Sustainable Building Materials and Design: Is it the Future?

Sustainable Building Materials and Design: Is it the Future?

With the ever-growing global population and increasing environmental risk, issues of sustainability are something that the construction industry must consider.

Sustainable building materials and designs are crucial for the future of building development.

As structural engineers in Cornwall and the South West, we understand how important new construction opportunities and innovative thinking are. We take a look at the future of construction and to what extent environmentally-conscious materials or designs will be a part of this future.

Why is Sustainability Important?

To be sustainable in the context of construction means to reduce the environmental impact that the building process can have. It also means to co-exist with the natural surroundings and be conscious of how our presence is affecting the landscape.

Modern buildings should be built with sustainability in mind to reduce energy consumption and pollution and conserve water, among many other things.

Ultimately, sustainability aims to ensure that Earth and humanity are here for as long as possible. We must look at what kind of materials and designs are best for the population’s and the planet’s health and longevity.

Sustainable innovation in the sector will also help address issues of housing crises and environmentally devastating urban sprawl.

Many countries already recognise the need to make sustainability a priority and have issued laws that require new builds to achieve zero emissions and passive construction.

Sustainable Materials

One way to reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry is the use of sustainable building materials, but what does this constitute?

Recycled Metals

Using recycled metal can be both cheaper and better for the environment than newly produced metal. This is already a resource that has been made use of; experts estimate that around 500 million tons of steel are recycled each year. Steel is durable and can withstand the weight of solar panels, which are another thing to consider in sustainable design.

With sustainable building in mind, making good use of scrap metal will become increasingly relevant in the immediate future!

Some sheets of metal

Sustainable Concrete

Concrete is a popular building material because of its strength and ease to produce. However, there are plenty of disadvantages, including the huge amounts of water used in production, air pollution and exploitation of natural resources.

The future of construction looks to combat these issues with more sustainable versions of the traditional material.

Some more sustainable concrete solutions include:

• Turning demolition debris into bricks.
• A concrete mix that includes soil and organic fibres.
• Self-healing concrete that contains bacteria that reacts with water and oxygen to fill cracks.
• Concrete mixed with hemp fibres.


According to experts, bamboo can be as strong as concrete and, just as importantly, is a renewable resource. Bamboo is both durable and malleable, making it an ideal building material for a variety of projects. It can be used for wall panelling, water-resistant flooring or even scaffolding to support the building process.

A bamboo building in a bamboo forest

Sustainable Design

The design of a building can also be optimised for sustainability. One avenue into architectural design that is conscious of the environment is biomimicry. This is when designers and structural engineers look to nature to inspire solutions. There are many instances of waterproofing, solar power and harmonious living in the natural world to draw inspiration from.

As urban areas become more interested in green technology, places like floating parks or rooftop gardens will become more prevalent. Integrating areas of greenery into urban spaces will be an essential part of increasing overall sustainability.

When considering environmental impacts, architects must also look at the native landscape, weather conditions and energy management in the planning stage. Harnessing solar and wind energy can be incredibly valuable for many buildings.

The aesthetics of a building do not have to be compromised to allow for a sustainable design. In many cases, the visuals of a building are improved when the natural world has been integrated in some way.

Plants in an urban area

If you are embarking on a new construction project, Martin Perry Associates can help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how our team of experienced structural engineers and surveyors could assist you!

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