Extensively used in almost every construction project, right from residential dwellings to commercial towers, concrete is a ubiquitous material, the importance of which to modern life is undeniable. However, there are some better alternatives to concrete that have a lower environmental impact.

While the world significantly relies on concrete as a pivotal construction material, very few of us realise that it actually does more harm than good to the society. The production of concrete releases tons of carbon dioxide which is detrimental to the environment, causing climatic changes that result in calamities thereafter. A better alternative to the traditional concrete is green building materials, which not only help in the construction of energy-efficient structures, but are also durable and safe.

Why go green?

With new technologies constantly paving their way to complement the current practices in developing green structures, the benefits of going green  can range from environmental, to economical or even to social. Amit B Wadhwani, Co-Founder, Sai Estate Consultants, avers, “The magnitude of environmental issues is being acknowledged by the construction world and more and more developers are opting for green buildings nowadays. Subsequently, green construction methodologies are immensely being adopted by the realty world. These technologies will ensure a safe and sustainable development environment for the present and the upcoming generation”.

Mentioned below are some of the green building materials used in construction:

Straw Bale: Straw being renewable and a readily available material is one of the sustainable means of building structures that has been discovered by modern builders across the globe. Having high insulation qualities, straw bales help to keep the building warm in winters and cool in summers. It is a relatively easy construction method for novice builders, offering reduced labour cost and some favourable aesthetic qualities. Straw walls, when combined with clay finishing on both the sides, help retain fire separation of about 90 minutes. Finally, at the end of the building’s life, the material can be recycled with meagre or absolutely no environmental impact.

Wood: When it comes to modern construction, everything old is gaining prominence all over again! Offering immense benefits over traditional building materials, wood is believed to drastically reduce global carbon dioxide emission and fossil fuel consumption across the world. As compared to concrete and other building materials, manufacturing wood is considered to be less energy intensive. All thanks to new technologies, wood as a sustainable source of construction has gained favour from prominent developers and architects. Cross-laminated timber is one of the new construction products involving wood which is not only as strong as steel but also retains its static strength and shape for long.

Recycled Plastics: Considered to be an energy-efficient, durable and money-saving construction material, recycled plastic is incredibly promising. A recent study on modern construction materials  reveals that the energy that comes from using plastic as a primary construction material is sufficient to meet the annual energy needs of more than a million households. Using plastic in buildings can ensure a construction lifespan of 30-50 years and significantly truncate greenhouse gas emissions. In India, plastic is extensively used in the construction of roads.

Ferrock: Another emerging eco-friendly building material, ferrock involves the use of a wide range of recycled materials such as steel dust. The resultant material is not only carbon neutral but is also stronger than concrete. Ferrock as a construction material is a cheaper alternative to the traditional building materials and is also relatively chemically inactive. By absorbing and trapping carbon dioxide in the process of drying and hardening, the material helps reduce carbon emissions. A structure involving the use of ferrock as a construction material will indubitably be long-lasting.

Rammed Earth: Rammed earth is a lightly moistened earth mixed with relatively low clay content and tamped heavily to achieve the desired level of compaction. There are several advantages of using rammed earth in the process of construction. Superior thermal mass, temperature, noise reduction, and low-maintenance are just a few of them. The walls of buildings made up from rammed earth provide excellent protection from weather extremes. Being a cost-effective, insulating and environmentally-sustainable material, rammed earth is preferably used in construction works across the globe.

Hemp Concrete: Inspired by environmental and energy-saving requirements of developers across the world, hemp concrete is becoming a significant alternative to traditional building materials. While hemp is an environmentally friendly plant, hempcrete is used to define a light-weight and insulating material produced by mixing hemp with a lime-based binder. The resultant material can be used for the construction of walls, floor and even for the purpose of roof insulation.

With intensified construction to meet the augmenting residential and commercial demands at present, the need for sustainable construction is no longer a personal choice. Construction using the materials as mentioned here above not only contribute to saving our environment but are also worthy in the long run.