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  • Writer's pictureJustine Rowbotham-Belot

New Sustainable Materials in the Design industry

The topic of sustainability is ever-growing in many industries including architecture and interior design. Learn about new and innovative materials used in buildings today and the possibilities for improvements.

1. Smart Glass Windows

A major trend in sustainability in recent years has been the use of large windows to allow more natural light flow and reduce the need for electric light consumption. Smart glass is an innovative material that changes its heating properties based on how heat and air conditioning is applied in all kinds of buildings. For example, during the summer months, the glass turns translucent to block any heating wavelengths that may require your air conditioning to work overtime while in the winter, the glass becomes transparent to allow the sunlight to aid in heating efforts.

2. Bamboo Flooring

If you are looking for a very bold option for sustainable living, consider using bamboo flooring. While you may not want to take the step of covering your entire floor in bamboo, it makes for a great option for add-ons, antechambers, and mudrooms. Bamboo has a strikingly similar appearance to traditional wood while having a harvest cycle of a mere three years, compared to roughly 25 years for a normal tree. By choosing bamboo, you can slow the rate of deforestation by giving trees a chance to grow back.

3. Insulated Concrete Framing

Not only does framing help determine what kind of renovations your building can withstand, but it is a fundamental element in controlling heating and cooling costs. While prefabricated wood panels will come with small cracks and crevices that allow for the transfer of air and moisture into and out of your building, those using an ICF construction will provide an airtight barrier that prevents unwanted energy transfers while also providing elite thermal mass to help maintain a consistent interior temperature.

4. Eco-friendly Insulation

Any type of insulation will theoretically be eco-friendly if it sufficiently cuts down on energy used for heating and cooling. However, some of this saving is negated if batts, fillers, and/or sprays used for insulation are not sustainably sourced or use toxic chemicals to help in binding and fire resistance. As such, an increasingly popular alternative is hemp insulation. This sustainable product of up to 92% natural hemp maintains all of the same insulative properties of more traditional fiberglass or cellulose. In fact, with its ability to be compressed, hemp can even provide superior insulation for buildings that are willing to pay a little extra.

5. Solar Panels

Both solar panel tiles and mounted structures are effective ways to reduce a building’s dependence on non-renewable energy.

6. Natural Stone and Re-claimed Wood

These are among many building and decorating materials that already exist on planet earth. These materials can be relatively inexpensive and bring nature indoors, creating beautiful calm features.

7. Low or no-voc paint

Voc stands for volatile organic compounds. If it sounds bad, that’s because it is! vocs are toxic to humans, animals in your buildings, and the environment. By choosing low or no-voc paints, you’re making a healthier choice for everyone.

Another benefit to low or no-voc paints is that they aren’t considered hazardous waste. It’s a great way to do a refresh in your building that’s a better choice for your family and the planet.

8. Garage Sales and Furniture Thrifting

One great way to be sustainable is to use or purchase materials and furniture that already exist. You may even be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

9. Energy Efficient Appliances

Do your appliances need a re-boot or replacement? Consider switching your appliances to EPA/DOE-compliant ones to save energy and cut down your electricity and water bills. Also consider switching the light bulbs in your building to energy efficient bulbs.

10. Build for the Natural elements

Leave space for large windows to let in natural light and heat and create pathways for rain to fall and collect so your building can use it for energy.

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