Green construction methods can range from the tried and tested to the avant garde and wonderful. You already know how much we love sustainability and creativity, so let’s dive in straight away with some of our favourites!
Recycling old and broken household objects and construction materials for building is nothing new. We have however, in recent year, hit some amazing milestones in this area.
1. One man's trash is another man's treasure:
In Guatemala there are currently at least 35 schools made using bottle bricks and mortar. A bottle brick is when a used plastic bottle is filled with other bits of waste plastic, compacted inside. When combined with a mortar to hold them together they end up being a super strong, lightweight and colourful building material.
"A bottle brick is when a used plastic bottle is filled with other bits of waste plastic, compacted inside."
Closer to home, in Brighton, an architect along with local students, constructed a house made almost entirely from rubbish. This included old DVDs, carpet tiles and razors. What has made the structure, known as The Brighton Waste House, so special is its EPC energy efficiency rating of A. This is the highest rating awarded for energy efficiency.
There are opportunities to utilise the natural world sustainably too.
2. Unbelievable bamboo:
Described by Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia as “the green steel of the 21st century” and “will replace other materials in architecture”, bamboo is next on our list.
Bamboo is an incredibly sustainable construction material. It’s been used for thousands of years all over the world. It’s lightweight and super strong (often with a higher compressive strength than steel and concrete) but not only this, it grows at an incredible rate. Chopping down bamboo to create scaffolding or even woven houses has little to no effect on the crop numbers.
Bamboo is being used in creative architecture but even in more practical uses like scaffolding!
There are other organic materials being used in construction and changing the way we think in ‘green’ in the industry.
3. Nature's construction materials:
Would you believe there are even structures made of mushroom root extract?
It’s called mycelium.
Italian and Indian architects and designers in southwest India have worked together to make temporary structures for events. Combining mycelium and timber. It was made to be a demonstration of how mycelium - formed from the roots of mushrooms - could be used to create temporary structures in a sustainable way.
This method started blowing up in 2017 and has been used at New York MoMA events among others.
Even some traditional building materials are being used alongside nature to create breathtaking installations and sustainable structures.
5. Living walls and the power of plants:
Living walls and bioactive concrete are a beautiful innovation.
The first living wall was created by Patrick Blancalongside architect Adrien Fainsilber in 1986 for Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris.
The benefits of living walls are extensive, from temperature reduction in urban areas to the emotional benefits of beautiful design and being around wildlife.
"The benefits of living walls are extensive, from temperature reduction in urban areas to the emotional benefits of beautiful design and being around wildlife."
Then we have bioactive concrete.
This is a type of dense and porous concrete with damp ledges to create a perfect environment for plant life to grow and flourish.
ECOncrete initially created a marine version of bio concrete to use in marine construction. It was hoped this would compliment the delicate under sea ecosystem whilst still providing the sturdiness of concrete. Though designed to be used exclusively under water it was showing promise for above ground, and our urban built up environments, as plant life began growing above the surface of the water.
Much like living walls, these have multiple positive uses including air purification, insulation and biophillia.
Biophillia is the theory that we as humans benefit from being around nature and plant life. Dr Timothy Beatley has done extensive research in the area of Biophillic cities. Dr Beatley even established a collective of researchers, policy makers and cities across the world whose mission is to increase awareness of this phenomenon.
"Biophillia is the theory that we as humans benefit from being around nature and plant life."
The last stop on our tour of green construction, is alternatives. Swapping the old for a new, more eco friendly equivalent.
6. Bricks like you've never seen them before:
Wool bricks are made by mixing wool fibres and an extract of seaweed to clay, making them stronger than traditional bricks. Because these bricks are made without firing the researchers have stated "This is a more sustainable and healthy alternative to conventional building materials such as baked earth bricks and concrete blocks."
Pollution eating bricks and concrete is a fabulous development too.
The Breath Brick is a great example of this. The bricks act as a part of the ventilation of the building essentially breathing in the bad air and depositing the heavy pollutant particles in to the bottom of the brick using cyclone filtration, a method used in modern vacuum cleaners. The bottom part of the wall is removable to allow it to be emptied and cleaned.
The BLAC brick, it is made from 70% boiler ash waste (which usually ends up in landfill) and the other 30% is lime, sodium hydroxide and clay. Using alkali-activation this means the bricks do not need firing and reduce the negative environmental impact of having to fire bricks.
We are regularly overwhelmed by the sheer number of sustainable alternatives, projects and creativity in the construction industry. We only have one planet and anything we can do to protect it will take a great deal of innovation on our part, but it’s vitally important work.
Keep being creative. Keep looking for alternative and sustainable ways to do things.