As we learned in the previous article, there are several approaches that can be implemented when selecting green building materials, of which, resource efficiency is a key element. Resource efficiency is rather a broad term, and can be achieved by incorporating building materials that fall under any of the categories listed below:
- Recycled Materials: Construction materials and products that consist of recycled materials or which contain recycled components.
- Renewable Natural Resources: Building materials that are sustainably harvested from renewable natural resources, which are ideally certified as such by an independent body.
- Resource-efficient Manufacturing Process: Building materials and products that have been produced using resource-efficient manufacturing processes that reduce power consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize waste (such as using recycled or recyclable product packaging or reducing packaging materials).
- Locally Sourced Building Materials: Construction materials and building components/ systems that are sourced locally or regionally results in energy savings associated with transporting these materials to the building site.
- Salvaged/Reclaimed, Remanufactured or Refurbished Materials or Products: Includes salvaging used building materials that would otherwise be disposed, and/or enhancing the aesthetics, value, performance or quality of a product through restoration, renovation or repairs.
- Recyclable or Reusable Building Materials: Building materials and products that can be readily removed and reused in another project, or which can be recycled rather than disposed of in a landfill.
- Recyclable or Recycled Product Packaging: Building materials and products that are packaged in recyclable or recycled packaging materials.
- Long-lasting Building Materials: Durable construction materials that will last a long time before needing to be replaced or repaired.
Improved Resource Efficiency by Using Reclaimed Building Materials
Building and construction is one of the largest consumers of natural resources — in the US building activities consume 60% of natural resources other than fuel and food, generating 170 million tons of waste every year. There is an increasing demand for reclaimed vintage building materials such as marble fireplace surrounds, antique taps, leaded windows, etc., which add a touch of old-school finesse to a home, while benefiting the environment at the same time.
When building materials are salvaged and reused elsewhere we save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with extraction, production and transportation of these materials or products. Furthermore, when building materials are reclaimed it minimizes the environmental impact associated with the disposal of these waste products, such as emissions from decomposing waste, air pollution resulting from incinerating waste, or landfill expansion and/or the demand for further landfill sites.
Sourcing salvaged building materials when building or renovating your home is one way of greening your home. There are many retail outlets that sell all manner of reclaimed building materials that have been salvaged from renovation projects and demolition sites. Habitat for Humanity not only sells second building materials, but also used appliances, furniture and home accessories. You can save money by bargain shopping at their stores, and you can also recycle your unwanted stuff by donating it to them. Salvaged building materials can also be sourced online from AmericanBuilderSurplus.com and PlanetReuse.com.
Recycled-Content Building Materials Improve Resource Efficiency
Building materials that contain recycled content are produced from recycled materials that have been collected at various recycling centers. By purchasing recycled-content building products you are in effect supporting recycling programs, and ensuring their viability and sustainability. The following building materials made from recycled materials are readily available:
- Insulation (including insulation made from recycled cotton, mineral wool, cellulose or fiberglass)
- Drywall (typically manufactured from recycled paper and gypsum)
- Recycled plastic used in plastic lumber
- Glass/ceramic tiles
- Kitchen countertops
- Carpets and carpet underfelt
- Materials used for landscaping
Materials that contain recycled content usually indicate the percentage of recycled material on the label or packaging, and also need to justify why it qualifies to be labeled a ‘recycled’ product (i.e. does it contain refurbished or rebuilt parts, the exception of course is when this is obvious to the purchaser, such as when buying used construction materials from a garage sale or retailer that sells reclaimed building materials.