Sustainable Construction Materials for Your Contracting Business
Being able to say that you work with sustainable construction materials can be a boon for your construction business. When you evaluate supplies for their sustainability, you’re looking at consumption, waste and regeneration. Most materials can be sustainable, but you’ll have to do some research to confirm that your supply line is following best practices. This means that even if it’s easy to grow or manufacture and accessible nearby, it may or may not be sustainable. Here are several construction materials that have the potential to make the grade.
As a non-renewable resource, some people wonder how metals can be sustainable. Metal can be energy-efficient, but the recycling efforts for metals makes them truly sustainable. One thing you have to keep in mind about the recyclability of a material is this: Just because it can be recycled doesn’t mean it is. Plastics are notoriously bad. Metal, on the other hand, is accepted almost anywhere. The decades of history in the reuse of this product means that most metal materials you purchase for construction are made of partially-recycled content. In fact, some experts estimate that manufacturers of roofing materials can use as little as 5% new material to create a metal roof.
Although the news is full of irresponsible harvesting wiping out forests of endangered wood species, the material as a whole holds a lot of potential. Depending on its function, wood can be reused or recycled. The most common wood form used in construction is cross-laminated timber. You usually can’t recycle this product, but it is built to last a long time and be as strong as concrete. As you explore wood materials for your contracting business, do a little research into its origin. Cross-laminated timber from a forest that is sustainably managed can be a reasonable choice.
One way that innovators are thinking about sustainability is go back to natural materials civilizations used for construction hundreds of years ago. Bamboo is a good example. It is not a wood, although it can function a lot like wood. It is lightweight but strong, and can support a lot of weight when pressed together. The main benefit to bamboo for sustainability is that it regenerates much more quickly than wood. Bamboo grown from seeds may be ready to harvest within 3-5 years.
Plastic, made from petroleum, poses a lot of problems for sustainability in the construction industry. It is a finite resource that is heavily used but not heavily recycled like aluminum. Plastics feature in all kinds of construction materials, from insulation to packaging. It’s likely that you will consume a lot of plastic in your business. This is a chance to make an effort to use recycled plastic. Plastics can be sorted, shredded into small pieces and molded into another product multiple times. Research your supply line and look for manufacturers who limit their plastic use or rely on recycled plastics where available.
As the most commonly-used building material, concrete generates a lot of controversy in the sustainability movement. It’s heavy, energy-intensive to transport and difficult to recycle. The production of cement, a major component of concrete, dramatically increases carbon emissions. As such, people looking to decrease carbon footprint need to cut down on their use of concrete. This has led to a number of approaches, including:
- manufacturing concrete-like materials from renewable resources
- adding materials to concrete structures to decrease consumption without compromising strength
- finding new ways to reuse old concrete in the production of new concrete
Cutting down on concrete has prompted an entire industry of products available for construction.
Improving sustainability in construction involves an analysis of processes but also products. Looking for sustainable construction materials makes it easier to complete projects that will help your business and your community. To start creating your career in construction, contact us at CSLS today!