One of the most important parts of construction is selecting the right building materials. Yet, about 30% of them end up wasted. This leads to greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. That’s why picking sustainable material is key for contractors.
Here are some ways builders can choose eco-friendly products for their design.
How to Select the Right Materials
There are many options when it comes to construction materials. Picking the right ones often has to do with budget and project type. However, their impact on the environment is important to consider. Follow these tips when choosing raw supplies.
1. Find a Qualified Supplier
The first step is to find a reputable company. This may mean doing a little more digging than just a quick Google search. Many supplier portables and databases don’t have enough detailed information. They are usually limited to already-known suppliers and their capabilities.
To find more informative information, ask for recommendations from other green builders. Make sure the company knows green construction and has worked on similar projects in the past. Another place to check out is green product databases such as EcoStructure Magazine. These allow contractors to learn about eco-friendly product examples.
2. Assess the Quality of the Products
Once contractors find suppliers, it’s important to evaluate the products. Many reputable vendors will pursue certifications such as the Green C Certification. These certifications allow contractors to trust vendors and form better relationships.
It’s also a good idea to verify that the supplies meet green products standards. These standards can come from government regulations, such as the EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, or from groups within the industry.
3. Look for Specific Characteristics
The definition of green materials can be a little vague. Generally, it’s defined as any product that has a low impact on human health and the environment. For example, does it reduce carbon emissions or improve indoor air quality?
Here are some more supply features to keep in mind:
- It’s durable and low-maintenance
- It uses recycled content
- It’s made from natural or renewable sources
- It doesn’t contain highly toxic compounds
- It is obtained through a local manufacturer
Keeping these things in mind can make the product selection feel less overwhelming.
4. Take Advantage of Resources
To help contractors pick the right supplies, outside research can help. Some organizations have defined concepts of sustainability, including closed-loop recycling and eliminating bioaccumulative toxins. Closed-loop recycling is when a material is recycled back into the same item without any deterioration.
Another strategy is to use life-cycle assessment tools. This process evaluates a product through its life cycle from initial production to disposal. That way, contractors and clients can understand the environmental impacts as a whole.
Plus, they should pay attention to green rating systems, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), to find quality items.
5. Repurpose Items
Instead of doing a complete demolition, save items to be reused in the next project. For example, holding onto kitchen cabinets or sinks can save money. Plus, undamaged tiles can work well as mosaic pieces. By repurposing supplies, builders keep them out of landfills.
Green Material Examples
Finding the right supplies takes research and evaluation. To simplify the process, here are a few items to use in future construction projects.
Concrete is typically made from limestone, marl, sand, and clay. It’s used in many structural elements, such as exterior foundations.
Some companies are using sustainable practices by using biofuel to run processing facilities. Also, fly ash concrete can be an alternative to traditional concrete and is more eco-friendly. It is a byproduct of coal combustion usually thrown into landfills.
Wood is a common material for construction projects because it provides a warmer feeling. It’s a natural material that helps reduce carbon emissions. Just look for a company that uses responsible forest management practices.
Another option is to source wood that has already been used in a building project. Reclaimed wood and salvaged lumber are popular material choices for homeowners, and increasingly are used in commercial spaces for striking design accents. Reclaimed wood also looks beautiful as wall panels and floorboards.
Steel is one of the best metals for sustainability. It is the most recycled metal and lasts for a long time, making it perfect to repurpose. Steel is used in a variety of construction projects, like high-rise buildings and multi-family homes. Besides its environmental benefits, steel is also durable and more cost-effective.
Bamboo is a natural plant that grows back quickly. In fact, it's the fastest growing plant on earth. This makes bamboo a more eco-friendly choice, allowing contractors to save non-renewable resources. Bamboo is also strong and versatile in its design. It’s the perfect material for flooring or decorative furniture.
Cork is made from an oak tree and is a renewable source. It is used for ceiling panels, acoustic walls, and flooring. Plus, it is moisture-resistant and can absorb vibrations. Therefore, it's ideal for a bathroom or office.
The Building Block Materials for Eco-Friendly Building
As the impacts of global warming rise, it’s important to start curbing carbon emissions. Additionally, building professionals are struggling with materials shortages and supply chain gaps due to pandemic-induced changes. Now is the perfect time to re-assess sourcing for building materials and work towards more sustainable, eco-friendly processes.