Today’s Green Building Materials
More than ever, people are interested in “healthy” buildings. For some, the issue is living free of allergies, asthma and other breathing problems. As homeowners, they invest in air-cleaning systems, buy formaldehyde-free furnishings and use non-toxic paints and finishes. They are concerned about preventing air pollution problems that may be caused by construction techniques and building materials.
Other people who are equally aware of building methods want to conserve natural resources. Whether they’re renovating an older building or starting construction from scratch, they try to use the most energy- and resource-efficient methods and materials.
If you’re one of those seeking a healthier house – or even one “built lower on the food chain,” as someone described it – know that you’re not alone. In a survey done in 1995 by Professional Builder magazine, nearly 50 percent of the homebuyers interviewed wanted a house with “healthy” features.
To help you understand the building choices open to you, this section offers an overview of frequently used building materials and popular construction techniques employed today. Each basic profile explains a product’s benefits and drawbacks and suggests some alternatives that may be more environmentally friendly.
At the same time, today’s quest for improved energy efficiency – coupled with an increasing scarcity of wood and the resulting increase in the price of lumber – has created a new market for innovation in construction. More and more, the traditionally fabricated wall framed with 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 softwood lumber is being replaced by “greener” walls made from steel studs, baled straw, dried earth or mixtures of plastics and cement.
Already these new “green” techniques are becoming economically competitive with standard construction methods. Other features like long-term energy savings ease and speed of construction, and the knowledge that by building “green” you’re doing less harm to the environment make these construction alternatives even more attractive.