Building a Greener Future: Embracing Sustainable Materials
With current warming trends, the urgency of addressing climate change has never been greater. Architects and designers have a profound opportunity to shape a better future through their creations. The impact of the building and construction industry on our planet is undeniable, contributing to pollution, excessive energy consumption, and deforestation.
However, amidst these challenges, a powerful avenue for transformation lies in the realm of sustainable building materials and practices. By changing our approach, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the release of harmful toxins into the environment, making sustainable building materials and practices a pivotal choice for advancing eco-conscious design.
At TerraMai, we are proud to be champions of this movement, placing a strong emphasis on creating a positive impact on the environment through our high-quality reclaimed and sustainable wood products. Sustainable building materials, like reclaimed wood, play a pivotal role in curbing carbon footprints, preserving precious natural resources, and promoting eco-friendly practices in the construction industry.
In the following sections, we will explore the remarkable benefits of sustainable building materials, with a particular focus on the inherent qualities of wood. Discover how incorporating these materials into architectural and design endeavors can significantly contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious world. Let’s build a brighter future together.
The Effect of Non-Sustainable Building Materials and Practices
The numbers are astoundingly high. Buildings and construction materials have a huge impact on the environment, accounting for over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Notably, the manufacturing, transport, and creation of traditional building materials, such as cement, iron, and steel, produce substantial amounts of greenhouse gases.
The USGBC found that buildings produce 39 percent of all carbon emissions, and emission levels are only expected to grow. Beyond greenhouse gases, current construction methods also contribute substantially to landfill waste and various forms of pollution that pose threats to human health, natural ecosystems, and overall quality of life.
We’re already seeing the benefits thanks to initiatives like LEED in operational efficiencies. By building to LEED standards, buildings contributed 50% fewer greenhouse gases than conventionally-constructed buildings due to water consumption, 48% fewer greenhouse gases due to solid waste and 5% fewer greenhouse gases due to transportation. The attention is now turning to the reduction of embodied carbon in the built environment. TerraMai sustainable wood products can help a project earn points toward LEED credits in several categories.
Additionally, the rise of sustainable building materials with low/no embodied carbon has become essential. These materials produce little to no carbon or other greenhouse gases, making them environmentally beneficial and crucial for meeting our goals to design embodied and operational carbon out of new and renovated buildings.
Reclaimed Wood: A Leading Sustainable Building Material
Reclaimed wood stands out as one of the best sustainable building materials available. It’s no secret that we at TerraMai love reclaimed wood, and its eco-friendliness is one of the biggest reasons for our passion. When it comes to sustainable building materials, reclaimed wood is a leader. It’s sustainably and responsibly sourced, harming no living trees and using minimal energy consumption in the process.
TerramMai sources reclaimed wood can be from unused structures like this vintage building.
Wood, in general, is also one of the best materials to use in order to reduce contributions to climate change. Wood naturally sequesters carbon. When wood paneling and flooring are chosen for construction, large amounts of carbon can be stored reducing the emissions associated with the production of other materials. Several studies have confirmed that wood is a particularly beneficial material that produces much lower amounts of greenhouse gases than other traditional building materials.
What makes reclaimed wood even better as a sustainable building material is its process of repurposing existing wood, eliminating the need for producing new wood and cutting down living trees. In addition, since reclaimed wood keeps forests intact, it allows those forests to act as natural carbon sinks, further reducing the amount of carbon in the environment. This is one of the biggest reasons why reclaimed wood is so highly sustainable, and it explains why the material is such a popular building material choice today.
Substituting wood for concrete and steel in the structural systems of commercial buildings reduces fossil fuel use and cuts emissions of greenhouse gases on average 60 percent, according to a recent analysis by Oregon State University researchers.
Other Sustainable Non-Wood Building Materials
Over the last several years, some serious progress has been made in the area of recycled material creation. Many traditional building materials, such as steel and tile, can be found in recycled form. The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) is one group that’s pushing for adoption of recycled and reused materials. While these materials initially had a negative impact due to their creation and production, reusing them is a great way to keep them out of the landfill and reduce their future impact on climate change.
This vibrant, biophilic cafe in Turkey uses recycled metal plates for its exterior
Many architects are getting creative with using various types of recycled materials. Plastic buckets, bottles, bedsprings, and ice cream containers have all been used for innovative projects that make for some head turning building facades. The very act of reusing materials helps to contribute to carbon emission reduction by extending the lifespan of existing materials while also preventing the harmful production of new materials.
The facade of the Bima Microlibrary in Indonesia was constructed from recycled ice cream containers
Rammed Earth is a Sustainable Building Material
Rammed earth is an age-old construction technique that’s seeing a resurgence due to its low carbon impact. By compacting soil in layers, rammed earth creates a sturdy and entirely organic building material. Naturally, rammed earth is a low carbon option that’s accessible, affordable, and entirely sustainable. Even stabilized rammed earth, which uses small amounts of cement or lime to fortify the soil, is a better alternative to using a material like cement for an entire project.
Rammed earth is a great low-carbon substitute for materials like cement
Building a Greener Future with Sustainable Materials
We hold the power to drive positive change by embracing sustainable building materials. At TerraMai, we are committed to being at the forefront of this movement. Our high-quality reclaimed and sustainable wood products offer a tangible solution for eco-conscious projects. Reclaimed wood, a true eco-friendly leader, not only sequesters carbon but also ensures no living trees are cut down during sourcing. By choosing reclaimed wood for your flooring, siding, decking, and other building requirements, you can play an active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving precious natural resources.
Sustainable building materials, like reclaimed wood, have the power to revolutionize the construction industry’s impact on climate change. It’s clear that our choices in materials matter and can significantly contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. As we move forward, let us continue to prioritize sustainable building practices and embrace eco-friendly materials.
At TerraMai, we are proud to be your partner in this journey. Want to chat with us about your next project? Click here to get in touch!