Everyone is, or should be, environmentally conscious these days. ‘Green’ terminology has taken over many conversations, so let’s define green building materials, and how best to use them in your building projects.
Broadly speaking, green building materials are any materials that are more eco friendly than traditional materials used in construction projects. Green building materials can range from the actual material used to the process that makes the material to the energy costs associated with transporting the material. Let’s look at some examples.
Material from sustainable sources — Wood is a major component of any home construction project. Wood milled from commercially grown forests saves old growth trees and the damaging process of logging virgin timber areas. Straw bale construction is a very renewable source of materials, also.
New material sources — Engineered wood products are made from recycled or scrap wood and adhesives to manufacture strong, uniform wood beams and joists which saves trees and reduces landfill waste.
Toxic free substitutions — Using water based adhesives, low VOC emitting resins, and other natural substances in the actual material or in the manufacturing process improves indoor air quality and reduces harmful substances being released into the atmosphere.
Recycled materials — Reusing existing material or creating new materials out of old materials can save money and the environment at the same time. Reusing windows, doors or trim from old buildings is an example of the former and insulation made out of old newspapers or carpet made from recycled plastic bottles are examples of the latter.
Adding insulation — Anything you can do to your house to save energy can be considered green building materials and will be beneficial to the environment. Adding insulation, weather stripping, installing new energy efficient windows will save energy.
Construction materials manufactured in an eco friendly way — Manufacturers who use environmentally friendly ways to produce their product help save the environment. Using recycled water, energy from renewable sources, or toxin free solvents in their manufacturing process should be rewarded with your business. Some innovative companies are obtaining the energy needed to power their operations from burning waste generated from the materials the facility produces.
There are other ways to build ‘green’ that should be considered in any construction project. The location of the site, situation on the site of the building, and size of the building can all have a significant impact on the environment. Using locally produced materials will save on the energy required for transportation. Is adding a programmable thermostat to your home a green building material? It saves on energy usage which helps to save the environment, which is the goal of green building. So, if you want to call it a green building material, I won’t argue with you.