Concrete alternatives and sustainable materials to use in construction
What’s wrong with concrete? Well, traditional concrete accounts for a tremendous amount of construction and demolition waste and releases tons of greenhouse gases into our environment every year. It may seem like it’s unavoidable, as concrete is a very common material in many buildings. However, there are multiple concrete alternatives, as well as other innovative eco-friendly options for construction.
Straw bales can be used to replace concrete and plaster, gypsum, and other wall materials. When straw is used in walls and sealed well, it is an excellent insulator, and contrary to popular belief, does NOT increase fire risks.
Rammed earth is a mixture of damp earth (duh), sand, gravel, clay, and often a stabiliser. Having rammed earth walls allows a house to ‘breathe’ better, avoiding condensation and significant heat loss. It is also easier to drive screws and nails into these walls.
Bamboo is not just for stylish toothbrushes and phone cases, although the rationale behind its usage is much the same. Bamboo is one of our planets most robust and renewable natural resources. Because of bamboos’ intense strength and flexibility and fast-growing nature, it is the perfect resource for tiles, decking, trim and flooring, lumber, countertops, and more!
Structural Insulation Panels (SIPs)
First, what are SIPs? This type of construction is when panels are created offsite using either expanding polystyrene or polyisocyanurate rigid foam as an insulator between the two structural sides, which are generally made up of metal or a unique type of engineered wood. These panels can then be used on-site for walls, floors, and roofs. SIPs are great for eco-building because of their high level of airtightness, requiring less heating and cooling energy.
Recycled Plastic Bricks
At first glance, you may think, how can something that is made from plastic be on this list? The fact is, there are literally tonnes of plastic on our planet, and more made every day. So if we can find productive uses for our existing plastic, rather than sending it to landfill- that’s a win! Recycled plastic bricks are actually more affordable and more resilient than traditional clay bricks, reducing the need to update them as often.
The materials used to create fibre-cement, wood pulp, sand, and cement, produce far fewer toxins when it eventually is destroyed. It also means no cutting down trees and plastic manufacturing.
Stucco cement is a similar compound creation to traditional cement as they both contain concrete, water and sand. However, stucco cement also contains lime. The significant difference between these two materials is that once dry, Stucco is more breathable and contains tiny pores that allow moisture to escape. This helps prevent moisture build-up and rot, making your house that much more durable. The flip side to this is that in the NZ climate, it must be regularly painted to meet its waterproofing properties.