The use of sustainable and eco-friendly building materials are important for many reasons. They can help create healthier, more energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible buildings. Sustainable materials can also contribute to a more sustainable future by reducing the depletion of natural resources and minimising the impact of construction on the planet.
Traditional building materials can have a significant impact on the environment, from the depletion of natural resources to the emission of greenhouse gases during production and transportation. The harvesting of new timber from forests can cause devastating effects on the habitats and biodiversity of wildlife. Logging can also disturb soil structure, leading to increased erosion and reduced soil fertility. This can have impacts on local water quality and affect the ability of the land to support plant growth
.Sustainable and eco-friendly building materials, on the other hand, are often made from renewable resources, require less energy to produce, and have a lower carbon footprint.
Health and safety
Traditional building materials can also pose health risks to occupants, as they may contain harmful chemicals or off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over time. We touched on this in one of our previous blog post where we analysed the pros and cons of vinyl vs timber flooring. Some examples of VOCs found in building materials include formaldehyde (found in laminate, pressed wood), acetaldehyde and phenol (both found in laminates).
Research has revealed that organic emissions vary between buildings and building materials. In new buildings and new construction materials (mainly synthetics), for example, VOC emissions vary from 0.5 to 19 mg/m3. In old buildings which use more traditional materials such as timber and stone, on the other hand, levels range between 0.2 and 1.7 mg/m3.
Adverse health effects due to exposure to volatile organic compounds can occur above 3 mg/m3. Common health problems include asthma, skin irritation, headaches, nausea, confusion, and eye irritation. Sustainable and eco-friendly building materials are often non-toxic and can help improve indoor air quality. Timber is a natural air cleanser. Rather than emoting volatile compounds, it can actually help clean the air.