Green building, or green construction, has been around for decades but wasn't truly formalized until the 1990s. The LEED rating system's pilot program was launched in 1998, but the US government didn't catch up until the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Today, green building is becoming more widely used as people push for renewable energy sources and reusable materials to decrease their carbon footprint and its impact on the environment. Incorporating green material in this process is an integral part of green building.
For builders, it's not just about being environmentally friendly. Green building also provides higher profits, can land lower interest rates and builds a reputation that your company cares about the environment. Certain municipalities are also beginning to require more and more green standards.
While green building may be something you want to do, understanding what green material is and how to use it can seem overwhelming. To make that part of the process easier, we've compiled a list of green material and some examples of how to use them in your next project.
Earthen Material/Earth bags. Adobe, cob and rammed earth are all examples of Earthen material that can be used for creating a solid structure. Natural clay is an alternative to plaster. Earth bags are made with sand or soil and can be stacked to form the walls of a structure. These are typically seen at military bases or structures close to water.
Wood. There are many types of wood: Cordwood, bamboo, reclaimed wood and engineered wood are a few examples. Wood can be used in various parts of the building process, from the frame to decor.
Slate/Steel/Thatch/Composite roofing. All of these are airtight roofing solutions. Slate is a natural stone that is durable. Steel is durable and can be recycled over and over. Thatch is dry straw, dry water reed, dried rushes, etc. which is a great option for roofing or insulation. Composite material is two or more materials put together to make one thing, for example foam sandwiched between two metal sheets. It's lightweight, inexpensive, and can be used for roofing or insulation.
Natural fibers. Natural fibers like cotton and sheep's wool make great alternatives for insulation. There are less chemicals and it takes less energy to produce sheep's wool than traditional insulation. It's also more energy efficient and can even sound-proof rooms!
Cellulose. Cellulose is recycled paper waste. It's used globally for insulation.
Mycelium. Mycelium are the root-like fibers found on mushrooms. When combined with pasteurized sawdust, it can be formed into many shapes and is sturdy enough to be used in the building process. It can handle extreme temperatures as well, making it a better option for insulation than traditional methods.
Ferrock. Ferrock is an alternative to concrete. It's made with steel dust or ferrous rock which is left over from industrial processes. This "waste" is normally sent to a landfill, but if combined with carbon dioxide, it forms an iron carbonate. It can then be mixed and poured to form driveways, pathways, staircases, etc.
These are just eight examples of different types of green material that can be used as alternatives to traditional building materials. You may also consider recycled steel, cork, Low-E windows, non-VOC paint, and more. All of these alternatives will aid the marketing of your project, as well as maximize profits. When it doubt, check the EPA's guidelines for green building and review the programs they offer as well as federal guidelines.