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Seeking Environmental Harmony With Eco Friendly Building Materials

In the shift toward greener home living, eco-friendly building materials are no longer disregarded as being impractical and posh. In fact, almost everyone understanding the simplicity of the energy formula realizes that using eco-friendly building materials in construction presents an opportunity to cut down on energy consumption and carbon emissions. Needless to say, the durability of the construction and the health of the occupants are significantly enhanced by applying the holistic concept of eco-friendly construction.

Toxic and non-renewable building materials are increasingly being replaced with healthy, renewable and reusable ones.

Eco Friendly Buildings Rating Systems

In an effort to rate the eco-friendly constructions by their “greennes” or “eco-friendliness”, private and governmental organizations, have developed a set of rating standards, while recognizing that the assessment of eco-friendly buildings is both challenging and difficult.

The International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (IISBE)

This program is based in Canada and is a collaborative venture of more than 15 participating countries. The system has developed “environmental performance assessment systems for buildings” and is widely used appraisal method for green constructions.

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

This procedure was instituted in 1990. The certificate is awarded to developers based on an appraisal of performance with respect to construction management, use of resources, social and environmental impact and global warming.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED is providing operators and owners with a framework for implementing and identifying measurable and practical green construction, building design, maintenance, and operations. It is transforming the methods that buildings are planned, made, developed, and operated.

Cork is an eco-friendly and renewable material that can be used as a surface covering or insulation.

In order to address the indoor air quality of constructions, LEED has developed the Indoor Environmental Quality or IEQ category. The IEQ is made specifically to provide well-being, productivity, and comfort to the occupants. Its goal is to reduce VOCs or volatile organic compounds as well as other impurities in the air like microbial contaminants.

Green Building Materials

The concept of eco-friendly materials in construction embraces materials that are renewable, non-toxic, and reusable. Preference is given to resources that are extracted and manufactured locally and minimize negative environmental impact.

Eco friendly walkways and driveways must be porous as they need to allow the water to sink and not run off to pollute waterways.

Flooring

Choosing the eco-friendly flooring provides more comfort and health to the occupants. The use of carpets is discouraged since they often contain unsafe substances such as VOCs. The good choices for green flooring include bamboo, eucalyptus, cork, recycled carpet tiles, linoleum, wool carpeting, recycled rubber, reclaimed wood, and sisal.

Insulation and Climate Control

Choosing the right insulation is crucial since it helps in the conservation of energy. Good choices for eco-friendly insulation and climate control are stones, wood pulp, straw, recycled newspaper, cotton (including blue jeans), soy, cork, or recycled plastic.

This stone wall absorbs heat during the day and releases it back at night, providing a passive climate control. Credit: Jeremy Levine

Walkways and Paths

Cement on the walkways and driveways must be porous. The idea is that the material must allow the water to sink and not run off to pollute waterways. The use of light-colored concrete also helps in reducing hot temperature. Rubber and stone both make excellent choices for eco-friendly walkways and paths.

eco-friendly building material

Stone is an eco-friendly material that can be made into walkways and paths. Credit: Indigostock

Versatile Glass

Glass is a common yet excellent eco-friendly building material. Windows built of layered panes provide insulation that can conserve energy. Moreover, doors and windows can be covered in low-emissivity coatings that block solar rays to regulate indoor temperatures. Recycled glass can also be made into tiles and countertops.

Glass scraps can be made into eco-friendly tiles and counter-tops. Credit: Orphanjones

Eco-friendly and Green Roofing

Eco-friendly roofing should be both durable and sustainable. Good choices for green roofing include composite cedar shingles (resist insects, moisture, and mildew), metal roofing (possesses solar reflective qualities) and, naturally, green or living roofs.

Eco-friendly roof in Sweden. Credit: Phototouring

Benefits of Green Building Materials

The holistic concept of green building encompasses the philosophy of wholeness to satisfy both the social and environmental criteria. In that sense, eco friendly construction may provide the following:

1.    Reduces maintenance and replacement costs during the entire life of the building

2.    Conserves energy, water, and other natural resources

3.    Lowers the costs related to altering space configurations

4.    Offers more flexibility in designing

5.    Improves the health of the occupants

6.    Reduces calamities such as erosion and flooding

To conclude, buildings are intricate structures that are resource intensive in their creation and function. However, they can be constructed with greener qualities that allow them to use less natural resources and be kinder to the environment. The smart and sustainable concept of eco-friendly buildings and construction is no longer considered a luxury we cannot afford. In fact, it is a desirable and cost-effective partnership between the concepts of construction and environmental conservation.

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