How Green Construction Techniques for Homes Can Help the Planet

Construction is one of the mankind’s most resource-intensive practices. Even conservative estimates suggest construction is responsible for almost five percent of total particulate emissions created worldwide. Many see traditional construction practices as a significant cause of climate change as well as deteriorating air quality and water pollution.

Not only do humans pollute some of the earth's most precious natural resources in efforts to build taller and stronger buildings, but natural landscapes are often altered in heroic attempts to manufacture new building materials. However, this does not necessarily have to be the case any longer.

Reimagining already-consumed resources, also known as “green construction,” has become an exciting and innovative concept. Green construction techniques may well be able to help humans reduce the environmental impact of construction, help the construction industry become more sustainable and reduce damage done to the earth.

Organic Insulation

Organic insulation

Efficient insulation is an indispensable step in creating a building with a tight envelope, reducing energy costs up to 60 percent by reducing the effort expended by HVAC systems. However, traditional insulation is made with hazardous particles and toxic chemicals that are a health hazard to both living creatures and the environment as a whole. However, dozens of recycled and organic materials can readily be used to create highly effective insulation, such as:

  • Sheep's wool is designed by nature to stand up to some of the harshest environments in the world and is an excellent insulator in even the wettest environments.
  • Neptune Balls: A naturally-occurring component of seaweed, Neptune balls are insusceptible to rot, mould and fire.
  • Cork: The same material used to seal bottles of wine is one of the greenest insulation materials available. Renewable, fire and water-resistant, cork also has outstanding acoustic properties.
  • Flax and Hemp: Both of these natural fibres are unbelievably strong and are resistant to rot, mould and pests. Fire retardants, such soda, are sometimes added to this 100 percent natural insulation.

Recycled Wood

Recycled wood

Somewhat of a misnomer, “recycled wood” doesn't actually come primarily from trees, but is actually a 50-50 mix of recycled waste plastics, like plastic shopping bags, and wood fibres. Also referred to as “composite lumber,” the resulting product is more durable than either plastic or wood alone, is less toxic that plain plastic and has a greater resistant to mould and rot. However, composite lumber is somewhat more expensive than traditional lumber.

Sustainable Bricks

Sustainable bricks

Creating traditional clay-fired bricks requires intensive amounts of energy. Worst, clay makes for amazingly poor building material, as it is a poor insulator and weakens under any force other than compression. However, there are couple of ways to improve the efficiency of clay for construction:

  • Wool Bricks: Adding sheep’s wool to bricks dramatically increases their strength, particularly in cold and wet climates.
  • Earthen Blocks: Fundamentally unfired bricks, earthen blocks are composed of clay, sand, silt and concrete binders that dry slowly, increasing the block's strength.

Recycled Steel

Recycled steel

Worldwide, enough steel is discarded to reconstruct the entire city of Manhattan, New York. Steel is the most recycled material in the world and its metallurgical properties allow it to be recycled indefinitely with no reduction in quality. In North America alone, the world's largest consumer nation, more than 80 million tons of steel is recycled annually.

Making new steel products from recycled material uses only 25 percent of the energy required to make new steel from raw materials. In fact, recycled steel can be mixed or reinforced with recycled plastic fibres, creating the ultimate green construction material for earth-friendly buildings. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, manufacturing steel produces less CO2 emissions per ton than do other metals, such as aluminium.

Recycled steel can also be custom-formed for any project, such as new home construction. Many builders, such as Sheds n Homes, use recycled steel to build sheds and kit homes, as well as other structures.

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