Environmentally Friendly: 4 Mind-Bending Constructions Materials You've Probably Never Thought About

green building

When you think about construction, you probably think about concrete or wood. From homes to roads and bridges, concrete is all around us. However, concrete isn’t good for the environment since its production releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Wood is renewable but it can be vulnerable to mold, rot, and pests. Of course, the building needs to continue but more environmentally friendly and durable materials can be used. Some of the alternatives may surprise you.

Plastic lumber

Yes. You read that right. Plastic lumber can be used for a range of commercial and industrial structures. It can be made from several types of plastics including high-density polyethylene derived from recycled milk containers, laundry detergent bottles, and other typical household items. It is a strong, durable material which can be used for retaining walls, boardwalks, and fencing. Plastic lumber is low-maintenance, it doesn’t splinter and it is resistant to rot and insects.

Sheep’s wool

Wool has long been used in sweaters and socks because of its insulating properties. However, it has been realized that it can also be used to insulate buildings. Sheep’s wool can be used in attics, ceilings, and walls as a natural alternative to fiberglass or polyurethane spray foam. It can be regrown quickly since sheep produce new wool after shearing. It is also more prevalent than other natural insulators like straw or cotton and it can be more easily harvested. The one downside is that it isn’t always affordable.

Sawdust concrete

Lumber generates lots of wood shavings and sawdust and these can be mixed in concrete or with diatomaceous earth, a naturally occurring sedimentary rock. Sawdust concrete is lightweight, and it is insulating and fire-resistant. It is not necessarily waterproof so it is better for indoor floors and walls. It was perhaps first used to build a home in the post-World War II era when concrete was in short supply but it’s experiencing something of a comeback. Sawdust concrete is environmentally friendly, resistant to rot and fungus and good for sound-proofing.

Mycelium brick

This material is not yet in everyday use but it is promising as a construction material of the future. Mycelium brick is an organic product made from the mycelium of fungus and organic waste. Mycelium is root-like fibers which run underground. When they are dried, they can be used to make a strong building material that’s resistant to water, mold, and fire. Mycelium can be grown into specific shapes which reduces the amount of processing it has to go through. It is 100 percent organic and its versatility makes it attractive to architecture and construction industry professionals.

Brick and mortar and wood have long been held up as the ultimate construction materials. However, concerns about environmental sustainability and construction durability have led to the search for different resources. Plastic lumber, sheep’s wool, sawdust concrete, and mycelium brick are just four of the innovative materials which construction professionals are looking at. If you’re in the building industry, do your research and you’ll find lots more green solutions which could soon come on stream.