How to Source Sustainable Building Materials

Written by  //  April 17, 2013  //  Home Construction  //  Comments Off on How to Source Sustainable Building Materials

If you’re planning to build your own home, there are many things you’ll need to consider when you begin the construction process, one of which is what materials you intend to use. Should you be especially keen to have an environmentally-friendly property, sustainable building products ought to be high on your list of things to buy.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always obvious which materials come from sustainable sources. One thing you can do is hire a local builder who is experienced in using these kinds of products. 

To get you started, here are some tips to help you work out which options are the most eco-friendly.

Where does it come from?

One of the easiest ways to make your self-build project more sustainable is to use local products as much as possible. It stands to reason that materials that have been transported for hundreds or thousands of miles from where they were produced won’t be as eco-friendly as their counterparts that have only had to travel a short distance.

So, rule number one is to use local suppliers and manufacturers as much as possible. If you hire a good builder, such as those recommended on this website, they should be in a position to help you find the most suitable products in your locality.

Are materials sustainably produced?

The sustainable construction industry is all about making sure materials are used and produced efficiently. This can cover everything from wood that has been sourced from a well-managed forest to reclaimed bricks that have been taken from another site to be reused elsewhere.

Recycled building materials are another option, but it’s worth noting that reclaimed products are usually considered to be more environmentally friendly, as the recycling process uses more energy and is often time consuming.

Among the building materials that can be reclaimed are wooden beams, slate roof tiles, window frames and doors, steel columns and staircases. So, you should be in a position to obtain a significant amount of the materials required for your project if you take the time to look around.

Where can you find reclaimed materials?

There are reclamation and salvage yards all over the UK, so make the closest one of these your first port of call. A local builder should be able to point you in the right direction if you’re not sure where to start.

Alternatively, if there’s a demolition taking place close to you, it’s worth going to speak to the site manager about whether you can buy any of the materials to use for your project.

Salvoweb and eBay, among other online retailers, are also an excellent source for reclaimed building materials, but just be wary about how far you’ll have to transport things if you’re purchasing via the internet.

How can you know if a product is sustainable?

In terms of items that have been recycled or reclaimed, it’s obvious that these are from a sustainable source. However, with new products – like wood – you need to check that they have been produced in an eco-conscious way.

In the UK, you should look for the mark of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The wood from an FSC-accredited forest has been felled sustainably, while the land on which it is grown is managed properly.

You can also check the lifecycle assessment of the products which you’re considering using in your self-build project. This not only gives you an indication of the material’s eco credentials, but also provides an idea of how it should perform in terms of energy release throughout its lifetime.

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