There are many advantages to using green building materials outside of the obvious environmental benefits.
About Green Buildings
Using eco-friendly products for building structures is the crux of sustainable building practices. When sustainable buildings are constructed, the builders aim for:
- Energy efficiency - This involves making the most use of natural light, installing skylights, solar panels and photovoltaic energy systems. Builders also consider the placement of the building on the land and its shape to maximize natural light usage.
- Efficient use of water - To make the most eco-friendly use of water, sustainable building structures use gray water systems for irrigation, low flush toilets and low flow shower heads.
- Using eco-friendly builders and building materials - This involves the use of sustainable wood, reclaimed wood and other items and recycled construction materials.
Types of Green Building Materials
Green and eco-friendly building materials are more often than not, more expensive than traditional building materials. The trade off is that green buildings are more energy efficient and definitely make up the up-front expense in energy cost savings. Not only that, but they are environmentally friendly as well. Here are some examples of green building materials:
While planning the construction of your home or building, there are many green materials from wall studs to flooring:
- Bamboo flooring - Bamboo takes three years to mature as opposed to the 50-100 years of other trees like maple and oak used for hardwood flooring. This makes it an environmentally sound and environmentally sustainable flooring choice.
- Cork flooring - Cork is harvested from the bark of the tree, so the tree itself is not cut down and the bark takes about three years to regrow, so it's definitely an environmentally friendly choice. Cork is also naturally hypoallergenic and ant-microbial.
- Reclaimed wood - This wood is salvaged from demolished buildings and reused.
- Linoleum - Eco-friendly linoleum flooring is made from items like linseed oil, jute and flax. Another benefit to linoleum flooring is they don't release toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) into the air like vinyl tiles do.
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood - Buying raw building materials like wall studs and framing purchased from certified by the FSC. FSC certified manufacturers must adhere to sustainable forestry practices which include, among other standards and practices, preserving the natural habitat and prohibiting the use of hazardous pesticides.
Insulation is very important to energy efficiency. Without the proper insulation, heating and cooling cost rise considerably. Here are a few earth friendly insulation options:
- Homasote fiberboard - This insulation is made from recycled newsprint.
- Cotton insulation - Insulation made from recycled cotton materials like denim doesn't contain formaldehyde like traditional fiberglass insulation and there is no need to wear a respirator during the installation process.
- Hemp based products - Insulation made from Hemp fibers are naturally resistant to pests like moths and beetles, meaning there is not need to add pesticides to the insulation panels.
- Blown insulation - This insulation is professionally blown in and is comprised of recycled newsprint.
Roofing not only insulates the building, but also protects it from incliment weather.
- EcoStar Sustainable Roofing - Roofing tiles offered by EcoStar are made of 80% recycled rubber and plastic.
- Plastic Lumber Yard - These plastic roofing slates are made from mostly recycled materials and are recyclable themselves.
- Energy Star rated roofing - Energy Star qualified roofing materials are designed to reflect heat and therefore helping to prevent heat transference from the suns rays. This translates into less energy usage and lower cooling bills.
Other Ways to Go Green
Building materials like roofing, insulation and wood products is just the start with for having an eco-friendly living space. You can continue building your green dream house on the inside with some of the following items:
- Recycled gypsum board
- Cork flooring
- Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints
- Solar panels
- Tankless hot water heaters
- Low flow shower heads
- Solar hot water heaters
- Recycled carpeting
- Energy efficient windows
Finally, don't forget to consider the outside of the house:
- Plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of the house - The leaves will shade your home from the hot sun in the summer and when the leaves fall off in the fall, the sunlight will filter through and warm your house during the cold winter months.
- Compost - This keeps garbage out of landfills.
Even Small Changes Matter
Even it you can't afford to make huge earth friendly changes to your home, even the smallest efforts, like planting trees and having a compost pile, can lead to a big impact over time.