The use of sustainable materials for commercial construction is essential for the creation of more environmentally friendly buildings and a greener world.
Sustainable materials for commercial construction help to cut down on the massive amount of waste that has often been associated with the industry in the past, in addition to cutting down on the negative impact of greenhouse gases.
Potential environmental impacts also have to be taken into account for all stages of the lifecycle of a building. Architects need to take into consideration the way in which construction materials are sourced, made, transported, made use of and then discarded.
There are a number of sustainable materials in use today, but what are the top five most sustainable materials in the commercial construction industry?
Bamboo is almost universally agreed to be one of the best environmentally friendly construction materials in the entire world by sustainability experts. It has an amazingly high rate of self-generation, with a number of species able to grow up to as high as three feet within just one single day.
Rather than a wood bamboo is actually a perennial grass, and one that continues to grow and spread after harvesting without the need to be replanted.
Bamboo can be found almost all over the world, with Antarctica and Europe being the only continents where it cannot be found.
Bamboo is also incredibly durable with a high ratio in terms of strength to weight, offering compressive strength even greater than concrete or bricks.
This means that the need to replace it is very rare, which is not always the case with other sustainable materials like hemp. Bamboo has therefore become a very viable candidate for use in both cabinetry and flooring.
The lightweight nature of bamboo also means that it is not as energy intensive in regards to transportation as some other equally durable materials.
One of the few real drawbacks of bamboo is that insects like the starch in untreated bamboo, meaning it needs treatment to resist them.
The absorption of water can also cause bamboo to swell and crack.
One of the world’s most common construction materials is concrete thanks to its strength and durability, but in terms of sustainable construction materials one of the best is proving to be precast concrete.
Controlled manufacturing plants are responsible for the production of precast concrete, which then transport it to sites that have already been reinforced and complete as per the specifications. This removes the need to have the concrete cast onsite and cuts down on the time it takes to install.
This in turn means that precast concrete causes considerably less disruption to a construction site and also results in a lot less dust, noise, and pollution and construction debris.
Local sources can be used for precast concrete materials including the steel, cement and fine and coarse aggregates. Precast concrete can also be disassembled and reused.
Stainless steel has always been a popular material for commercial construction even before the need for sustainable materials began to be seen as important because of its strength, flexibility and durability, but the industry has proven capable of adapting to the change and moving with the times.
Greenhouse gas emissions and energy intensity have been drastically reduced by the industry in the last quarter of a century, making stainless steel production more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Stainless steel is easy for stainless steel providers to assemble and disassemble; this means that it is very recyclable because any product made of stainless steel can be recycled into something else. Almost all stainless steel grades already have a quarter of recycled material, with some even being one hundred percent recycled.
Sheep’s wool is being used for insulation purposes, and is completely natural unlike materials such as polyurethane spray foam or fibreglass.
Wool also degrades far more slowly than other forms of natural insulation such as straw and is more common, easy to harvest and faster to regenerate than cotton.
Like steel, wood has always been used in construction but cross-laminated timber is very sustainable, being manufactured from layering boards in different directions and bonded with the use of structural adhesive.
CLT is so strong it can replace concrete, cutting down the environmental footprint of new buildings and is also lightweight and resistant to earthquakes and fires.
The timber for CLT is always taken from forests that are sustainably managed.
Ways To Make Your Next Construction Project More Eco-Friendly
Apart from using sustainable materials, you can also do other things that can make your construction projects more eco-friendly. That in turn will propel your construction business one step ahead of your competitors – while protecting the environment – it’s time to make your projects eco-friendly. However, for some business owners, this is easier said than done. It can be difficult to know where to start that’s why we’ve listed some effective tips below to help you do just that.
1. Practice Energy-Efficient Habits
Construction projects often require a lot of electricity. You may need to use multiple power tools and heavy-duty machinery to get the job done. Although you may struggle to eliminate the use of these tools altogether, there are some other energy-efficient habits you and your team can put into practice. For example, if you invest in new power tools, consider purchasing energy-efficient ones. Solar energy is also a popular renewable technology that can be used to supply power for your tools. Your team must be aware of what they can do to help put these new habits into practice. Take a look at some more energy-efficient tips online for some inspiration.
2. Purchase Refurbished Equipment
It is more environmentally friendly to purchase refurbished equipment rather than buying it brand-new. This means fewer tools/machinery will need to be made in factories that use a lot of energy and emit harmful toxins into the air. Purchasing refurbished equipment will also save your company a lot of money. You can easily find second-hand equipment online. Don’t be afraid to also reach out to other companies in the local area who may have some old tools/machinery that they wish to sell. Social media platforms are the perfect place for this. When it comes to refurbished equipment, you must do your research to ensure you are spending your money on items up to spec.
3. Work With Sustainable Materials
Whether you require asphalt, concrete, or bricks, consider using sustainable materials for your project. There are plenty of organizations that can help you source sustainable materials that are kinder to the planet. Take Hanson as an example. It offers its customers sustainable asphalt solutions, reducing carbon emissions by up to 50%. Sustainable materials like these are out there; you just have to put effort into finding them. Sustainable materials may cost a bit more than your cheaper options but the positive environmental benefits they offer are truly priceless.
4. Go Paperless
When planning a project timeline, you most likely go through endless bits of paper and blueprints. However, many people do not realize the damaging effects of paper production on the environment. Reports show that paper mills are among the worst polluters across all industries. To tackle this problem, it is important to go paperless on your next construction project. Instead of writing up your project timeline and printing individual copies out for your team, do it digitally. Not only is this an eco-friendlier approach, but it will also save you a lot of time and effort. Ditching physical notepads for online ones is a lot more convenient, and your plans no longer have to contribute to air pollution.
5. Divert Waste From Landfills
If you want to make your construction project more eco-friendly, you must do what you can to divert waste from landfills. Unfortunately, landfills worldwide are still becoming overcrowded, but reports show that soon this space will run out. Over time, this waste emits harmful toxins into the air, contributing to climate change. Rather than disposing of past construction waste, could you make an effort to reuse it? There are plenty of construction materials that can be recycled, like asphalt, concrete, wood, bricks, and plastics. Implement a recycling strategy to help you manage waste. Separate materials from one another and get in touch with a local recycling centre to arrange regular pick-ups.
6. Make Deals With Local Suppliers
Sourcing your project materials locally is an excellent way to contribute to a greener future. This is because you are no longer sourcing your products from overseas, which requires big shipping containers to travel across the sea or sky. Rather than your materials having to travel – and contribute to air pollution, their journey is a lot shorter. Using local suppliers offers some more attractive benefits. It gives you more control over your supply chain, and you will be able to create better relationships with your suppliers as you can regularly engage with one another. Building strong supplier relationships can benefit your future projects as you may be able to negotiate a better deal on material costs.
By using these top tips above, you will be well on your way to making your next construction project more eco-friendly. Remember to look into sustainable solutions for necessary materials like asphalt and concrete. Avoid using too much energy when it is not needed and make deals with local suppliers to reduce those all-important emissions. The future of construction is starting to look a lot more sustainable.