According to the U.N. Environmental Program, the construction industry is not making enough efforts to achieve net-zero emissions. While all sectors are making efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the construction sector is still to get an organized strategy. Today, up to 50% of the world’s climate change is caused by the construction sector. The same industry is responsible for up to 40% of the pollution in water bodies. These figures just go to show, how significant the construction industry is in regards to environmental impact.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Construction effects the environment in diverse ways. Some of the effects are so easy to control and prevent. For instance, most construction projects often require land. Having proper land use planning can prevent issues such as deforestation and human-wildlife conflicts. At the same time, individual choices with a perspective of the future could reduce such issues.

Related: How sustainable is using salt as a building material?

Every person has a role to play in reducing construction-based pollution. The biggest role, however, lies with the developer. Whether you are building a home, a business premise or any other development, consider the idea of sustainability.

Sustainable construction is one which caters to today’s needs while considering the future of the ecosystem and the world at large. Developers can turn their projects into sustainable ones by selecting sustainable materials, avoiding unnecessary waste and considering energy efficiency.

A sustainable building can be described as one that is built with renewable and recyclable resources and one that reduces energy consumption. There are many factors that go into making a building sustainable. The good news is that there is no one rule-fit-all approach to sustainability. All you have to do is ensure that you think about the planet in the process.

Sustainable construction materials

The first step to sustainable construction is getting the right materials

If you are planning to start a construction project, there are many sustainable materials to consider. Most of these materials are more affordable than traditional construction ones. Further, they have been tested and are likely more durable. Let us look at the options you have for sustainable construction.

Ferrock bricks from recycled steel dust

Ferrock is a type of brick that is created by combining steel dust with silica obtained from ground glass. The brick is attained upon a reaction with carbon dioxide to create an iron carbonate. This carbonate is helpful to the ecosystem since it binds some atmospheric carbon dioxide. Secondly, it provides an alternative to pollution intense concrete walls. 

The other benefit is that these bricks are cheaper than traditional concrete stones since they are made from waste materials. However, the bricks are not yet available in the market on a large scale. If you are doing a small construction, Ferrock is something you may consider.

HempCrete bricks from hemp fiber

Hempcrete is a new type of building block developed from hemp fiber. This type of building material is rare and only just found its way into the market. However, it is quickly picking up pace due to its benefits. Hempcrete is estimated to have a lifespan of at least 300 years, way longer than traditional concrete. Most modern homes have a lifespan of 50 to 1000 years. This is an indication that hemp-based building blocks are actually better compared to traditional options.

Hempcrete is made from hemp fiber, which is very strong. Hemp grows very fast and can be produced in mass quantities. These blocks are also used without the need for concrete. They use special glue, which is more eco-friendly than cement.

Most importantly, the blocks offer good insulation, which reduces heating and cooling costs. Concrete is known for being a very poor insulator and hence high heating and cooling expenses.

Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam(PRF) for insulation

Rigid foam, a popular insulation option, is made from plastic and other CO2-intensive emission processes. Besides emission, the main components of the foam are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have diverse side effects. The option of Plant-based Polyurethane foam eliminates the negative effects of traditional foam. Rigid foam has been in use since the 1970s and has been quite instrumental in providing home insulation. However, it is time to advance to a more friendly option of foam.

Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam is made from a combination of hemp, kelp and bamboo. This foam is environmentally friendly since it is made from readily available plants. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on earth and can be grown almost anywhere. Hemp can also be produced in large quantities. 

The main environmental benefit of plant-based foam is that it protects the house from mold and pests. Secondly, it has a high thermal value than traditional foam. This simply means it is more efficient as an insulator.

Smart glass windows for controlled lighting

Smart glass windows and doors are now becoming very popular. Most people who opt for these windows do not even know how sustainable they can be. Smart glass is made with PDLC liquid crystal film, which can transform your regular glasses into a tinted one or something similar. The smart windows use electricity, but it is worth the effort.

When these windows are used, they block direct UV and IR rays from reaching the house on hot days. This, in effect, controls the heat in your house and reduces heating costs. On cold days, they automatically allow UV rays to warm the house.

Besides temperature control, these glasses are good for personal privacy control. This technology is quickly developing and is an option you may consider for your sustainable construction.

Solar panel roofing

Solar panels are one of the sustainable construction materials that have been around for a long time. However, solar panels are no longer limited to just generating electricity. Today, there are diverse roofing options equipped with solar cells. A good example is solar panel roofing shingles. These are shingles just like the traditional ones except that they are equipped with solar cells. They generate electricity and power your home helping reduce power costs. 

Cross laminated timber (CLT)

CLT is a miracle construction material that is taking way longer than necessary to be embraced. Although some companies are already using it, it has failed short of expectations. CLT is a wood product developed in Europe in the early 1990s. It is made up of structurally graded lumber bound with glue. While the material may look like regular wood on the surface, it is structurally way stronger and more durable.

CLT boasts of strength to weight ratio equal to concrete. What this means is that the weight that concrete wall can sustain is equally sustainable by CLT. However, CLT is five times lighter in weight. Effectively, CLT can provide a faster and cheaper way of construction compared to concrete.

The upside of CLT is that it replaces concrete, a major contributor to carbon pollution. Secondly, it is a good insulator which reduces heating costs. On the downside, it relies on lumber, which could cause problems for our forests if fully embraced. 

These materials give us an idea of what it takes to attain sustainable construction. When we talk about sustainability in construction, it is necessary to have an open-minded approach. All of the above materials touch on various aspects of sustainability. Even so, when you choose a material, make considerations and weigh its pros versus cons. Avoid materials that are likely to cause more harm than good. 

Images via Pexels