Reclaimed wood is one of the most widely used green building materials for many reasons. It has a timeless look, its diverse sourcing streams provide variable aesthetics, and it adds an enduring natural look to any space. While wood is possibly the most versatile green building material, it isn’t the only one. There are other materials gaining traction. In this article, I’ll discuss a few and show you how they’re being used.
Ananas-Anam Upscales Pineapple Waste to Create Pinatex, a Sustainable Alternative Leather Product
Leather provides beautiful texture, natural appeal and speaks to quality but it comes with a host of concerns. Being animal based, leather has a large carbon footprint and production typically utilizes formaldehyde and other chemicals. Leather alternatives are usually petroleum based but Pinatex is created from agricultural waste meaning it does not use any water, land, fertilizer or pesticides. Pinatex is a durable, versatile leather alternative suitable for furniture covering, upholstery options, or a focal “leather” wall. Dr. Carmen Hijosa, Pinatex developer and owner of the startup Ananas-Anam, feels “Design is not just about Product. Design is about responsibility”.
Upscale chairs from Tamasine Osher Design are upholstered in Pinatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple waste.
Cork – Not Your Typical Green Building Material
Cork doesn’t normally top lists of green building materials, but it’s a surprisingly useful and sustainable resource. Workers harvest the material by hand from cork oak trees in the Mediterranean, a practice that has been passed down for the last 2,000 years. Only the bark of the tree is removed, as the rest of the tree can survive without it. The cork trees’ unique ability to regenerate stripped bark, paired with the lack of machinery used to harvest, makes cork an especially sustainable material.
In commercial contexts, cork is commonly used for flooring. However, it has many applications, including acoustic enhancement, that have yet to be fully explored. Expect to see cork in more projects as architects and designers find new and exciting ways to implement this renewable and recyclable material.
From Duro Design: Cork flooring completes the biophilic environment of this open area
Rammed Earth Brings Ancient Technology Into The Future
Rammed earth is an age-old construction technique that consists of compacting earthen materials like soil and clay. The result is a dense, rocklike wall that is both sturdy and sustainable. Rammed earth has always been used for residences, but lately it’s made its way into more commercial projects like the Edmonton Valley Zoo (pictured above), which boasts rainbow-hued rammed earth walls to mark the entrance. Like reclaimed wood, rammed earth brings an immediate sense of nature to any environment.
From ArchiExpo: Rammed earth walls pair well with other biophilic elements
As these use cases of green building materials display, there’s a lot more to sustainable design in addition to reclaimed wood. Builders, architect, and designers are continuing to seek out and develop alternative materials to reduce waste and benefit the planet, a vision that benefits us all.