12 Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Building Materials

The benefits of energy efficient houses are not limited to saving electricity. Efficient houses also aim to create a more comfortable, safe, and healthy living. If you are on a mission to build your home, use this opportunity to make it energy efficient. You can use modern eco-friendly building materials to create a more efficient and greener home. For your convenience, we have gathered a list of some of the best building materials that you may consider.

Earth

Since ancient time people have been creating their home with earth. Rammed earth made houses are strong and durable, and CSIRO research proved it to be weather resistant. The thickness and density of the soil can protect you from adverse climates, and outside noise. Being fire and pest proof means little maintenance is needed. It one of the best building material being both environment and health friendly.

It is true that earth is available all around and cheap, but the problem lies in finding a specialized craftsman who knows the art of building structures using earth. Finding such a person is where your costs may increase.

Recycled Steel

An average house requires about 40-50 trees to build. On the other hand, you can make the same house with steel equivalent to six scrap cars. Steel is one of the most recycled materials, and research states that two out of three pounds of new steel is produced from old steel. Also, they are your green choice due to lower CO2 emission.

Consider your geographical conditions, if you are in an earthquake-prone or high wind zone than steel holds up well against these problems and according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), you can customize the steel beams according to your needs.

Low-E Windows

Windows are a key element of your structure. Using high-performance windows like Low-E windows can help to keep your interior cool during summer and block infrared radiation. During winter, these windows trap the heat inside maintaining a pleasant temperature at your home. Heat flow can be reduced up to 50% using these windows.

How Low-E windows work [Image: stanekwindows.com]

What is Low-E glass and how does it make windows energy-efficient

Cool Roof

The cool roof uses the color theory to keep your house cool. We all know that black absorbs heat and white reflects it. This concept is used when roofing houses. Most useful for warm countries, it can be an energy efficient way of keeping your home cool. When the sunlight strikes the white roof surface 80% of it gets reflected, 10% heats the atmosphere, 8% gets absorbed by air and 1.5% heats the building.

Thermostat Radiant Barrier

Similar to the cool roof, the barrier acts as a reflector for sunlight. 97% of the radiant heat is reflected which helps to keep your house cool. Your cooling energy cost is reduced by 17% during peak summer months. It can act as one of the best attic space coolers.

Wood or Plastic Composite Lumber

Your normal wood structures are subjected to mould and rot. The wood or plastic composite lumber is manufactured using a 50-50 combination of plastic wastes and wood fibers making it mould resistant and less toxic.

Straw Bales

Used prominently during the medieval period, straw bales are known best for their insulation properties. Straw is produced as the by-product of grain, and can last up to a few thousand years if kept dry and can heavily reduce the effect of the extreme heat and cold inside a house.

Vacuum Insulation Panels

Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIP) are the future of energy efficient house building. A 1-inch panel provides seven times the traditional insulation with minimum heat loss. The structure is a silver rectangle with a core panel all enclosed by an airtight envelope. Though still only offered for commercial use, these panels will pretty soon be available for residential use. It is predicted that this will be one of the key elements to achieve a minimum energy efficiency rating for your home.

Check out how vacuum insulated panels are made:

Spray Foam Insulation

Instead of fiberglass and cellulose insulation to keep the conditioned air trapped, another alternative can be spray foam insulation. The leakage is low and can be used throughout the year. There is no harmful emissions and it’s both water resistant and shrink proof.

Structural Insulated Panels

These insulated panels are suitable for high loads and can be used on your floors, basement and foundations. According to NAHB Research Center, structural insulated panels save up to 50% more energy compared to traditional ways.

Insulating Concrete Forms

For providing greater strength and robustness, concrete is poured between multiple insulation materials. Considered as mildew, rot and disaster resistant, they can be used in building blocks and standing walls.

Plant-based Polyurethane Foam

A better alternative to the fiberglass is the plant-based polyurethane foam. Made from natural products like hemp, bamboo and kelp, it is highly resistant to moisture and heat. This natural solution works well against mould and pests.

Each building material has its perks and disadvantages. Based on your geographical and design requirements choose the ones which best fit your needs. Make sure to look at all possible angles for building your energy efficient home.