3 Common Building Materials That Have Awesome Green Alternatives

When you're having a new home built, you have to make a lot of decisions, and that can be difficult when you don't know a lot about the various types of building materials that might be available to you. For example, if you want to build a home that's green and eco-friendly, that's a great goal, but can you name any building materials that might help make your home a little more sustainable and environmentally friendly than the average home? If not, it's time to discover some of those materials. Take a look at some amazing green building materials that would be perfect for a new green home.

Concrete

Concrete is incredibly useful stuff, which is why you see it used all around you. It's hard to imagine how civilization as we know it could ever have been built without concrete. However, concrete also has an extremely high carbon footprint. This is largely due to the high heat used to produce the cement that is a vital ingredient in traditional concrete. All of that heat produces a lot of carbon dioxide, which gives concrete a pretty large carbon footprint.

However, there are alternatives to traditional concrete. One example is hemp-based concrete. It's made from a mixture of hemp hurds and lime. Because the hemp absorbs carbon dioxide while it's growing, and the lime absorbs carbon dioxide while it carbonates and turns to limestone, the material is effectively carbon negative – it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces.

Scientists are hard at work developing even more carbon-negative concrete alternatives, like a mixture made from recycled iron and glass that produces a very hard rock. Or a type of concrete that uses magnesium silicates, which require considerably less heat to process, and that absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens. Materials like these allow homebuilders to create with a much lower carbon footprint than was previously possible.

Flooring

Choosing a flooring option that's good for your family and good for the environment can be difficult. Many families prefer to avoid carpeting, especially if anyone in the home has allergies or asthma, because carpeting can trap allergens and pet dander, making it hard for people with respiratory challenges to breathe easily. Vinyl can leech chemicals into the air, which is both unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly. Wood flooring is beautiful to look at, but eco-conscious homeowners concerned about the impact of their choices on the environment may not want to add to deforestation for the sake of a floor.

Tile made from recycled material is a good alternative. Recycled ceramic tiles are typically made from either factory waste or a combination of factory and consumer waste. Recycled glass tiles, made with anywhere from 15 to 100% recycled glass, depending on the manufacturer, are not only environmentally friendly, they're also highly popular with interior designers because of their unique decorative qualities. If you really have your heart set on the look of wood flooring, you may want to consider reclaimed wood flooring – you'll be saving already-cut wood that's still useful from ending up in a landfill.

Insulation

The better-insulated your home, the greener and more sustainable it is. As a bonus, a well-insulated home is also less expensive, since you'll be able to heat and cool it efficiently. However, there is much debate over what exactly constitutes environmentally-friendly insulation. By some definitions, any insulation is green, since it has the effect of reducing your home's carbon footprint. However, many of the most effective insulating materials aren't environmentally friendly to produce. For example, spray foam insulation is highly effective, but also petroleum-based, making it an unsustainable product.

One new greener option is wood foam. It's made from wood particles that are ground into a slimy liquid, then combined with chemicals or gas to create a foam. Another option is cotton, cellulose, or denim, which is usually used as a filler material – cellulose, though, can also be converted to foam, although it's still less effective than petroleum-based spray foam. There is also a fairly new fiberglass spray that is lighter than cellulose, and may be a good option for areas where cellulose foam would be too heavy.

Talk to your contractor about the various green building materials that are available in your area. Your contractor will be able to help you determine how to build a house that meets your needs without harming the environment.


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