New Zealand has long maintained its reputation for being 'clean and green', so it's no surprise that we Kiwi's have been some of the most enthusiastic participants embracing environmental sustainability in their everyday lives. I bet if you stop what you're doing and take a look around your own home, you might see energy-saving light-bulbs, reusable cups, beeswax food wraps, maybe even a bamboo toothbrush or three!
Our growing interest in all things kind to the planet has touched every area of our lives. From small everyday purchases where you consciously choose to buy local and support sustainable, fair trade food and clothing companies through to large life investments like homes and vehicles; as a nation, we are seeking cleaner, greener options!
Here at Green Abode, we’re pleased to be building better by making use of the toxin-free, natural resources that are in abundance all around us. We are passionate about this place we call home and have made it our mission to create beautiful, timeless homes that embrace sustainable building principles.
If you’re looking for truly eco-friendly materials to use in your next building project, here are a few suggestions we believe are well worth exploring!
Sustainability experts around the planet agree that bamboo is one of the most eco-friendly building materials you can find. One of the main reasons for this is because its rate of self-generation is so high. Some bamboo species grow up to 3 feet in 24 hours! Technically, bamboo is grass, not timber, and it continues to spread and grow without replanting after each harvest. It also grows worldwide - in every continent except Europe and Antarctica.
Although very lightweight, the long fibres in bamboo make it very durable and incredibly strong, making it a great choice for high use areas such as flooring and cabinetry.
2) RECLAIMED + RECYCLED METAL
Aluminium and steel can be reused and recycled into new products, which reduces the need to go through the earth-damaging, toxic raw extraction process.
These metals are incredibly long-lasting materials that don’t tend to burn or warp, making them ideal for roofing, structural support systems and building facades. In addition, they are water and pest resistant.
Using reclaimed metal and repurpose for different use is currently 'on trend' and looks great in an almost endless array of different applications! We encourage the use of reclaimed metal because recycling and reusing rather than manufacturing a new product is always a good idea!
Timber is obviously an ever-popular choice when it comes to construction. Used for everything from structures, walls, floors, and roofing, to cladding and furnishings - wood has excellent thermal insulation and noise protection. It is also anti-seismic (which is great for building in our shaky isles!)
Most New Zealand timber is grown to a very high standard of sustainability by comparison to other countries. However, if you want to buy imported timber, keep an eye out for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. The FSC is a global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management worldwide.
There are several timber recycling yards across the country where you can find discarded items that can be stripped, sanded and repurposed if you prefer to use recycled timber in your build.
4) STRAW BALES
If you’re an avid Grand Designs fan, you may recall an episode some years ago of a house built of straw bales in the South Island. For many of us, this may have been the first time we’d watched a house being built of straw.
Straw homes, however, are not a new trend. They have been built for centuries and are especially popular in South America. This material has very high insulation properties (about 3 times that of traditional materials), is fire resistant, and is easily recyclable. Another benefit is that straw requires very little energy to be manufactured, and as history has proved, it can last up to 100 years!
5) NATURAL STONE
Another construction material that has been around for centuries is stone, which has many uses, including foundations, walkways, walls, flooring and landscaping. It is 100% recyclable, and when compared to other materials, masonry is versatile and easy to use. Natural stone does not contain any harmful toxins or chemicals, so you can rest assured knowing that your living environment will be healthier for it.
The most commonly used types of stone in New Zealand construction are limestone, sandstone, granite and travertine.
By buying locally, you contribute to the New Zealand economy and reduce the number of carbon emissions compared to shipping materials from overseas.
We couldn’t write a blog about natural materials without including wool! One of our favourite products out there, wool, is unrivalled when it comes to insulation. 100% natural, sustainable and locally sourced, wool is biodegradable, recyclable and non-toxic. Some of its other qualities are excellent sound absorbency and its resistance to mould and even fire!
Wool has the ability to moderate the humidity inside your home. This means that when temperatures drop outside, and the amount of moisture in the air rises, wool absorbs this increase. It also acts as a natural filter, absorbing indoor air pollutants and providing clean air for the inhabitants.
Better still - the wool used for insulation in New Zealand is manufactured using either low-grade virgin wool or recycled wool from NZ carpet and textile manufacturers.
We love that we get to contribute to building a better New Zealand by building better homes. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning! If you would like to discuss your eco-friendly project, please get in touch with us – we would be thrilled to help you on your sustainable building adventure.