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Sustainable Alternatives for Building Materials

While the construction industry has heavily relied on concrete to build structures, its carbon footprint has led architects and engineers to look into alternative building materials.

There has been a surge in alternative building material interest around the world, and we think that 2019 will see accelerated growth in these materials being used that are both durable and have lower environmental impacts.

Not only do trees absorb carbon dioxide, but also require a lot less energy-intensive processing methods when transformed into construction products.


Wood has long been used as a sustainable building material source. Not only do trees absorb carbon dioxide, but also require a lot less energy-intensive processing methods when transformed into construction products. Using wood in construction also results in buildings having less embodied energy. One of the downsides to tree plantations, however, is the eradication of biodiversity to make way for growing trees, but if it is properly managed and sustainably grown, such plantations can ensure that biodiversity is protected.


Bamboo has been used as a traditional building material for centuries, and has recently gained popularity for its sustainability in green buildings. Bamboo is a cost-effective building material as it is easily grown and harvested, making it a sustainable building material source, not to mention its aesthetic appeal too in building design.


Grasscrete is a method of laying concrete flooring, walkways, parking lots and driveways in a way that allows patterns of grass and flora to grow. This creates a natural bio-filter and reduces the need for concrete usage while improving storm-water absorption and drainage.

Recycled plastic

Plastics lifespan in building and construction application is 30 to 50 years, making it a durable and long-lasting building material. With the growing plastic pollution crisis threatening the natural environment, researchers are starting to create concrete that has added recycled plastics, which reduces the need of mining and extracting new building material components. This way, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced as well as the amount of plastic entering landfills and polluting the environment.


Mycelium is an eco-friendly building material that is completely natural. Made from the root structure of fungi and mushrooms, mycelium can be grown around a composite of other natural materials then air-dried to create a lightweight insulation material that can be used in place of bricks and other shapes used in construction.


Hempcrete, made from hemp wood, water and lime, is a sustainable building material that is durable and long-lasting. The hemp bricks are non-toxic, solvent free, mold resistant as well as fire and pest resistant. Hempcrete is also passively self-regulating of temperatures and humidity, making it a great building material that assists in thermal comfort regulation of a building.

Light Steel Frame Structures

Light steel frame building consists of structural wall frames and roof trusses. It has been used as an alternative building technology to conventional building materials due to its durability, cost-effectiveness, low environmental footprint and design flexibility.

Reused Shipping Containers

Using shipping containers as a building alternative after their lifespan has become a trend in the building industry, with architects making use of this durable material source to create interesting, modern structures. Referred to as “cargotecture” or “container architecture”, reused shipping containers can be transformed into any structure: from houses and schools to stores, restaurants and even hotels. They are a durable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly material source as no concrete is needed in construction, and are quicker to assemble compared to other building materials.

While these trends remain predictions based on what Ecolution has observed in the green building industry, we believe that each of these factors will experience heightened awareness and development in the coming year(s), with emphasis on sustainable alternatives not only in building materials but also everyday products and functions in response to the global environmental crises.

Read more about this topic here.


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