As consumers become increasingly aware of sustainable technologies, a variety of new, innovative building materials have been developed to fulfill the needs of eco-conscious homeowners. In many cases, this shift toward sustainable methodology is driving the advancement of new technologies, while antiquated materials are being adapted for newer, forward looking applications.
Brick buildings have existed for far longer than many people know, having their origins in the Middle East around 7500 BC. Though the earliest bricks were simply dried from clay-bearing earth, around 2900 BC ceramic, fired bricks were developed in the Indus Valley. Their use has continued right into the present day, with many of the 19th and 20th century homes that constitute Saratoga Springs and similar American communities using brick as their primary building material.
With the multitude of advantages that brick can offer, it is no surprise that it would find a place among sustainable builders. An essentially ancient technology, however, would leave most observers assuming that little room for improvement exists, a contention challenged by Titan Brick Inc. This company has developed a new proprietary method of creating sustainable bricks that are composed of 90% dirt (by far the most plentiful and ubiquitous building material on the face of the planet). Their website notes the variety of advantages presented by utilizing bricks to construct the exterior and interior walls of a building, which apply not only to sustainability, but also cost-effectiveness, strength, and long-term maintenance.
Titan bricks are built to interlock, and though they aren't fired (which saves dramatically on energy costs associated with their manufacture), they are nevertheless far stronger than conventional building materials like wood or concrete. These bricks have been proven to resist F4 tornadoes and force 5 hurricane-strength winds, making them two and a half times stronger than concrete.
They have also proven to be more cost effective than traditional building materials, as the entire building process becomes far more integrated and streamlined. Plumbing and heating elements are installed in a Titan Brick wall as it is built, unifying processes that used to be distinct facets of construction. Interior wall finishing is also accomplished by way of spray guns, eliminating the need for heavy drywall, which can facilitate the growth of mold and mildew.
In addition to the obvious health benefits inherent in the system, Titan Brick posits that their product can reduce construction time on a new building by up to two weeks. Combined with lowered material costs and energy efficiency benefits, this system can achieve considerable savings over time for the average homeowner. The bricks constitute an integrated thermal mass, and when combined with an R-20 heat resistant coating, they could potentially lower home heating and cooling costs by 50-60%, while simultaneously resulting in a highly sound-resistant wall structure. Titan Bricks have, in many ways, reinvented the core concept of the brick, taking it from the realm of antiquated substrate to innovative building material.
For all of their potential benefits, Titan Bricks are hardly the only innovative building material making inroads on the home construction market. An extremely unusual technique called shou-sugi-ban has recently gained traction among Western homeowners, though it has long existed in Japan. The name translates directly as "the burning of Japanese cypress (sugi)," and the technique involves the charring of exterior wood siding. Though skeptics may at first raise their eyebrows at burning wooden siding before it is applied to a building, the technique produces a layer of carbon that renders the material nearly maintenance free. Wood that has been treated in this manner becomes resistant not only to pests, but also to fire and weather damage. Standing up far better to rot, carbonized siding has a life expectancy of nearly 80 years, making it a long-term investment in the construction of a new home.
Nearly any kind of wood can be carbonized, creating not only a strong and highly sustainable siding, but also an aesthetically pleasing finish. Charred softwood will highlight the prominent growth rings that adorn its surface, while hardwood will exhibit a much more even, measured pattern. In either case, the wood is washed and dried after burning, and can be finished with oil to highlight the various tones of color that arise from the process. Carbonized siding can also be left unfinished if so desired.
Innovative building materials are not strictly limited to exterior or structural applications. A variety of interior finishing products have arisen in recent years to fill the increasing demands of the sustainability community, and few are more exciting than marmoleum tile. Though often confused for vinyl by consumers, marmoleum is actually a highly renewable flooring that can be used both in new construction and in renovation projects. Fashioned from a blend of limestone, wood flour, rosin, jute and linseed oil, marmoleum tiles are fully biodegradable after 25 to 40 years of usage. The flooring can be manufactured as a single sheet, click-together tiles, or as a glued down system, and these various options can employ either a cork backing (in the case of click-together) or polyester (in the case of glued-down tiles).
Marmoleum exhibits a range of benefits that sustainability-minded consumers are sure to appreciate, including a natural hypo-allergenic quality that makes it bacterio-static. Micro-organisms have a hard time thriving on marmoleum, and its natural anti-static state prevents dust and other allergens from adhering to it and collecting on a floor.
These three examples constitute just a few of the innovative building materials that consumers are increasingly employing as they learn of the benefits of a sustainable, eco-conscious home. Green building is currently exhibiting exponential growth, with the top 10 U.S. builders doubling their revenue between 2010 and 2012, and with the advent of tax incentives and the mainstreaming of green culture, consumers can be assured that there will be far more to choose from on the horizon. For information on these and other innovative building materials, contact Green Conscience today.
Hi! I'm Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience Home. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of our posts, so comment away! One of my goals is to get the community discussing some of these eco topics, and hopefully help each other out!