Green Building Materials

Discovering the different Green Building Materials that may be found near your home can often bring back wonderful old world building traditions, which enable us to build or expand our homes using only the most locally sourced energy efficient building materials.

This is really a totally different way of thinking than that which we have gotten used to over the last 60 years or so. By asking where materials come from you can find out how they were extracted and how far they were transported to reach you and if they have been processed.

World trade has given us all a greater knowledge of the different materials available and modern transportation has made it so much easier to conveniently order in exotic materials that are not natural to our area.

One result is that we have become far more interested in the time it would take for building material to arrive and how that will fit into our building schedule... than how the decision to purchase from afar may be effecting the environment and what the total embodied energy of that material will have once it arrives.

In many cases local supplies and suppliers of traditional green building materials have died away due to lack of interest.

photo showing natural terracota tiles as green building materials



Green Building Materials

Examples of some natural materials that should be easy to find locally, depending on your geographical location are:

  • Granite / Basalt
  • Sandstone green building
  • Slate
  • Marble
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Balast
  • Clay
  • Earth
  • Earthenware
  • Terra-Cotta tiles and bricks
  • Timber from renewable forests
  • Glass
  • Reed thatch or wheat straw thatch

For many decades mahogany is an example of a material, in this case timber, that has been one of the favourite choices over more common timber from renewable forests... but unfortunately this is an exotic timber that you won't find locally unless you live in Africa, the West Indies or parts of Central America, it is harvested from forests that we have to urgently encourage to grow and not to further decimate.

By ordering more and more exotic materials, we have over years encouraged the rainforest locals to chop down their beautiful old valuable trees to feed our 'non-green building' appetites for so long now that they don't yet realise that we have finally, or are trying to, put the brakes on savaging the earth of it's treasures.

Now here we are tinting our own local FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) pine to look like any wood we choose, be it oak or cedar, while watching documentaries that outline the continued destruction of vast areas of natural forests.

The ball was set rolling many years ago, thousands of miles away from where we live, and is now contributing to flooding and extreme weather on our own door steps.


Definition of Green Building Materials

  • Truely Green Building Materials are those that can be found near to where they are intended to be used
  • Natural materials that are locally sourced and that have little embodied energy - depending on how easily they were extracted and transported to the building site.
  • Building materials that come from renewable sources
  • Natural materials that come from the earth that could be returned in large part to their original state.
  • Natural materials bonded by natural materials should be able to decompose without harming the environment.
  • Natural materials are environmentally friendly and will not harm the soil, water or air.


Local Green Building Materials

Availability for your home renovation project will vary depending on where you live but an easy way to rediscover what there is locally is to have a closer look at older buildings in your town center.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a delightful country town where all the central town buildings were of red sandstone which is stunning - it does darken and show dirt over time but can be cleaned and returned to their former glory.

If you wanted to see evidence of building without stone you have no further to look that the wonderful clay and cob buildings with thatched roofs that are still standing and are still used as homes in England today.

Those wonderfully thick walled buildings are warm in the winter and cool in the summer providing a low energy consumption home environment.

In summary, if you are planning a build or a home improvement extension or addition, take a good look around your area and especially at the older parts of town to see what materials may be available to you - see if you can use more traditional materials and older techniques to create a more eco friendly home by using energy efficient green building materials.

to your green building success
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