Five Sustainable Materials for Better Buildings
Keeping with our sustainability spree, our architects St. Helens have looked at sustainable materials and compiled a brief blog post outlining their advantages. Using sustainable building materials is just the first step to building more efficient and environmentally-friendly communities.
Obtaining building materials locally can benefit the community greatly, reducing travel distance and supporting local trades. Cutting down on gas emissions, manpower, and our damage to the environment can happen easily when approaching projects sustainably.
The most obvious of sustainable materials, wood has been used for centuries by architects St. Helens to construct homes and shelter sustainably. With excellent acoustic properties and generally good thermal properties, wood remains as an essential building material when thinking sustainably.
It’s important that sustainable wood is harvested responsibly from certified forests and is completely free of synthetic or toxic materials.
While wood is an obvious answer, bamboo remains an undervalued material that can be used to make phenomenal structures. As one of the fastest growing plant species, bamboo is also an excellent building material because of its very lightweight nature and incredible compressive strength.
With some bamboo buildings in Japan lasting over 200 years, this fast-growing natural and sustainable resource is one that architects St. Helens can’t get enough of.
One of the stranger materials on this list, mycelium is the root network of mushrooms and funghi and acts as a form of natural glue. Since the material is easy to grow locally, absorbs carbon, and allows for composting of building elements after usage, mycelium stands as perhaps one of the greatest candidates for sustainable materials.
Mycelium’s only weakness is its low structural strength, pushing architects St. Helens to achieve stability through geometry rather than through the materials they’re using.
There’s nothing more natural and sustainable than using the very ground of the earth to build with. Used to create walls that are similar to concrete, rammed earth is compressed dirt put within wooden forms.
Architects St. Helens know that humans have been using rammed earth for thousands of years to great effect. Our modern technical enhancements have made rammed earth safer and stronger with the use of rebar and bamboo as supporting materials.
While this might seem like a joke, humans have been using straw bales as a building material for centuries. The non-edible part of grains is actually an excellent sustainable building material that can sustain high temperatures and has a good level of durability.
On top of being easy to find, baled straw has incredibly high insulation values that go up to R-35. While it’s not the fanciest material around, baled straw is overlooked all too often.
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While our architects St. Helens continue exploring other sustainable building materials, if you’re interested in sustainable design and architecture be sure to check out our other blog posts focussing on sustainability.