Construction is an ongoing affair that will always be needed, which is why more sustainable and energy-efficient materials will need to take the reins of the industry.

Sustainable building materials are increasingly more available. Some are commonly used throughout everyday construction, while others are less obvious and require a little bit of research.

If you need the support of a structural engineer in Cornwall for your projects, you can contact a member of our team. Our experts will be happy to help you throughout the construction process and will ensure that your project is as seamless and safe as possible.

Steel beam structure

Structural Options

When deciding where to start with your construction project, it might be a good idea to gain an understanding of what sustainable materials you can use for structural purposes.

Materials such as concrete are heavily relied on throughout building work. Concrete is mass-produced, annually releasing around 4.4 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Hempcrete

A popular material to use is hempcrete. The composite is made from a mixture of hemp hurds, also known as shives, and lime, sand or pozzolans.

The mixture provides an energy-efficient material as it is air-tight, vapour permeable and offers a great thermal mass that has a uniquely effective thermal performance.

It is often used to construct walls with the support of timber structural frames. It can also be used to create other important features such as insulating floor slabs or roof insulations. Hempcrete can even be used to update the original insulation of traditional and historical properties.

Timbercrete

Timbercrete is a blend of sawmill waste, sand, binders and a nontoxic deflocculating addictive, which is cured using sustainable resources such as the sun and wind.

When compared to other construction materials, timbercrete is often light, more flexible, and will provide better thermal insulation properties. It also can absorb carbon within the material itself, compensating for other emissions produced.

Ferrock

Ferrock represents an attractive alternative to conventional building materials, especially those such as concrete.

Ferrock is a carbon-neutral product made of 95% recycled materials. It is created from steel dust, which is a waste product. The steel dust is then combined with ground glass, also known as silica.

When the components are mixed, they create a chemical reaction that results in a strong, solid form, similar to concrete. The benefits of the material extend further than its carbon neutrality – the material is flexible, chemically inactive and stronger than concrete.

A person installing wall insulation

Insulation

Environmentally-friendly insulation is not only beneficial for the planet but also your wallet, which makes it all the more attractive and easier to justify.

There are many eco-friendly insulation materials that you can apply to your construction projects, so there is little need to turn to materials such as spray foam or mineral wool.

Straw Bales

Since the medieval period, straw bales have been known for their insulation properties. Straw can heavily reduce the effects of extreme temperatures.

This energy-efficient material is a by-product of grain and can endure for thousands of years when kept dry and well maintained.

Plant-Based Polyurethane Rigid Foam

This construction material is manufactured from resources such as kelp, hemp and bamboo. The rigid foam can be used for insulation purposes as well as furniture.

The construction material is moisture and heat resistant, while it also offers protection against mould and pests. In comparison to fibreglass, it provides better insulation and thermal resistance.

Various roof tops

Roofing Materials

Finding the perfect roofing material is sadly not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Luckily, there are many options to choose from, each providing environmentally-friendly solutions throughout your construction project.

Below we have selected two easy and affordable options that have stood the test of time.

Reclaimed Slate or Clay Roof

Clay and slate have been used throughout history for roofing. Reclaimed materials (even if they are a product of unsustainable production) are always an eco-friendly option that plays an important role in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.

Clay tiles have a long life expectancy of around 60 years. When damaged, they are easy to repair without affecting the rest of the roof.

Slate roofs have been popular throughout history due to their low water absorption index, not to mention their appearance. The material is incredibly durable and has a lifespan of 100+ years.

Each poses certain environmental issues, such as slate providing a much more eco-friendly option as opposed to clay but also being a much heavier material, causing transportation concerns.

Wisteria growing along a wall next to a door

Windows & Doors

Windows and doors are both critical components when designing a sustainable property. Both can improve the interior environment by providing light and retaining heat.

Timber

Timber is one of the better options when sourcing materials for doors and window frames. It can be sourced from forestry schemes that will ensure the trees are planted and harvested at the same rate. They also require far less energy than the manufacturing process of plastic windows.

Unlike PVC windows, the use of timber will avoid harmful chemicals from being released into the terrain and spreading to the groundwater when discarded.

Low-E Windows

Low-emissive windows are another sustainable option for those looking to be environmentally friendly. They consist of a metallic oxide that coats the glass, which can lower your heating costs more than traditional double-glazing.

Low-e windows can easily be incorporated into double-glazed windows and will go on to reduce the heating cost of the building by a further 10%.

If you are embarking on a renovation project and need the help of structural engineers or chartered surveyors, get in touch with our team at Martin Perry Associates to find out how we could make your renovation journey smoother.

Contact Martin Perry Associates banner