Sustainable living has become a bigger concern for home builders in the last couple of decades, with rising energy bills and our impact on the environment being bigger concerns than ever. With changes to the National Construction Code requiring new homes to take steps to be more energy efficient and sustainable, there’s never been a better time to look into sustainable building materials.
In today’s article, we’re going to take a renewed interest in sustainable materials for your new home, including various options you have to choose from.
What makes building materials “sustainable”?
When we talk about sustainable building materials, we refer to the environmental impact that comes from the building materials. Green building materials are usually made from natural materials and/or cut down greenhouse gas emissions. This includes a variety of factors including the manufacturing process, transportation, and the effect your materials have on ongoing environmental impact.
Sustainable building materials have a wide range of benefits including:
- Cuts down on your carbon footprint.
- Less likely to contain toxins, which is healthier for your family in the long run.
- In some instances, sustainable building material is more affordable.
- Well-designed eco-friendly homes will cut down on energy consumption which means lower energy bills for you.
What sustainable building materials should I consider for my new home build?
Even a few decisions can make a big difference to the energy efficiency and environmental impact of your new home. Here are nine sustainable building materials or ways to make your home more environmentally friendly.
Insulation may not be the most exciting feature of your new home, but it’s one of the most important. Insulation keeps your home warm during winter and helps maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the year. Good insulation will greatly cut down on your need for air conditioning and heating, and reduce your energy bills significantly.
Luckily, there is a wide range of eco-friendly insulation options on the market. Some of the options include natural insulators:
- Structural insulated panels
- Sheep’s wool
- Synthesised wool
- Earth wool
- Hemp wool
So much so that we’ve written an entire article about it, so why not have a read to find out more?
Energy efficient windows
You may be surprised to learn how big a role your windows play in your home’s thermal resistance. Up to 49% of your house’s heat loss and 89% of its heat gain correlates to your window’s glazing. Therefore, choosing windows with a high Window Energy Rating will greatly cut down on your energy costs and help keep your home comfortable year-round. Some of your best options include double or triple-glazed windows, and thermal break windows and door frames. These will allow natural light to enter your home without negatively impacting your inside temperature too much.
You may not know it by name, but you’ve probably seen it when driving by a construction site. A permeable wrap is a material, often bright blue, that is wrapped around an under-construction house to protect it against moisture entering the structure. Like all building materials, some permeable wraps are much more eco-friendly than others. Talk to your builder about what type of permeable wrap they’re using during your build. Some companies emphasize eco-friendly building practices and will heavily advertise this on their site.
The best choice in cladding is locally sourced timber, which can have a less than zero carbon footprint. Timber has the benefit of being both a natural and renewable resource, making it a great choice for the eco-friendly home.
Timber framing and trusses
Timber is one of the best choices in material from an eco-friendly perspective. Trees absorb and contain carbon dioxide while growing which cuts down on emissions. For comparison, steel frames create a lot of carbon emissions to make.
Remember, where you get your timber from is important, so be sure to check it comes from a renewable source. Timber bought from a natural forest where no replanting occurs does not count as a sustainable construction materials
Water Saving Fittings
Along with good water consumption habits, installing water-saving features will help cut down on your water usage. With water-efficient plumbing installations as well as purchasing energy-efficient appliances, you’ll reduce water wastage. Some steps you can take towards water-saving fittings include:
- Higher-rated showers that use less water (these showers must be tested to ensure they reach a certain level of water pressure). Less water used in the shower also will cut down on your energy bill as less water is being heated.
- Low Flow Taps
- Buying a 4-star toilet (3.5L flush) rather than using a traditional single-flush toilet (15L per flush).
- Buying dishwashers and washing machines with higher star ratings.
- Practising good water consumption habits like shorter showers and fixing plumbing issues sooner rather than later.
Installations should be undertaken by a professional plumber. That way, not only are you covered if something goes wrong, but you’ll avoid any mistakes that could lead to problems down the track.
Recycled materials are becoming more popular in building projects. There are various materials that can be recycled including:
- Recycled metal
- Concrete uses recycled plastic.
- Reclaimed wood
- Types of insulation including
Rainwater is not only a renewable source, it’s one of the easiest things to harvest if you have the right setup. Water tanks are a great way to make the most of rainfall and can serve as either a primary or secondary water source for your home. Using a water tank can help cut down on water bills, even if it’s only used for outdoor purposes. There is also the bonus of cutting down on pressure on the water mains in your area.
The most popular of green energy options, solar panels are only becoming more popular as time goes on. With upwards of 10% of the average household living expenses going towards energy costs, it’s no wonder more homeowners are looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives for their electricity.
How to choose eco-friendly building materials
Research is key to buying the most eco-friendly building materials, so ask plenty of questions and talk to different suppliers. Also keep in mind, what counts as an eco-friendly, energy-efficient material can vary depending on your location, as availability and transports costs contribute a lot to eco-friendliness.
- Check what can be locally sourced and available: The nearer your materials are sourced or are readily available,
- Are the materials recycled: Some materials can be constructed from old materials or be re-used again.
- Durability: The more durable a material is, the longer it’ll last, meaning until you need to use resources for a replacement.
- Is the manufacturing process resource friendly: The steps that go into the manufacturing of a material play a major role in determining whether it is sustainable. For example, recycling or using renewable materials is far more eco-friendly than using non-renewable materials.
Where can you buy sustainable building materials?
With changes in both the community’s values and the National Construction Codes’ emphasis on environmental impact, eco-friendly materials are becoming more readily available. When talking to builders, discuss what materials they use and whether they’re willing to consider other building materials. Custom builders are usually more open to using eco-friendly materials.
Get free advice on sustainable building materials for your new home
Building a home is an exciting, but overwhelming process. There are so many choices and decisions to be made, and sometimes mistakes can end up costing you time and money. Buildi is here to help you every step of the way during your building journey. We not only know the ins and outs of the construction industry, but we’ll also serve as your advocate during meetings with the builder. Our clients have saved time, energy and money by working with us and you can too! Get in touch today to find out how we can help make your dream home a reality.