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Green Building Materials

 

Not all natural materials are considered green. Many harmful substances [formaldehyde, arsenic, and asbestos] are naturally occurring and have been innocently used in buildings for decades. Studies have shown that some green materials have substantial emissions whereas more "traditional" materials, presumed to be more toxic, were actually lower.

Green Building Materials are considered to be 'green' when they neither emit toxins and are sourced from sustainable resources. This includes:

  • Rapidly renewable plant materials - bamboo and straw. Bamboo can be harvested for commercial use after only 6 years of growth, and harvested cork oak only removes the outer bark, thus preserving the tree.
  • Timber - from forests certified to be sustainably managed. Also any wood removed to clear the site is also processed for use.
  • Dimension stone and recycled stone
  • Recycled metal
  • Other materials that are considered non-toxic, reusable, renewable, and/or recyclable.

In addition, to minimize the carbon output from transportation to the site, building materials should be extracted and manufactured locally. Consideration is also given to the carbon emmissions of any processing of the materials prior to arrival at the site.

 

Low Impact Building Materials

Materials considered to have low impact on the environment include:

  • Insulation made from low VOC (volatile organic compound)-emitting materials - recycled wool or denim and cellulose insulation, treated with boric acid to control pests. Standard building insulation materials may contain toxic materials such as formaldehyde.
  • Organic or milk-based paints
  • Architectural salvage and reclaimed materials - demolished wood is often recycled as flooring.
  • Good dimension stone - can be recycled
  • Recycled doors, windows, mantels, and hardware.

Next: Green Insulation

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