How to Choose Materials for Your Green Building Design

Green building is an integrative process that focuses on the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment. Buildings can have both positive and negative impacts on their surroundings as well as the people who inhabit them. 

Construction materials can have a much more significant environmental impact than you might imagine. They can contribute to resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, species loss, and pollution. In this article, we will talk about some of the ways you can choose materials for your green building. Before we go into different materials here, are three essential principles to remember :

1st – Reduce demand for new materials through smaller space-efficient homes and the reuse of construction materials.

2nd – Choose materials that are fit for their purpose; the best material would depend on the application and other issues like the climate.

3rd –  Think about the lifecycle of the material, where does it come from, what purpose does it need to serve, and where it will end up. Consider materials that come from sustainable sources and are durable, low-maintenance, and easy to reuse or recycle. Some common materials such as plasterboard sheet metal, Barbar cement cladding, and engineered timber are already pretty low in environmental impact. 

We’ll now go through some of the ways you can reduce their environmental impact. For many homes, the slab is the most greenhouse gas-intensive component, and the manufacturing of concrete results in high greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the Portland cement component. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use concrete, a material with high thermal mass like concrete can be an essential part of energy-efficient design. But what you can do is use less greenhouse gas-intensive concrete. Premix products are available that replace some of the Portland cement with industrial waste products, replacement rates of 20 to 30 percent are easily achievable. 

Aggregates are also replaceable with recycled materials. Some manufacturing plants may use waste for fuel; there may be minor performance changes to workability and shrinkage, so check the manufacturer’s instructions for working with these products. There are also new concrete technologies coming onto the market like geopolymers. They use aluminum oxide instead of Portland cement and magnesium oxide products that can absorb carbon dioxide.

The two main issues are the environmental impact of the timber and its durability. Deforestation is a major contributor to biodiversity loss. For this reason, it is vital to avoid old-growth and rainforests woods, both imported and local. If you’re using hardwood, make sure it’s certified by a scheme that guarantees that timber was sustainably sourced. Recycled teak is also an option, plantation pine is an excellent alternative to hardwood for many applications, but it’s less durable and must need protection against termites and moisture. For pine, framing avoids condensation and use a breathable membrane when required and check the moisture content of the framing before cladding. If using pine in-ground, choose products treated with ACQ or copper Azoff, avoid products containing arsenic and chrome such as copper chrome arsenic. If using pine for above-ground outdoor applications such as external windows or doors, use low organic solvent protected time. There are some alternatives to treated timber which looks similar and are durable, sustainable sources.

Adhesives used in construction typically contain substances called volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Site workers will be most exposed, but it can also affect people living in the home, particularly in the early stages of occupation. When you’re buying adhesives, do yourself a favor and choose products with low or ideally no VOC content, these are now commonly available in hardware stores. The same also goes for products that contain adhesives such as carpets, vinyl, and joinery. Paints and varnishes generally contain VOCs; choose low VOCs paints stains and varnishes; these are all readily available. Some paints have additional green credentials; for example, they might contain recycled content to check the options with your supplier.

With so many products available, there is no reason not to go green. 

Get advice on green building from a leading Home to remodel architect

The firm of Seth A. Leeb is a full-service residential and commercial architectural firm, and we have considerable experience working on large and small residential projects, including remodeling, extensions and new builds. We consider designing and building your project as a privilege, and we’ll work with you to make the process as smooth and rewarding as possible. For more information on our services, which include custom home plans and home remodeling designs, and to speak to a residential architect in NJ, please contact us today or visit our website at https://leeb-architecture.com/

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