Alternative Building Materials

Being environmentally friendly is very much in the limelight at the moment and some people planning a large building project may be concerned about the environmental impact of building materials like concrete. Sadly, lots of building materials very commonly used contribute to the atmosphere’s CO2 content and/or use up resources leading to deforestation etc. Due to the increasing demand for building materials that don’t have this negative impact, all kinds of alternatives are now available and it’s interesting to note that while some of them are very innovative and new, others are actually newer versions of very old fashioned materials.


One of the oldest building materials there is, cob has been used to build structures for around 10,000 years. It is made of, essentially, mud, sand, straw, water and sometimes lime. This material is very easy and cheap to make and very versatile so can be used to create any kind of shapes desired. Not only is this material surprisingly strong and durable, it is very good for insulation so is very energy efficient. It’s popularity in the UK is going to be slightly marred by the fact that it isn’t ideal for very wet climates.


Another building material that has been used in other parts of the world for thousands of years but is starting to, finally, catch on here is bamboo. As a strong biodegradable material which grows back very quickly, bamboo is an obvious environmentally friendly building material to use but it does require some maintenance as it shrinks over time and can be vulnerable to fungus and insects if not properly treated.


Thanks to a certain fairy-tale, building a house of straw seems like a bad idea but modern methods mean it can actually be a very good idea as it is great for insulation, reduces CO2 (because if it’s being used it’s not being disposed of by burning instead) and is totally biodegradable. It’s not just straw bales being used in building either. It can be compressed into insulation panels for ceilings and walls too and these last a long time without maintenance.


As a fast growing renewable resource, hemp is used to make lots of things nowadays so it isn’t that surprising it is being used to make a type of concrete that is a mixture between sand, lime and hemp fibres. Not only is it renewable, it is fire resistant, pest resistant, breathable so it doesn’t shrink and a good insulator. A downside is it isn’t quite as strong as normal concrete but it’s also much lighter so is easy to work with.

Recycled Plastic

Waste plastic is a serious issue because it takes so many years to break down naturally. Instead, some companies have found a way to recycle plastic and make it into building materials. Walls made of recycled plastic are great for sound insulation and produce far less CO2 when they’re made than concrete.


It sounds totally crazy to have insulation made of fungus but mycelium is actually the vegetive part of a fungus fibre that is a sustainable material which can replace foam and plastic in insulation and other applications. It’s very strong as well as fire, mould and water resistant.

With these kinds of materials becoming more widely used and available, people who want to undertake environmentally friendly building projects have more choice than ever. If you’re planning any sort of large building project or reinstating a property after a fire or flood, Marc can help you. To find out how he can make your project run smoothly, call 01273 281624 or email

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