With climate change and environmental concerns being some of the biggest issues of our time, more and more corporations are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints, curtail their energy consumption and use ‘green’ products where available.
On a larger scale, councils and governments are looking for ways to make cities, suburbs and buildings more environmentally friendly and sustainable. We’ve seen some of this achieved at the residential level with the implementation of solar and water tank schemes (we won’t mention the disastrous ‘pink batts’ scheme – although it had good intentions) and many construction companies are starting to wake up to the fact people are interested in alternative building materials that are better for our environment.
Before we outline all of the latest green technology in the building industry, it’s worth outlining what ‘green’ building materials actually are.
What are ‘green’ building materials?
Put simply, green building materials are environmentally friendly materials that have a low impact on the environment both in their production and use. Typically consumers will expect a high level of durability and sustainability from eco-friendly building materials and would assume they’re made either completely or in part, from natural materials.
Many consumers also look at the production of these building materials and how they can affect the environment as businesses don’t want to purchase ‘green’ building materials if the production of said materials causes harm to the climate in the process of being made, shipped and implemented.
There are many different types of green building materials, but not all of them are adequate for a commercial building, however, many companies are now looking at green materials for decorative areas of buildings, smaller outdoor sections and non-structural parts of buildings where a highlight of the green materials used in the construction is given to users of the building.
Let’s take a look at some green materials and how they’re being used in building around Australia.
Many sustainability pundits agree that bamboo is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly building materials out there. Not only is it incredibly light so transport is less energy intensive when compared to other building materials with equivalent durability, but it’s also incredibly fast growing and doesn’t require replanting after being harvested. There are many different uses for bamboo in construction and we’re only just starting to explore the benefits of using it as a green construction material here in Australia. For example at the well known Woodford Folk Festival they had structures made entirely from bamboo to provide shade and a place to rest for revellers. Across the Indian ocean, Bali is currently in the process of building the world’s largest structure made entirely from bamboo.
Probably the most readily available and widely used green building material in Australia, wood is strong, flexible and is a great renewable resource if it’s sourced properly. Used extensively in residential constructions, we’re also seeing some wood being used in low-rise commercial buildings. A great example of this is the Forte building, one of Australia’s greenest commercial buildings in Melbourne’s Victoria Harbour. It’s a 10 storey apartment building that boasts an innovative new timber building material called CLT (Cross Laminated Timber).
Another great example of using a green building material not only for its aesthetic appeal but a structural purpose is The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and Arts building in New Zealand. Given the frequency and severity of earthquakes in and around the Christchurch area, seismic engineering along with overcoming the challenges associated with the use of certain building materials in earthquake-prone areas have led engineers and builders to look towards wood as a flexible and sustainable option.
FRP - Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic
Not to be confused with your typical plastic products, FRP’s properties have very little in common with conventional 'thermoplastics'. FRP is a composite plastic that is extruded into a variety of different shapes and sizes. Typically it’s much cheaper than steel and is also much lighter so the carbon footprint for transport will be less than its metal counterpart. The major benefits of this innovative building material are:-
- it’s incredibly strong
- doesn’t melt
- can even be made fire retardant
- won’t corrode in harsh conditions (great for seaside building or factories where harsh chemicals are used or produced), and
- it’s more sustainable than aluminium, steel or timber as it isn’t prone to rust or insects.
The great thing about FRP materials is they can come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, don’t require any special tools and is used in a wide range of applications and industries.
ICF - Insulated Concrete Forms
Whilst not a new idea (ICF made its appearance shortly after World War II), it’s a product that’s starting to make inroads in the Australian building industry. Locked together like Lego bricks, insulated concrete forms can take many different shapes and comes with a wide range of benefits. ICF gives optimal sound deadening and sound absorption along with being faster to build with than traditional concrete or wood solutions. The structural integrity of ICF is also higher than that of wood-framed structures (some experts say up to 10 times stronger) and given it has the ability to add reinforced steel into the system whilst building means ICF is a very effective, environmentally friendly and convenient building material.
These are just a few of the latest in green materials being used in the building industry in Australia today. If you have a construction project and want to utilise eco-friendly materials, talk to us today about the building surveyance requirements of using these materials.
Future Products, Systems or Designs
The past has shown us one definite outcome, the future will contain more innovation of existing materials or products we have not even thought of. These future products are all available for use within the building industry under the right conditions.
Overall Building & Occupant Safety
The use of ‘green’ products and systems can definitely provide long term energy efficient buildings that are better for our planet. However, products must also ensure their application does not compromise safety such as fire and health & safety.
In developing a ‘green’ building talk with us about the building surveyance requirements to ensure compliance with codes, standards and general life safety.