What is the first thought that strikes you listening to the term Green Architecture? Most probably the elementary image would be a design with ample greenery throughout and a curvy, free-flowing, futuristic design that cannot fall under this category. Kindling your Amazement, the most futuristic buildings are the greenest ones in today’s scenario, they may have ample trees and shrubs but the Materials, technology used and the Efficient use of resources is what creates them a green building.

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Green architecture or green design is an approach that minimizes the harmful effects of construction on the ecosystem and human health. It is a design that enables an easy adaptation to the changing environments in the future ensuring an improved quality of life. Green materials enhance the efficient use of resources, minimize construction costs, increase the life span of building and safeguard the environment. 

According to the Un Environment, Global status report of 2017, the buildings and construction account for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and more than 35% of global final energy use. By incorporating green materials in architecture and design, we can work towards bringing these numbers to a descent.

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The rise in carbon emissions and intensive use of non-renewable resources is driving designers towards using materials that impact building operation and gradually the environment positively. Sustainability is a trend now and everyone wants to be a part of environment savvy campaigns. 

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The Edge, one of the greenest and smartest office buildings in the world with a BREEAM score of 98.3%_©Shutterstock/www.edition.cnn.com

Benefits of Green Building Materials

Materials being the fundamental element of building construction, have a tremendous impact on the environment and health of humankind. The wise choices lead to the designing of a healthy and secure future for everyone through safe architecture. Also, many green materials are better than their conventional counterparts in terms of strength and stability and should be preferable choices while designing. 

Some benefits of green materials are:

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  • Enables the usage of many waste materials or by-products otherwise wasted. For instance, the steel dust from industries is used to make ferrock which is a waste by-product for the company.
  • Enhances the recycling and reuse of several materials. Reclaimed wood and reclaimed plastic are such examples.
  • Reduces the consumption of energy and uses the natural resources considerably.
  • Results in the purification of air and water quality gradually. 
  • Not only the technical benefits but they also improve the productivity of habitats.
  • The use of green materials in a building increases its cost as a sustainable design holds a lot of importance to everyone who understands and relates to the harm conventional materials cause.
  • Overall uplifts the living conditions of a place converting it into a wanna-be space.

Here is a list of some materials that can be used in green architecture for a better tomorrow.

1. Timber

Wood is an ancestral material dated being used thousand years back and gaining momentum yet again as a prominent green building material. Timber being a 100 percent renewable and non-polluting material is a mandated alternative for a greener environment. The manufacturing process does not require any fossil fuels or do harmful emissions as other materials do, making it a viable option. It is made of pieces of softwood- conifers like pine, spruce, fir or deciduous like birch, ash, beech, put together to create large units. 

With the growing culture of Skyscraper designing and the large-scale use of materials to stabilize the structure, timber acts as an excellent alternative in terms of strength and stability. Different forms of timber used are Cross-laminated timber, Glued laminated timber, structural composite lumber, Nail laminated timber, and Dowel laminated timber. It encompasses the lowest embodied energy out of all mainstream materials and it also acts as an efficient thermal insulator.

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The Mjøstårnet in Norway is the tallest timber skyscraper in the world_ ©Per Oscar Skjelnan

All of these were not enough so it also absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. How praiseworthy is this material?

2. Hempcrete

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Stacked hempcrete blocks_ ©ISO hemp

Hemp is an ancient crop cultivated by humans and its various applications make it a go-to alternative as a construction material. Woody inner-fibres from a hemp plant are used to manufacture this concrete-like material. The blocks of hempcrete are made by combining it with lime, imparting its strength and making it a light material to use and easier to transport. This fast-growing and renewable material is a good thermal and acoustic insulator. Its ability for indoor applications and water vapor diffusivity makes it an efficient choice for retrofitting vernacular structures and bioclimatic architecture. 

The growing industry has attracted many investors and also scrapped off the laws posing difficulty in hemp access. Hempcrete, a breathable and non-flammable material, can be used as a building block, a plaster mix, an insulating skin of a building, or an interior decorative material. 

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zemoal lemoal, a sports centre in France with walls made of hemp blocks_©www.mylifestylemax.com

3. Mycelium

A unicellular organism made of the root structure of fungi and mushrooms, air-dried to form bricks or other units. It can be grown anywhere with agricultural waste like chaff or straw and mushroom spores put together. It only takes 5 days in brick formation from organic waste by mushrooms if confined in a mold. It is cheap and easily moldable to any form and if exposed to living organisms is easily decomposable which makes it a good alternative to a conventional brick. A durable, lightweight material with fire resistance and extreme temperature handling properties.  

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Tower Hi-Fi on the grounds of MoMA  made of Mycelium bricks_©Amy Barkow/Barkow photo

4. Ferrock

This green material is made from steel dust from the steel industry or ferrous rock leftover from industrial processes which is claimed to be five times stronger than usual Portland cement. During its drying and hardening process, it traps and absorbs carbon dioxide making it a non-polluting option for construction. 

It can be used for driveways, staircases, and pathways by mixing and pouring it onsite. It imparts 10 to 15 percent less weight to structure than brick usage and is a low-maintenance material with a longer lifespan. Although it is not a cost-effective solution for large-scale projects, it could be considered as an initial option for fighting towards environment conservation. 

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Domed storage constructed using ferrock by David Stone in US_©Ilvy Bonnefin,LinkedIn

5. Cork

Cork is another emerging material put to the limelight due to its Fire resistivity, acoustic insulation, and waterproofing qualities. It is made from compressing and heating the bark of a cork oak tree which grows back very quickly. It is an excellent shock absorber and returns to its original form after pressure is removed which makes it an apt choice for floor tiles and subflooring alternatives. However, it can only be sourced from the Mediterranean which makes it a bit costly. 

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A house in portugal with cork cladding_©Arquitectos Anónimos

6. Reclaimed Wood

It is a high-quality upcycled wood recovered from various places like warehouses, factories, old barns, shipping crates after these places are demolished. It is not only environment friendly but also is human-friendly as wood inclusive surroundings reduce stress and provide relief. It is a biophilic design approach and provides sound aesthetics to a project. 

Reclaimed wood is also a viable option for history enthusiasts and conservationists who delve deeper into selecting materials with a touch of antiquity. Its flexibility allows it to be used for walls, flooring, or ceiling design. 

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A reclaimed wood house_©www.homedit.com

7. Non-VOC Paints

When talking about building material, it is not only the ones used to erect a structure but also the coatings and finishes applied on that material for beautification and protection from wear and tear. Paints are one such material that is applied in all sorts of constructions and should be chosen wisely in terms of environmental impact. 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) present in paints react with sunlight and nitrogen oxide leading to the formation of ozone that impacts human health and the environment very badly. If Non-VOC paints are not available then lookout for the ones with low VOC content but the ones with a high VOC percentage should be avoided.

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Non VOC paints_httpswww.ddcoatings.co.uk

8. Polyurethane

It is a foam used for insulation purposes, directly spraying on the surface or walls that have to be insulated. After spraying it expands and gets hard forming a thick rigid insulative layer that does not even provide space for air leakage. A survey was done by the American Chemistry council, results declared that 60 percent of construction companies are using polyurethane to meet the needs of various homeowners. It also protects from mold and pests and is a good heat insulator as well.

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Spraying of Polyurethane_©www.greenbuildingsolutions.com

References

Barker-associates.co.uk. 2021. What is Sustainable Architecture – Barker Associates. [online] Available at: <https://www.barker-associates.co.uk/service/architecture/what-is-sustainable-architecture> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

Conserve Energy Future. 2021. 15 Sustainable and Green Building Construction Materials – Conserve Energy Future. [online] Available at: <https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/sustainable-construction-materials.php> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

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Elemental.green. 2021. 10 Eco Building Materials Revolutionizing Home Construction. [online] Available at: <https://elemental.green/10-eco-building-materials-revolutionizing-home-construction/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

  1. [online] Available at: <https://www.99acres.com/articles/ferrock-a-stronger-and-greener-alternative-to-cement.html> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

Guide, B., 2021. 23 Different Green Building Materials – The Constructor. [online] The Constructor. Available at: <https://theconstructor.org/building/green-building-materials/7028/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

Hoeven, D., 2021. Mycelium as a construction material – Bio Based Press. [online] Bio Based Press. Available at: <https://www.biobasedpress.eu/2020/04/mycelium-as-a-construction-material/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

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Smartcity.press. 2021. Why Is Timber The Most Sustainable Building Material Of The Future? | Smart City. [online] Available at: <https://smartcity.press/timber-sustainable-building-material/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

ThoughtCo. 2021. When “Green” Architecture Is More Than a Color. [online] Available at: <https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-green-architecture-and-green-design-177955#:~:text=Green%20architecture%2C%20or%20green%20design,building%20materials%20and%20construction%20practices.> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

urbanNext |. 2021. Hemp Concrete: A High Performance Material for Green-Building and Retrofitting. | urbanNext. [online] Available at: <https://urbannext.net/hemp-concrete/> [Accessed 16 September 2021].

Author

Aastha is an architecture graduate who is enthusiastic about playing with words and inditing the stories waiting to be told. Apart from being an expressionist she is an avid reader and a philomath on a journey to make a difference with her deeds.

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