With an extremely fast growth rate (it is the fastest growing plant in the world), and an impressive resistance and durability, bamboo is one of the most sustainable building materials. It can be used for both furniture and heavily used surfaces, such as floors, with a higher strength than even hard materials such as brick or concrete. It also has a very pleasant appearance, creating the feeling of closeness to nature even when used in skyscrapers located in crowded metropolises. However, this material has some disadvantages. One is related to the fact that it cannot be cultivated in Europe, due to the unfriendly climate. Bamboo can also be easily damaged due to moisture or insects if not treated with special substances.
While it is one of the most common building materials, wood is becoming increasingly valuable as a result of extensive deforestation worldwide. A sustainable method of limiting logging is the use of reclaimed wood in construction. To give it a new life, it is usually used in the designs of structures, but also for furniture, decorative walls, or floors. Recycled wood must be carefully evaluated and treated in advance with special solutions that prevent the appearance of insects. Among the places where it can be purchased are obsolete barns, former sawmills, but also warehouses of crates and pallets.
Although it has a major disadvantage related to the fact that it can be purchased only from the Mediterranean region, which entails high transport costs, cork still remains an excellent construction material, being resistant and environmentally friendly. Cork is mainly used in thermal insulation and as an insulating material under floors because it has a very high resistance to water and fire and is very flexible, easily absorbing shocks. Portugal currently accounts for half of the global cork production.
A sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative in construction is recycled steel. It is equally resistant to fire, water, and pests and involves lower processing costs when reused. It is ideal in the design of building structures, increasing their resistance to earthquakes, among others. Its benefits related to environmental protection are also indisputable: the processing of each ton of recycled steel reduces the amount of CO2 emissions by about 1.5 tons, and the amount of water used is 40% lower.
Easy to procure and handle, with minimal impact on the environment, straw bales have a multitude of advantages. These include excellent thermal insulation properties, fire and earthquake resistance, but also low costs. They are usually used in filling columns and beams, but also in designing the walls of ecological houses.
One of the biggest enemies of the environment, plastic is also a versatile material, which can always find new uses, including in construction. It can be used, for example, in the manufacturing of protective pipes for cables, PVC windows, roofs, and even concrete, hardening it by 15%.
Although few would have imagined that wool could be used in construction, this is an ecological alternative used in insulation. Wool contributes to increasing energy efficiency, has higher durability, can even be used for soundproof, and consumes small amounts of energy during processing. Although it is procured quickly, it also has a disadvantage related to higher costs, at the same time presenting the risk of losing its sustainable attributes when treated intensively with chemicals to prevent the occurrence of pests.