Sustainable Building Materials (And Processes)

People and businesses alike are always looking for more ways they can be more sustainable – trading in old processes for greener ones. Building materials and construction processes are two categories that have excelled in recent years when it comes to sustainable alternatives. In today’s blog, our environmental consultants in Melbourne are going to go over some the benefits of a sustainably constructed building, a few specific sustainable building materials and processes that are followed when constructing a sustainable building.

What makes a building material sustainable?

Ultimately, the creation and implementation of the material (as well as further maintenance) must have a low impact on the environment. Several factors contribute to making a sustainable building material:

  • For starters, the material must be naturally occurring.
  • It helps if it’s locally sourced.
  • Recyclable materials must have been used in their manufacturing process.
  • The building material itself must be recyclable and reusable.


Examples of sustainable building materials

  • Reclaimed wood – Reclaimed wood is just another way of saying recycled wood. It’s been specially treated so it can be used to construct anything from simple furnishings to key structural points in a building. Significantly less energy is used when manufacturing reclaimed wood compared to virgin wood.
  • Timbercrete – This interesting material is an amalgamation of cement, sand, binders, sawdust and a non-toxic deflocculating additive. Acting as an alternative to concrete – the sawdust element replaces some of the less energy efficient components of traditional concrete. It is cured via natural methods and thus uses notably less energy compared to creating traditional concrete. This versatile material can be used to make things like pavers and bricks.
  • Ferrock – This new material is another concrete alternative and is made up of around 95% recycled materials – two of those main components being waste steel dust and silica. Ferrock actually absorbs more carbon dioxide than it creates which is a huge benefit.

What are the benefits?

Ask any Melbourne-based environmental consultant, a sustainable building actively works towards reducing one’s carbon footprint and mitigating the number of resources that are not only used in the construction phase but also for the rest of its life. Likeminded individuals will always opt for a construction firm that is sustainably oriented as well.

Let’s look at it from another perspective – energy efficient rating (EER). Generally, the minimum EER for a home in Australia is six – which is considered good but not outstanding. A few years ago, a Light House Architecture & Science architect, Sarah Lebner, predicted that an eight-star home uses around 53% less energy when compared to a six-star home.

That’s a pretty huge difference. In fact, Green Star certified buildings boast that they produce 55% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 66% less electricity, 51% less water and that 96% less waste is sent to landfill in comparison to an average home. It’s not just about the materials that are used, however, but the process and design of the building as well.

How design impacts sustainability

When a building is being planned – all aspects of the environment must be taken into consideration, not just the sustainable materials that are being used. A site assessment must be made by qualified environmental consultants to ensure there’s no past or present evidence of contamination in the soil (amongst other things). Any naturally occurring water sources in the area need to be delicately handled as not to disturb the natural eco-system. Essentially, the entire environment around where the construction is taking place needs to be carefully preserved as much as possible.

Additionally, the design of the building itself (whether it be a commercial or residential building) needs to be constructed with the utmost sustainability in mind when it comes to things like thermal efficiency, for example – making the most out of natural heating and cooling methods in order to mitigate future electricity bills. This could include the type of material that is used, positioning of the building, insulation and window glazing.

Are you looking for environmental consultants in Melbourne?

Alpha Environmental firmly support sustainable construction methods and materials. If you’re looking at constructing such a building in Melbourne, then our environmental consultants can help you assess the land you’re looking to build on to ensure the appropriate sustainable measures are taken. We can offer a variety of environmental services to suit all situations.

If you’d like to know more about what our environmental consultants can do for you, then please don’t hesitate to contact us by filling out the form on our website or by calling 1300 039 181.