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Sustainable Building Materials Trends for 2022

We only get one planet, which is why, within the construction industry, there’s been a push for increased usage of eco-friendly materials in both residential and commercial structures.

And that isn’t where sustainable building materials are stopping. There are tons of different options gaining popularity and becoming far more cost-effective all the time. Not only are these construction materials a better option for the environment, but they offer a lot better utility for what they’re supposed to do than traditional methods. 

Here are 10 of our favorite environmentally sustainable building materials trends for 2022.

1. Recycled Foam Insulation

Perhaps one of the most exciting environmentally-friendly options is recycled foam insulation. But there are a couple of things you need to know about it before you use it in your next project.

First, there is insulation made from recycled plastic materials. Generally, these materials comprise bottles and other containers, so the foam is literally made from products that were once something else. Pretty cool, right?

Then, there’s recycled foam insulation that is essentially old insulation. For large projects, foam manufacturers now offer the ability to turn in excess, which is then reformed and turned into new sheets. This is an excellent way to keep your building site as green as possible and help keep these items from landfills.

2. Solar Power Technology

Another exciting sustainable building materials trend for the year is solar power technology. The availability of both solar tiles and ground-mounted options has increased dramatically, making it a lot easier to add to homes and businesses.

Furthermore, the adoption of solar has become at the forefront of projects at a larger scale, too. Many commercial construction projects now call for some form of renewable energy, which works to help the environment and reduce costs for businesses. This is one trend we expect to become the normal in just a few short years.

3. Concrete Made From Seashells

Can new sustainable building materials come from old methods? You’re absolutely right! Referred to as “tabby concrete,” the process was used during Colonial times in areas like North and South Carolina to build strong fort walls. What’s cool is that these walls, such as those at historic Fort Dorchester, are incredibly durable and still standing today.

With a switch from standard concrete to more eco-friendly options prominent this year, it is no wonder that there’s a big resurgence in the use of tabby concrete methods for both homes and businesses. Plus, it is also excellent for landscape uses, such as retaining walls.

4. Use of Bamboo

Sustainability also means using materials that grow quickly and can replenish themselves easily. And that’s why the use of bamboo in place of traditional timber is such a big idea. While it looks very similar to traditional wood, this material has a complete replenishment cycle of only three years—far less than the decades required with pine and oak.

So, what can bamboo be used for? To start, it is growing in popularity as an option for plank flooring in homes. There are also methods used in which it is cut and laminated into sheets for various other types of projects.

The only downside to bamboo is that it can be susceptible to fungus, which means it requires the use of pesticides. Still, the long-term potential for it to be an environmentally-friendly alternative is possible.

5. Straw Bale Walls

Ready for another popular sustainable building materials trend for the year that’s been used for decades? Straw bale walls are an interesting way to construct homes and businesses, but they are an excellent alternative to wood framing. Plus, it is usually available locally, so it can be sourced for a low cost.

Generally, the walls are built using stacks of bales, which are then covered with concrete or stucco. This practice is a lot more popular in dry climates, such as in the desert Southwest, where little moisture can cause mold. However, proper building techniques can keep this from happening in other areas of North America, too.

6. Wool Insulation in Certain Areas

While this isn’t pertinent in all areas of the world, wool insulation is gaining in popularity as a sustainable construction material. The thick and water-resistant fluff you might associate with a sweet little lamb or your favorite sweater is just as ideal for use as a way to insulate interior walls.

In addition, it’s a great option for those who want to source materials locally, especially if they have an abundance of sheep farms in their local area. If not, a few building materials suppliers around the country now offer this as one of the many eco-friendly alternatives for insulating buildings.

7. Hempcrete’s Rise in Popularity

Perhaps the biggest eco-friendly material to rise in popularity in the construction industry right now is hemp. Made from the woody pulp of the hemp plant mixed with lime, hempcrete is known to be just as strong as traditional concrete methods.

The only difference? Hemp is a very sustainable plant that grows quickly, giving building material companies a whole myriad of uses for the stalk. There are even companies that offer hempcrete blocks for building houses, commercial buildings, and other structures. Hempcrete walkways and patios are also gaining popularity in the landscaping and hardscaping trade.

8. Recycled Steel Buildings

As material shortages continue to be a major concern for contractors, many are taking the route of using recycled steel for large commercial projects. Now, it is important to remember that when we say this, we don’t mean just old pieces of metal from other uses.

Instead, we’re talking about beams that have been melted down by the building materials manufacturer and reshaped into strong, sturdy beams. These items can then be used in a variety of different projects, ranging from ordinary office building complexes to entire skyscrapers in major cities throughout the globe.

While choosing recycled steel seems like a simple enough choice, it’s a good chance that your business is already opting for it—most steel building materials on the market today are, at least in some form, derived from recycled materials.

9. Smart Glass Windows

While this one isn’t necessarily just a building material, it is an architectural design choice meant to provide a smaller carbon footprint. Smart glass windows are larger to allow more natural light within a space, which then cuts down on the use of electrical lighting to illuminate the space. Furthermore, special glass reacts to the temperature inside the structure, adjusting the translucent level to let in more or less heat based on need.

While this process may sound like something that’s the wave of the future, the truth is that it has been around in a lesser form in the prescription optical industry for years. Now, builders are incorporating it as part of their dedication to greener building practices.

10. Hemp Insulation in Homes

For the second time on this list, we’re including hemp as an alternative building material trend. Why? Well, the industry is booming thanks to so many states adding it as an allowable crop. (For the record, hemp is the same as the marijuana plant, but according to legal standards, it must contain 0.3% or less THC.)

In addition to concrete made from hemp, the material is also quite useful as a green alternative to traditional insulation in homes. With this process, the pulp from the stem of the plant is made into rolls that look a lot like traditional insulation. Then they’re installed in the same fashion.

Again, this just shows the construction building materials’ industry’s dedication to new and sustainable methods.

Green Materials and LEED Certification

It is definitely worth noting that more and more environmentally-friendly materials are being added to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process. This global certification program sets the standard for green building practices throughout the world. If you’re looking for methods that are LEED approved, be sure to check out their latest guidelines, which now include many of the options we’ve discussed here.

Wrap-Up: Top Trends in Sustainable Building Materials

As we move into another year, the sheer number of sustainable building materials on the market is only set to increase. While these 10 are certainly exciting, we can’t wait to see what else will become a trend in 2022!

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About The Author

Elton Mayfield

Elton's career spans media, production, digital and building industry expertise. His diverse experience makes him nimble, innovative, and curious – always pushing the envelope to create extraordinary work that delivers real results for our clients.

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