As we all become more aware of the need to live more sustainably, many industries are undergoing a transformative change and moving toward sustainability through the innovative use of technology, process, and materials. One industry that is on the cutting edge of the Green Movement is the building and construction industry.
Green building technology is being used to create structures that are environmentally friendly and resource-efficient for the building’s entire service life. Designed with two primary goals; to reduce the overall impact on the environment by efficiently using energy, resources, and water, and to reduce waste, environmental degradation, and pollution, green building is a responsible approach.
Green building is accomplished through the use of more efficient construction processes, technologies, and sustainable materials. As developers, property owners, and governmental agencies put a greater emphasis on cost savings, environmental protection, and energy conservation, the growth of the use of green and innovative materials will continue to expand.
Examples of Green and Innovative Building Materials
New manufacturing processes have created materials like paint, insulation, and carpeting that emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These materials are more environmentally friendly when manufactured, and healthier in commercial and residential buildings. Other materials like sustainable wood flooring and the use of recycled materials can reduce the amount of energy used in their manufacture, and are more easily replenished.
Here are some examples of innovative, sustainable products being used in both residential and commercial buildings today.
- Cigarette Butt Bricks – Smoking is bad for your health and the environment. In fact, cigarette butts are estimated to make up 38% of all waste! Researchers have found that adding discarded butts to bricks lessens the amount of energy needed (up to 58% less) for baking them. This means they and are cheaper and more eco-friendly to produce. An added bonus – cigarette butt bricks are better insulators than traditional bricks.
- Super Wood – Scientists discovered that boiling wood in a solution containing sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite before it is compressed strengthens the molecules within the wood. This makes it far more durable and stronger than natural wood. In fact, super wood is strong enough to stop a bullet but is far lighter than comparable materials of the same strength.
- Bamboo Flooring – Available in many styles and colors, bamboo has become a popular alternative to traditional hardwood. Because bamboo is a fast-growing grass, it’s a sustainable resource. When shopping, look for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure your flooring is sustainably grown and free of toxic chemicals.
- Sheep’s Wool – Used as an alternative to fiberglass insulation, it’s a natural material that insulates as well as fiberglass but uses much less energy to produce. Plus, sheep’s wool can increase energy efficiency and provides soundproofing qualities.
- Ferrock – This concrete alternative uses steel dust or ferrous rock, leftover from industrial processes that would normally end up in a landfill. The waste is combined with carbon dioxide to form iron carbonate, a cement alternative. It can then be mixed and poured to form, foundations, pathways, staircases, driveways and more. Researchers believe that it may be even more weather resilient than concrete.
In the future, the use of innovative materials and systems that aim to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint will continue to grow. Innovative companies are developing an entirely new generation of building materials that are “smarter,” self-sustaining, sleeker, and much easier on the environment. To remain competitive in today’s business climate, you need to stay up-to-date on these material innovations both to improve your bottom line and to help lower your environmental impact.