Ecological Materials - Sustainable Construction

Ecological Materials. Sustainable Construction.

At present, more and more people think about sustainable and efficient construction, for this, we must bet on ecological materials that allow us to reduce CO2 emissions and the consumption of physical and natural materials.

Not only is the choice of construction materials important, but also choosing a good orientation of the building, insulation in doors and windows, etc., which are aspects that the architect must take into account in his design. This reduces the consumption and pollution of the building throughout its useful life and not only in its construction.

In addition, to speak of sustainable construction, we must bear in mind that it must be a process that respects the environment in all its phases, that is, from the moment the materials are chosen, the manufacturing process, its transport and, if applicable, think of controlled demolition and seeing how to reuse the materials as much as possible again.

It is clear that this road is long because we have to begin to become aware of the waste of resources, bad habits, and consumption without a measure of exhaustible natural resources and bet on renewable and sustainable materials that respect the environment, but the demand is increasing and it also has the support of regulation in the construction sector

Ecological Material

Definition

For a material to be ecological and efficient for construction and, therefore, sustainable, it must be durable, include recyclable materials in its composition, reusable, unalterable by atmospheric, natural conditions (earth, cork, straw, adobe, bamboo, etc.). wood, sawdust, marble, slate, lime mortar, etc) and can even capture energy or remove pollution. These materials must be from the area or must be transported in the most efficient way possible.

In this way, we would be talking about materials that both in their manufacture, transport, handling, maintenance, and possible demolition have taken into account their low environmental impact and their high economic performance due to savings in energy consumption.

The Most Important Ecological Materials

1. Wood

Wood is a well-known material, with a reduced environmental impact in its production and life cycle, which makes it a traditional material with multiple advantages. To consider wood as an ecological material, its origin, production, felling, and replanting must be certified. It is also an efficient material in terms of energy due to its insulating properties, giving comfort to the building because it allows a more stable temperature to be maintained throughout the year, warm in winter and cool in summer, reducing energy consumption by approximately 50%. in both heating and air conditioning.

Various panels are also made with wood, such as wood fiber panels, which are produced from leftover wood from sawmills and lumber industries (pruning, sanding dust, etc.) These panels are highly insulating, both acoustically and thermally. In addition to treating them, many more properties are added, for example, fire-fighting additives, humidity, insects, etc. Pressure and glues to make them more resistant. These pressed layers of wood provide superior resistance, which makes it viable as a structural material due to its hardness, always bearing in mind that these treatments must respect the environment.

A very favorable aspect of these panels is their easy handling and placement on-site because they can be easily cut with a saw. They are also recyclable and their residues in a possible demolition do not pollute.

They are panels designed above all for the interior because outside if they are not well treated, they can absorb moisture and swell.

Within these wood fiber panels we find the OSB panels, which are panels of oriented shavings, each layer is oriented perpendicular to the previous one, this makes it more homogeneous for expansion and more resistant. According to the additives that these panels incorporate, they are divided into four categories, the first being the one that contributes the least additives to the panels, which would be used for interior decorations, up to the fourth, which could be used for exterior structures.

Finally, as a drawback, we could point out that a massive construction with wood could not be carried out without previously sustainably generating enough wood, but it could be built with wood on a small scale, for example, single-family houses.

2. Composites

When we speak of composites, we refer to panels composed mainly of resins and glass fibers, with this union materials are obtained that offer high mechanical resistance concerning their density, compared to conventional materials. Thus we speak of high durability, and reduced corrosion; since being synthetic, for example, they repel insects and rodents, something essential in food companies, excellent electrical insulation properties, they provide great flexibility; giving the possibility of building very complex and creative forms and, finally, it is also an easy material to recycle as it is made mainly of fiberglass.

3. Cellulose Fibers From Recycled Paper

Recycled cellulose fiber, which is produced from waste paper, is beginning to be used routinely in construction. This is converted into planks or panels to cover the walls of buildings under construction and is a sustainable option that complements traditional wood panels. In addition, it is the most environmentally friendly material without losing the level of insulation, both thermal and acoustic.

It is recycled newsprint that, after treatment with Brax salts, acquires insecticidal, antifungal, and flame retardant properties. In addition, it requires very little energy for its manufacture due to its low coefficient of thermal conductivity, this is one more reason to decide on this material if we think about caring for the environment.

Just as wood balances the maximum and minimum temperatures of the building, we will also be reducing energy consumption in heating and air conditioning.

4. Cooked Clay

We are talking about blocks made of recyclable material, which in turn can be recycled again since they are very stable and inert materials.

It is clay fired at a temperature below 950C and treated naturally so that contamination is minimal. This ensures that these ecological bricks retain the properties of the land from which they come, that is, their insulation, low radioactivity, good thermal inertia, and, the ability to absorb moisture.

They are used both for floors and facades and their use can be seen in vaults, lattices, walls, brick enclosures, etc.

There is no more suitable construction material to reflect Mediterranean talent than English-fired clay, used on floors and walls designed with the bright colors of the Mediterranean, providing warmth and traditional flavor.

5. Lime Mortar

Use lime mortar as an alternative to cement, since lime mortar does not require additives and its manufacturing process is simpler, thus reducing pollution.

Lime mortars are those mortars that are made with lime, sand, and water. Lime has been the basic binder for mortars throughout time until the arrival of cement. It was no longer used because of how laborious it was to prepare it on-site and the time it took, which significantly slowed down the work. Currently, lime mortars are manufactured and distributed industrially, so it is possible to take advantage of all their advantages in conventional works and not just in building renovations or bioconstruction.

As an ecological material, lime mortars have the advantage that they reduce energy in their manufacture and therefore reduce pollution, and also have many other advantages:

  • The CO2 produced in its manufacture is less since it is done at a lower temperature and even this CO2 is absorbed later during carbonation, thus compensating for gas emissions.
  • Allows thinner layers than cement mortars, this allows it to be used in exterior finishes. They guarantee sealing and coating, preventing the appearance of cracks in the coatings.
  • Lime is a natural disinfectant.
  • They allow the passage of water vapor, therefore it is breathable and prevents condensation.
  • Provides good acoustic and thermal insulation, regulating the temperature in both summer and winter, with the energy savings that this entails.
  • Does not allow the entry of rainwater.

As a drawback, it should be noted that lime mortars have a slower hardening, which limits their structural use.

As an advantage of cement, we can say that it is more resistant and requires less-skilled labor for its installation, so in this case, the economic cost of its use is reduced. But without a doubt, in the manufacturing processes, cement is more polluting and is not recyclable, in addition to not later absorbing carbon dioxide throughout its useful life as lime does, so it is a less sustainable material.

6. Solar Painting

It is a solar paint that can absorb water vapor to produce hydrogen fuel. It is a great revolution in the field of sustainable materials since hydrogen is considered one of the clean energy sources of the future.

Its operation is very simple, you only have to apply a layer of paint on a roof, door, or exterior wall, and the only thing that is needed for the system to work is sunlight and water vapor in the environment, in this way we can ensure that any element of our construction generate clean energy and take advantage of all the advantages of solar energy.

7. Synthetic Roof Tiles

Another ecological material is synthetic tiles, these are made from recycled plastics and limestone. As main advantages we can point out the following:

  • They are sustainable since they come from a recycling process and are also fully recyclable
  • Waterproof and also allows captured rainwater to be reused
  • They are approximately 50% cheaper than traditional ones
  • They have great hardness, which gave them a useful life of more than 50 years

8. Thermoplastic Materials

Within a house or any construction, its facilities incorporate a large amount of PVC, this material can be harmful to health because in its production it incorporates chemical elements, the objective is to achieve a balance between the construction needs of the population and the protection the environment, as well as the health of its inhabitants. Thus, an alternative to the use of PVC would be to use thermoplastic materials such as polypropylenes, polybutylenes, and polyethylenes, which, as they do not contain chlorine in their composition, are more respectful of the environment.

They can be used, depending on the type we choose, for drinking water pipes, heating systems, wastewater transport, etc.

As an advantage, it can also be noted:

  • They are hard and resistant, so they can also be used outdoors.
  • They are thermal insulators (reducing energy consumption) and acoustic.
  • They are light, which facilitates their handling, transport, and storage.
  • They are recyclable.
  • They are not toxic.
  • Good quality/price ratio.

9. Vegetable Fibers

Within the vegetable fibers, we highlight the bamboo, which is an Asian plant that grows very quickly. It is an unbeatable material used since ancient times by man to increase his comfort and well-being.

It is a renewable, resistant, and durable material. It is a thermal insulator and acoustic insulator since inside the bamboo canes air chambers are formed that allow the temperature of the material to be regulated, depending on the climate in which it is found, and also form a barrier against sound.

Its cost is affordable and its aesthetics in very original finishes.

10. Other Recycled Materials That Can Be Used In Construction

As ecological construction materials, recycled materials from other sectors can be used, such as:

  • Industrial waste (ash, sludge,) to manufacture bricks.
  • Waste from quarries (slate, marble,) roof tiles, or flooring.
  • Urban waste, for example making concrete with recycled tire rubber.

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