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The Most Popular Sustainable Building Materials in Residential Real Estate Today

Posted by Justin Havre on Thursday, November 8th, 2018 at 9:46am.

Sustainable Construction Options for New Construction HomesAs interest in green construction has grown, so too has the array of products offered on the market. For the residential real estate market, these are the most popular sustainable materials on the market today for building a new construction home.

Composite Lumber

Composite lumber combines equal parts of recycled wood fibers with waste plastics (such as plastic bags). The resulting composite lumber offers superior performance in decking, playgrounds, railings, fences, and other purposes. Composite lumber naturally resists mold and rot, unlike natural wood, which requires regular treatment to resist mold or rot.

Since composite lumber is long-lasting and causes less harm to the environment than treated wood, it's a wise choice for residential additions and remodels. Compared to wood decking, it is very low maintenance. There's no need to paint or stain; home owners only need to clean the surface periodically. With the current popularity of outdoor living in the residential real estate sector, the market for composite lumber is projected to grow to $3.09 billion by 2020.

Metal Roofing Replacement

Metal roofing has long been designated as a green roofing material, for many good reasons. To begin, metal is a highly durable material that can last for as long as 50 years if properly maintained. This stands in contrast to roofing materials that must be replaced on a regular basis. 

In addition, metal roofing is fully recyclable when it reaches the end of its service life. Whereas other types of roofing materials (like asphalt shingles) could find its way to a landfill, metal roofing does not. Finally, many metal roofs are made from recycled material. 

Homeowners who want to ensure that their home is made from sustainable materials can start by hiring an experienced contractor to install their metal roof. This lightweight, long-lasting roofing material is an excellent alternative to heavier roofing materials like clay tile or slate. 

Plant Based Polyurethane Rigid Foam Insulation

Non-plant-based rigid foam insulation offers a higher R-value than fiberglass insulation, yet it isn't considered to be environmentally friendly. Alternatively, plant-based polyurethane rigid foam insulation uses natural fibers from bamboo, kelp, or hemp. Plant-based rigid foam insulation is naturally resistant to heat and moisture. The plant-based materials naturally protect against mold and pests to maintain a safe home.

Maintaining efficiency during and after construction is extremely important. Rigid foam insulation offers an ideal way to make installation of insulation faster, more effective, and keep a higher level of energy efficiency. Polyurethane rigid foam insulation can be made of plant-based materials to increase its overall sustainability. It is commonly used as insulation in walls, ceilings, or floors. Typically, the foam is placed between boards to provide extra support. Benefits of all kinds of rigid foam insulation include:

  • Higher R-value to reduce heat transfer
  • Optimal moisture resistance
  • Custom sizes
  • Lightweight panels that can be carried and installed by one person
  • Added strength for the structure

Rigid foam insulation also has a common application as a means to protect various kinds of pipelines. Pipe insulation is crucial to minimize heat loss for pipes carrying hot water. Insulating the pipes calls for a material that will offer a buffer against extreme heat and cold without breaking down. Rigid foam insulation bolsters the strength of the pipeline, minimizes the accumulation of condensation, and blocks sounds coming from the pipe's interior.

Hemp Concrete

When woody hemp fibers combine with lime, the resulting hemp concrete mix is lightweight—1/9 the weight of concrete—and strong. The natural lightness of the material reduces the amount of energy that's needed to transport the building material. Since hemp concrete naturally repels pests and offers insulation properties (leading to even more energy savings and further decreasing a home's environmental impact), the eco-friendly material has significant advantages for the residential real estate sector.

Along with lower carbon emissions from transport, hemp concrete is renewable: hemp plants are readily available and grow quickly in almost any part of the world in just three months. As they grow, hemp plants detoxify the soil.

Recycled Steel Beams

Recycled steel beams are a green alternative to wood for framing homes. Every year, over 65 tons of scrap steel get recycled. The material used to create these beams comes from old cans, scrapped cars, and other resources. This saves space in landfills and reduces the energy impact of steel fabrication by more than 75 percent.

Not only is steel considered to be an environmentally friendly option, it's a popular choice for many homeowners due to its relative affordability and durability. The sturdy material holds up better than wood in natural disasters and extreme weather events, from earthquakes to hurricanes.

Cork Flooring

Cork is a popular flooring material for the residential market: It's renewable (cork trees live for 200 years and can be harvested as often as every nine years), it's naturally sound-absorbent, and it's soft underfoot. Cork's natural slip-resistant properties make it a good choice for aging in place and family homes. Since cork tiles come in a range of styles and patterns, there are many ways to personalize its look.

Cork naturally resists staining—another perk for busy home owners—and is hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. The material can absorb water, so it is not a good choice for bathrooms, mudrooms, and entryways, where residents may track water.

While relatively new, the growth of the cork recycling industry in North America has further increased the green caché of this product. Now, used wine corks can be easily recycled into cork sheets for flooring without first being returned to European cork recycling centers, for a low environmental impact.

Recycled Glass

Recycled glass can be used for more than just showers. For many homeowners today, recycled glass slabs make unique floors, countertops, sink basins, and walls. Recycled glass as a building material comes in shades of green, blue, brown or white. Recycled glass products for the home may be 100 percent glass or comprised of a mix of glass and other materials, such as concrete. Approximately 27 percent of manufactured glass is recycled. This is one area of sustainable building where there is room for development as the recycling rate rises.

By keeping up with the sustainable building materials industry, contractors and home owners alike can make informed decisions about new construction or home remodeling for building a green North East Calgary home. Oftentimes these decisions are made based on a combination of price and perceived environmental impact, and as these options become less expensive, and homeowners are more aware of their existence, it is possible the home of the future might be a bit more sustainable than the homes built today.

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