When building a home, future homeowners have to take a number of decisions – from choosing the materials for the construction of the building to furnishing it. Our expert on ecological lifestyle highlights what should be taken in consideration when making choices for your future home to be sure that you’ve chosen sustainable building materials.
Think natural and ecological.
Just like groceries that have not been processed or have been minimally processed are healthier, so construction materials that have required less chemical treatment are likelier to be a natural, environmentally conscious choice. People often lack understanding on what distinguishes ecological materials from less sustainable materials; boards used for verandas are a common mistake, because very often these boards are manufactured by mixing sawdust with plastic, making them anything but an ecological choice. One should always choose materials with traceable origins. It is simple with timber – it was cut in a forest, sawed in boards, dried, and then made ready for using in construction; whereas manufacturing plywood requires using glue, and it can vary: the origins of the glue can be traced but there may also be cases when we do not know much about its origins. It is inevitable that some materials used will be less ecological, and it is important to find a compromise between the technical properties and the ecological sustainability of a material. It is naive to think that we could live in homes that are built using only natural materials. Maintaining a balance in decision-making process is the key, and it can be as simple as always keeping in consideration what impact does the chosen material have on the environment and people around it. We spend at least one third of our lives at our homes; the indoor microclimate and the quality of the air that we breathe has a direct impact on our well-being. We should always take advantage of the given opportunity to choose how we create our immediate environment.
We all wish to have a home that will look just as beautiful after standing for decades. When thinking about material durability, two questions should be answered first: How simple is the maintenance of the chosen material? What is the lifespan of the material? Wooden floors are a prime example of sustainable thinking; laminated floorboards vary in their quality based on the thickness of the surface layer – the thinner this layer, the sooner the flooring will wear down and will have to be replaced; hardwood floors are easy to refurbish, and it can be done numerous times. Same rule applies for materials for facade or roofing. The design of the material plays a noteworthy role, too: a home built from natural materials that have been exposed to the local climate before undergoing the manufacturing process will look equally good in 20 years, whereas following contemporary trends soon become laughable as trends and are subject to changing personal taste. We are being reminded of this simple truth just by walking in any other trendy cafe and noticing that it has exposed 100-year-old brick walls or wooden beams in the interior design; we don’t see anyone exposing 20-year-old laminate flooring.
Think recyclable and reusable.
Many wish to create a unique interior design, but cannot find inspiration for original ideas. An easy way how to achieve the desired result is to reuse items that have already withstood the test of time and refurbish them. Renovating an old wooden door is not only a wise choice, but also a beautiful one, whereas purchasing a new door increases depletion of natural resources, consumes energy and increases pollution. Old, sturdy wooden door can last another 50 years once renovated. If it is desired to build a home using all new materials, one should choose materials that can be refurbished and reused in time.
Think of energy consumption required for the manufacturing of the material.
A correctly maintained nursery and timber manufacturing process releases by 75 per cent less CO2 emissions in the atmosphere than that of manufacturing concrete or metal constructions. The difference is significant, and the future homeowners should asses with great attention how much energy has been consumed in the manufacturing process of the material and how much pollution it has caused. The pollution should be considered on a global scale, avoiding the near-sighted assessment of the immediate surroundings and the pollution levels in them. Large factories by the Mongolian-Chinese border have formed chemical-filled lakes and mind-boggling amounts of industrial waste. We tend to forget that thousands of people in Mongolia have to breathe cancerogenous air to support our consumerism habits. Before making any purchase we should research all the links connecting us and our potential purchase; such research can be easily d