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Saving energy isn't always the best way to save on your utility bills. Integrating green materials into your home's construction can make a real difference in the long run.
When you think about using green materials to build your home, energy conservation may be the first thing that comes to mind. According to the EPA, however, green building actually involves many more factors than saving money on future utility bills. As you choose building materials, it's important to ask yourself where they came from and how many resources went into producing them. The EPA implores us to remember the future and choose materials that are long-lasting, renewable and/or recyclable. Here are four great options for affordable green home building materials:
Using straw bales to construct the walls of your home is a way to create a graceful, superbly insulated structure that will stand the test of time. Straw is the agricultural waste left behind after wheat, oats, or other grains have been harvested. They can be purchased from farmers at low cost. The straw surfaces are then coated with plaster or stucco, to create an appealing southwestern look. Straw bale buildings in the Great Plains that were constructed in the 1800s are still in good condition today, and the advantages of straw are causing it to become more widely accepted as a standard building material.
Many types of steel are available for construction, and the EPA suggests that roofing is an excellent use for recycled steel. The electric arc furnace (EAF) manufacturing process produces steel roofing from 100 percent recycled materials, with 67 percent consisting of post-consumer steel. The Steel Recycling Institute describes the numerous benefits of using this lightweight, cost-effective material in home construction, and they document its increased use over recent years.
Recycled Glass Tile
Glass tile can add elegance to bathrooms, kitchens and fireplace areas, while making use of curbside recycled bottles or even discarded TVs and computer monitors. Once you set glass tiles in place, they remain inert and beautiful for centuries, and it's easy to find glass tiles made of 100 percent post-consumer glass. Green Buildings suggests seeking your most local source of glass tiles, in order to reduce transport resources.
Polypropylene Plumbing Pipes
Using this safe inert plastic for your plumbing is an excellent way to avoid the hazards associated with PVC. In addition to leaching the carcinogen vinyl chloride into drinking water, PVC is difficult to dispose of because it does not decompose, and, if incinerated, it will release toxic gases. Polypropylene, on the other hand, has been recognized for its safety in Europe for years, and old polypropylene can be recycled into new pipes. Choosing green construction materials means that you are respecting the health of your home, your region and your planet. It's a great foundation on which to build. Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard via Flickr.