8 hints for choosing eco-friendly building materials

January 26, 2016

To choose eco-friendly building materials, you'll need to consider everything from how a material is produced to if it's biodegradable. Here are 8 hints to help you figure it out.

8 hints for choosing eco-friendly building materials

1. Always prioritize durability

You'll save money in the long run and there is a greater likelihood of the materials being recycled later.

2. Consider "embodied energy"

When considering materials, remember: extraction, production, transportation and delivery all consume energy.

  • Seek out materials requiring low amounts of energy. This energy is sometimes referred to as the "embodied energy" of a material.

3. Think about energy usage

Consider in particular the environmental impact of a material's production.

  • Trees, for example, absorb far more greenhouse gases than the production of timber creates; conversely, producing plastics, metals and bricks uses large amounts of energy and often involves polluting processes.

4. Pick renewable materials

Whenever possible, opt for materials made from renewable resources.

  • Wood is renewable if it comes from a sustainable source such as a plantation; bricks, plastics and metals are usually made from non-renewable materials, but recycled forms are now available.

5. Choose local

Choose local materials over imported ones.

  • Long-distance transportation adds considerably to the cost of materials and produces large amounts of greenhouse gases.

6. Embrace organic

Avoid materials that have been treated with chemicals.

  • Many of these treatments are toxic and continue to emit potentially harmful gases for years.
  • Some treatments – such as pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative – have been banned by some countries.
  • Look for organic treatments such as the use of natural oils.

7. Purchase recycled materials

Purchase recycled materials or materials that have a high recycled content.

  • Materials such as recycled aluminum or recycled concrete are becoming much more widely available.

8. Reuse and re-purpose whenever possible

Resist the temptation to demolish a home and start from scratch if the existing building can be overhauled.

  • If you do demolish, evaluate which materials can be reused and what might be of interest to a second-hand building centre to re-purpose into another build, especially if you live in an older structure that has fixtures or architectural features of interest to someone who may be doing a restoration to their home.

It's important to select the right building materials for your design needs and climate, but also to choose materials that are eco-friendly. If you have questions about the materials you are using, seek advice from an architect or builder before you begin.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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