hard, thin plant fiber provides a durable surface that doesn’t capture dust mites or allergens and is antistatic and sound absorbent.
Cotton batt insulation
This type of insulation — also known as blue jean insulation — is manufactured from denim and cotton fibers. The batts don’t use the toxic formaldehyde found in fiberglass insulation, and the manufacturing required for cotton batt isn’t nearly as energy intensive as that require for producing fiberglass.
Cotton bat insulation is not only an eco-friendly construction material — it also presents no cancer risk from airborne fibers, doesn’t require a respirator during installation and won’t cause itchiness like traditional insulations.
These green building panels are designed to replace energy-intensive 2x4 and drywall materials for interior partition walls. They’re made from compressed wheat or rice straw, which is a rapidly renewable resource — 60 million acres of wheat are grown in the U.S. each year, which results in 140 million tons of leftover straw.
High temperatures force straw to release a natural resin that binds the fibers together, and the boards are then covered with 100-percent-recycled paper liners and adhered with water-based nontoxic glue. In addition to being environmentally friendly, straw board is also fire-, termite- and mold-resistant.
Sunflower seed board
This type of board is composed of sunflower seeds, which is a rapidly renewable resource that’s extremely versatile. Sunflower seed board comes in a variety of hues and can be stained, cut and routed like wood. The board can also be used in table surfaces, cabinetry and furniture — its only limitations are kitchen and bathroom countertops.
OSB floors are made from sustainably harvested wood that comes from fast-growing trees like aspen poplar. The logs are cut into strands, dried and treated with natural wax, and then they’re subjected to high-temperature pressurization.
Heard about other green construction materials? Let us know in the comments below.