Every building material comes at some environmental cost, but there are principles that can guide you towards choices that reduce your environmental footprint, while being cost-effective and increasing the liveability of your home. Environmental choices can definitely be a win win.
Here’s a snapshot of some of these principles …
1. Reduce the need for new materials
Instead of knocking down your old home and rebuilding, renovate where possible – or at least re-use materials from your existing home.
Build smaller, better-designed homes – consider using modular elements.
Choose durable, low maintenance building materials that will reduce the need for new materials and finishings over the lifetime of your home.
2. Select materials with low environmental impact
Choose materials that are produced sustainably, over those made from non-renewable resources.
Consider the life-cycle impact of the materials used, including manufacture or extraction of material, the in-use stage, and the eventual disposal or re-use. A life cycle assessment (LCA) provides scientific data of the impacts of a product over its lifetime.
Check out Eco-product databases – Ecospecifier, Verified, BREEAM’s Green Guide, and Global GreenTag are good examples. These sites will give you access to information on the sustainability of a variety of building products.
3. Consider embodied energy
Embodied energy refers to the total energy used in all the processes involved in the construction of a home – from processing raw materials to delivering the product to site.
Embodied energy varies greatly depending on materials used and the construction methods engaged.
4. Waste minimisation
Building waste accounts for around 42% of solid waste in Australia.
Despite the energy and resources involved in building a home, 34% of these materials will end up in landfill.
Reduce, re-use, recycle where possible throughout construction.
5. Sustainable construction systems
Construction systems are the combinations of materials used to construct the main elements of a home – the roof, walls, and floor.
Consider local availability of materials, maintenance requirements, durability, life-cycle impact, and thermal performance when making choices.
Making informed decisions about the building materials you choose can greatly reduce the environmental impact of your home – without costing you more.