Right now, the world is focused on the Amazon rain forest, the world’s largest rainforest, as fires are burning at an unprecedented rate. Known as “the planet’s lungs”, the Amazon produces nearly 20 percent of oxygen for the earth. But currently, there are thousands of fires raging through the rainforest in Brazil threatening the ecosystem of the rainforest and the entire planet.
These fires, along with the massive deforestation that occurs daily in the Amazon, are sometimes caused by lightning, but also by loggers and farmers clearing the land. It is estimated that one football field of rainforest is burning every minute, and an area half the size of Brazil has already burned.
The rainforest ecosystem provides oxygen, takes in carbon dioxide, supplies water vapor for the global weather-climate system, and hosts untapped medicinal benefits. The massive fires are destroying the trees and the smoke is blocking the sun. But that’s not the worst of it. The wildfires are emitting a ton of carbon monoxide.
Why is carbon monoxide bad?
Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous for humans. If a person is exposed to carbon monoxide, even for a short amount of time, the carbon monoxide can replace the oxygen in the blood. The result can be fatal. What’s most difficult is that carbon monoxide is tasteless, odorless and virtually undetectable. Because of these characteristics, people may not recognize carbon monoxide poisoning until it is too late.
Carbon monoxide is considered an extremely dangerous greenhouse gas, and fire is not the only source of emission of CO2. It is also emitted in the production of common and popular construction materials, cement, iron, and steel. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) states that 39 percent of all carbon emissions come from buildings and that these levels are continuing to rise. Higher levels are generally due to the increasing manufacturing, transportation, and creation of materials that produce substantial quantities of greenhouse gases.
How buildings impact the environment
Construction of buildings has hurt the environment and has negatively impacted and contributed to climate change for many years. U.S. building construction is accountable for a large percentage of the greenhouse gas emissions affecting the earth, particularly CO2 emissions. Building construction and operations are responsible for a large percentage of water usage and water waste. The materials traditionally used to construct buildings impact the environment and the manufacturers of the materials emit dangerous CO2. Most materials used in traditional building construction are raw materials and if materials are brought in from overseas this also has an impact on the air quality. Additionally, the waste that is left over from the construction of the buildings also negatively impacts the environment. The waste is often disposed of in landfills or incinerators.
In 1993, the USGBC established a program called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) with a mission to provide ways to build homes and businesses that focus on sustainability and environmental friendliness.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
LEED is a “green” rating system for buildings used globally and intended to make buildings safer, healthier, and more efficient. There is also a LEED certification program that recognizes homeowners who follow the recommended health and sustainability guidelines when building a home. LEED offers four levels of certification including certified, silver, gold and platinum. LEED has had a great impact on furthering the green movement in construction and has made significant contributions to the reduction of greenhouse gas levels.
Since buildings adversely affect the health of people on earth, it’s time to start using sustainable construction materials that have little or no output of carbon or other greenhouse gases. This can be done by designing, building, and operating buildings and homes using fewer resources and reducing waste. One important way to do this is to look at how to construct buildings by using materials that actually fight climate change.
Below is our list of 10 building products that fight climate change.
1. Bamboo Flooring
There are so many factors threatening the planet in these modern times, and it is our obligation to do what we can to take care of the planet. When you use bamboo flooring, for example, as a building material instead of other types of wood, you are helping the planet by not using up the trees that are so vital to the health of this earth.
Bamboo is a grass, not a tree, and it grows extremely quickly compared to trees. In fact, it’s the fastest growing plant on earth, with one type of bamboo growing a record 35 inches daily. This incredible growth rate allows bamboo to be harvested every five years. It is an eco-friendly building material that is strong, easy to grow, and it leaves no ecological footprint from harvesting.
Bamboo can literally be used to make anything that you can make from hardwoods. The only difference is that bamboo goods will cost less and be more durable. As a building material use bamboo for floors, scaffolding, tools like drills and mallets, furniture and much more.
Watch how bamboo flooring is made.
2. Magnesium Oxide Boards (MgO Boards)
Another extremely echo-friendly building product that is gaining popularity is called MgO Board, also known as Magnesium Oxide Boards or MagBoard. MgO is a type of cement made from the minerals magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) and oxygen (chemical symbol O). It is found in huge underground deposits in a few areas around the world, but mainly in Asia. There is enough MgO available to make MgO Boards for centuries to come.
Considered a green product, MgO Board has none of the harmful toxins: formaldehyde, asbestos, silica. It’s even manufactured at a low, ambient temperature. Considered a negative CO2 product, it actually absorbs CO2 instead of emitting CO2 – definitely good for the environment. MgO Board is engineered in such a way you don’t have to worry about mold, mildew, insects, fire, water damage, or leaving an environmental footprint.
MgO Board really is an incredible product. It allows safe and easy installation and is resistant to extreme temperatures and humidity. It’s used in a variety of construction applications including ceilings, facia, firewalls, tile backing and underlayment, sheathing for wood or metal stud walls, facings for structural panels, and substrates for coatings and insulated systems.
3. Reclaimed Wood
An effective and potentially cost-saving choice when using green building materials is reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood is simply wood that has been previously used in another capacity and then salvaged for use for a different project. The use of reclaimed wood harms no trees and has little or no effect on the environment. Also, wood and the production of wood materials is responsible for fewer greenhouses (GHGs) than most other traditional building materials like brick, concrete, and certain metals.
Most reclaimed wood comes from restoration or demolition of buildings or structures and is very often in excellent condition. New wood is still a great product and better for the environment than other building materials, but the production of wood materials does involve cutting down trees. This is bad for the environment because trees are responsible for gobbling up harmful carbon and carbon compounds and then converting them into healthy oxygen. When you factor in the fuel used for transportation, the heat from the transporting truck, and the energy used to process the wood into the building materials, new wood does leave behind an ugly footprint. By using reclaimed wood, forests remain intact, carbon levels in the atmosphere aren’t raised, and the greenhouse effect isn’t increased.
4. Recycled Non-Wood Materials
Some traditional building materials are now available in recycled form. Materials such as steel and tile can now be recycled and reusing them is a means of keeping them out of landfills and reducing their negative impact on climate change.
Some architects are taking buildings to new heights by using other types of recyclable materials in the building process. Items like plastic bottles, metals, smart glass, industrial hemp, and containers can be used in the construction and interior design of buildings.
5. Rammed Earth
Rammed earth is a precisely controlled technique for constructing foundations, floors, and walls using natural raw materials such as sand, clay, chalk, lime, and gravel. The end results are stone like structures that are load bearing, water resistant, and long lasting. Most of the energy used to create rammed earth construction comes from the quarrying and transportation of the materials. If the materials can be quarried on site, then that is the optimal solution.
One of the key benefits of rammed earth is its ability to store heat. When temperatures fluctuate outside the thermal mass of rammed earth can give you heat when you want it and store it when you don’t want it. The downside to the thermal mass is it won’t stop heat it only slows the process. However, with a careful design rammed earth can be a fantastic building material.
In 2018, the Farm Bill changed federal policy regarding industrial hemp and considers hemp an agricultural product. Hemp is extremely versatile and can be used to produce several products. For the building industry, hemp can be used as insulation, flooring, and hempcrete for construction. It is a carbon-negative material that is eco-friendly and completely recyclable. Hempcrete is made from hemp, lime, and water. Hempcrete is waterproof and fireproof and although it is recyclable, it will not rot when it is above ground.
Hempcrete uses little energy for transporting as the blocks are very lightweight. Hemp is a fast-growing plant and quickly renewable.
AshCrete is another alternative to concrete and cement and is made of fly ash, which is a very fine powder and a byproduct of burning pulverized coal in electric generation power plants. When mixed with lime and water, fly ash forms a material similar to Portland cement. Fly ash can be used in building materials and is also commonly used as paving and in road construction. It is much lighter than cement and pours easier.
Fly ash requires less water to create than Portland cement and offers many other benefits. It is cold weather resistance, is considered a non-shrink material, produces a dense concrete with a smooth surface and sharp detail, reduces crack problems, permeability, and bleeding, and reduces the heat of hydration.
Timbercrete is a building material made of sawdust and concrete mixed together. It is much lighter than concrete, so the transportation emissions aren’t as high as with concrete. Sawdust is a waste product in construction and using it as part of the mixture replaces some of the high-energy components of traditional concrete. As a building material, Timbercrete can be formed into blocks, bricks, and pavers.
9. Glass Concrete Polymer
Most recently, researchers have discovered how to make concrete using recycled glass, which is an effort to turn waste into industrial flooring. The glass in the mixture replaces sand as it is ground down into sand. Other uses include parking lots and roads. Substituting sand with recycled glass produces a stronger polymer cement. Polymer is water-resistant and is ideal for areas with heavy traffic such as service stations, retail malls, and airports.
The steel industry is the source for a newer green product called Ferrock. Up to 95 percent of Ferrock is made from recycled materials including steel dust, making it stronger, more flexible, and less expensive than concrete. It is also carbon negative because it absorbs and binds CO2.
The product Ferrock was discovered when David Stone was doing his PhD in environmental chemistry at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a failed experiment uncovered a unique material. Stone realized it might serve as more environmentally friendly alternative to cement. It is named after its composition of iron-rich ferrous rock. The primary ingredient is waste steel dust discarded from industrial processes and silica from ground up glass. The iron within the steel dust reacts with C02 and rusts to form iron carbonate. Once formed into Ferrock it can not be melted back into a liquid. Ferrock is five times stronger than cement, can withstand a higher compression, and it becomes even stronger in saltwater environments.
The more development that continues in the world, the more devastating the effects on the environment. Responsible development using environmentally-friendly materials has become a necessity for responsible growth.
Are you ready to make a positive impact? Consider bamboo flooring for your home renovation or building project. Ask for your free samples today.