Nowadays, last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where

Nowadays, global warming is becoming more and
more disturbing, according to the IPCC report, each of the last three decades
has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade
since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30 years period
of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is
possible. The building sector has doubled its emission and since 1970 represent
25 % of the emission of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which is from the
building sector (Lucon et al., 2014).

Now, the construction of sustainable building
is very important, because the building sector is among principle the emitter
of CO2. For example, for the European Union (EU), the building
sector is responsible for 42% of the total EU ?nal energy consumption, more
than 50% of extracted materials, 30% of the EU’s water consumption and waste generation,
and 35% of the green-house gases (GHG) emissions (COM(2007)860; COM(2011)).

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Due to this situation, sustainable development is
taking more place in the world during the 21st century. The term
sustainability reflects the approach integrating 3 pillars (Economy, Social and
Environment) and it can be reflected in the sustainable construction. In
effect, it provides a construction which respect the environment and ecology. As
integrated approach, it combines many disciplines to attend the objective
“construction of sustainable building”. Sustainable construction will enhance
the resilience of the building and construction industry by using materials from
inexhaustible
resource in the
world. To construct sustainable building, firstly, the design must be
respectful of environment, which require an integrated approach of
architecture. Secondly, the material used for the construction must be
sustainable. The use of sustainable materials and products is part of the
overall environmental sustainability effort (Building and Construction
Authority, Singapore,2007).  The
renewable materials in building and construction known as green building
materials are sourced from renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources
(Choudhury, 2016). Ideal building materials from the consideration of low
carbon emissions, least carbon footprint and potential for recycling and reuse
are the natural materials like soil, stones and timber/ biomass (REDDY, 2015).

 However,
the choice and the determination of the material requires many criteria. These
criteria will be developed all along this paper.

This paper is about the subject sustainable
materials, and contains 5 parts, which are overview of sustainable material, some
examples of sustainable material, advantage and disadvantage of the use of this
kind of material and at the end, one case study of building made from
sustainable material.

I)      Overview of sustainable construction
and materials

·        
Sustainable construction

Sustainable Construction is the adoption of
materials and products in buildings and construction that will require less use
of natural resources and increase the reusability of such materials and
products for the same or similar purpose, thereby reducing waste as well (Building
and Construction Authority, Singapore, 2007).  
However, the assessment of sustainability of a building is divided on 3
ways: Ecological sustainability Economical sustainability and Social
sustainability.

·        
Sustainable material

Sustainable
material is defined by their impact on environment and the indoor quality. It
can be defined as materials used throughout our consumer and industrial economy
that can be produced in required volumes without depleting non-renewable
resources nor without disrupting the established steady-state equilibrium
of the environment and key natural resource systems. Material is renewable
or sustainable source if it can grow at a rate that meets or exceeds the rate
of human consumption.

The sustainability
assessment of building materials should be done on the whole building level
over all life stages because some materials have a bad impact on environment
during its production like high embodied energy but can be reused and have a
high thermal mass so reduce the cost for cooling-heating system (Staller and
Tish, 2011). The assessment of the material needs the understanding of the
materials life-cycle.

The world market for green building materials
is likely to grow from $116 billion in 2013 to $254 billion in 2020, according
to a report from market research and consulting ?rm Navigant Research. In the
US, by 2015, an estimated 40–48% of new nonresidential construction by value
will be green (Choudhury, 2016).

·        
Lifecycle of building materials

The
buildings materials have 3 phases: the pre-building phase, the building phase
and the post-building phase (Kim, 1998). The first phase corresponds to the
production of the materials and its delivery but it not includes the
installation. The production of the material may cause environmental damage, so
the understanding of the processing during this phase is a key point for the
later selection of material. The second phase refers to the material useful
life. It encompasses all the process since the installation until the
reparation and maintenance. The last phase or post-building phase refers to the
building materials when their usefulness in a building has expired. At this
point, the fate of material can be divided on 3 categories, either the
materials are reused or they are recycled or discarded.  

The understanding of the life cycle of
material can help to minimize the waste of material and to reduce the cost
reusing old materials.

 

Recycle

Waste

Reuse

 

Figure 1: Life cycle of building materials

·        
Features for sustainable materials

All
sustainable materials have common features and these criteria define their
environmental sustainability. If the materials have one or more of these
features, they can be considered as “sustainable material”. The first criterion
is about the lifetime of the material. In fact, the material is sustainable if
it has a longer life. When it has a longer life, there is no need to often
replace or fix it and that induce a low cost of maintenance. The method used
during the process of production can also determines if it is sustainable or
not. For example, pollution and waste prevention measures in manufacturing,
recycled content should be taken into account from the manufacturer. Though,
even if the material does not have a longer life, coming from rapidly grown
resources can define the sustainability of the material, for example, bamboos
are sustainable because they are rapidly renewable and they can be regrown and
harvested fast enough to keep up with heavy demand.  

For
timber products being a renewable and CO2 neutral material offers a
high potential for sustainable construction. Nevertheless, to determine that
wood and its derived products like Hempcrete (material created from woody inner
fibers of the hemp plant) are sustainable, it is important that the
tree comes from a managed and certified forest. For that, there is a label like
FSC, PEFC or equivalent form which can deliver a certificate for proving the
sustainable management of the forest.

Another
criterion concerns the embodied energy consumption which is the total energy
used to produce the material. Less the embodied energy is, more the material is
sustainable. However, consuming high energy during the production does not mean
that the material is not sustainable if it has a very long-life cycle.

The
process of production of the materials is also very important, the material
should not contain toxic compounds to avoid risk and negative impact for human
health. In fact, even some materials are not harmful, they can require toxins
to manufacture, and then they become unsustainable.

To be
sustainable, the materials should be reusable. After the demolition of the
building, some materials can be reused like eco-concrete or eco cement. Having
the properties of reusability means that the material can be reclaimed without
transformation for another construction.

Recyclability
is an important feature of sustainable material. In fact, all recyclable material
is defined as sustainable. It means, after the life cycle of the building, the
materials can be transformed for the same thing or for another and reused in
another construction. Nowadays, concrete and steel are both a recyclable
material. The recycling concrete can be used in building construction and has
already used in Switzerland the city of Zurich with the enterprise Eberhaud Bau AG which is constructed
with 90% of recycled concrete (Staller and Tisch, 2011). The CRD waste, concrete from
another old building can be recycled too, at the present time, there is a
technic to separate old cement from the waste concrete. The waste concrete can
be used as wall, road kerbs, paving blocks. Clydes residence in Singapore is another
example of building made from recycling concrete. Steel
is recyclable material
too, it can be used and recycled repeatedly without any degradation in terms of
quality. A
product featuring recycled content has been partially or entirely produced from
post-industrial or post-consumer waste. 
The incorporation of waste materials from industrial processes or
households into usable building products reduces the waste stream and the
demand on virgin natural resources. By recycling, the embodied energy they contain
is preserved. For Aluminum, for example, it can be recycled for 10–20% of the
energy required to transform raw ore into finished goods (Kim, 1998). Many
materials can be recycled such as glass, plastics, metals, concrete or brick,
and wood and now, some materials are made from waste like plastic lumber,
insulation made from waste of fabrics.

Finally, if the material cannot be
recycled or reused, the biodegradability is a very important property that the
materials should have to reduce the waste.

·        
Choice
of the material in sustainable design

In designing, the choice of material is an
important step if the construction is made of sustainable material. It can provide
the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact associated. Then, to choose material
for a construction, the knowledge of the criteria and features mentioned above
is very important. No materials can have all the properties, but if it has one
or more of these, it can be used as a friendly environment material.

I.1.)                     
Sustainable
materials in each kind of construction

On this
section, sample of sustainable materials are presented in their use in the
building construction.

I.1.1)      Site and landscape

Plastic
lumbers and pavers is widely used in outdoor furniture and decking. This
lumbers are made by shredding and reforming post-consumer plastic containers
such as pop bottles and milk jugs. Plastic lumber has advantages over wood in that
it is impervious to moisture and will not warp, rot, or check. By using the
plastic lumber, the construction is environment friendly because of recycling
waste.  

I.1.2)      Structural farming

Due to the rising of the price of wood and the
declination of its quality, the steel becomes more and more used in the building
construction. Indeed, the steel is a sustainable material if although it has a
very high embodied energy, it can be easily recycled and reused. There is
another one that can be used as structural farming, the name of it is joist and
truss systems. The joist is a combination of lumber and steel. Lumber recovered
from demolition is being used in renovations and new construction, for both
environmental and aesthetic reasons. The resulting product reduces landfill waste
and is nontoxic, recyclable, and of better quality than commercially available
virgin lumber today.

I.1.3)      Building envelopes

Usually, plywood and stand board are used to enclose
buildings once the frame is in place. But nowadays, some alternatives materials
have been developed from agricultural waste product, and it is the straw
paneling. The straw paneling is assembled with a non-toxic resin and judged
sustainable materials because it has a long life, it is recyclable and
biodegradable.   

Wood, Aluminum and vinyl are commonly used as sheathing
to protect it from the weather. All of these materials have some disadvantages,
but, they can be composed primary of recycled materials. Alternative siding materials
are also available, ranging from other products that are imitations of wood to
advanced stucco materials. The stucco materials are a cement plaster
applied over wall and surfaces outside or inside buildings. The stucco provides
a hard, reliable, durable and low-cost surface that requires little maintenance.

I.1.4)      Structural envelopes

Bricks and Concrete masonry unit are both a
sustainable material. Even though, they have a high embodied energy content,
they are long-lasting materials, have a high thermal mass insulation value and
are inert if discarded in a landfill.

There is another material that can be used as
structural envelopes, Super-insulated stress-skin panels. It is giant sandwiches
of rigid insulation encased in plywood or strand board. The use of this panel
is beneficial for environment because just a crop lumber and mill waste are
used for the production of the plywood and the material has a long-life.

I.1.5)      Insulation

In
contemporary construction, they usually used a fiberglass insulation
supplemented by hi-tech polymers. The combination of this system offers an
acoustic benefit. Nevertheless, rigid foam insulation applied in panels in new
construction can offer a very high R-value per inch of thickness. Fiberglass is
preferable due to its inexpensive cost and because it is easy to install (MacDonald,
2004). Nowadays, there is another material for insulation made from recycled
newspaper and waste of textiles or fabrics (cotton insulation). These two
materials are both non-toxic, have a high R-value, and they incorporate waste
for their production.

I.1.6)      Glazing

Glazing and
windows are very important in the construction because the windows are the
weakest point in the building envelopes in terms of energy loss. For that, many
sustainable materials can be used, like low emissivity glass, it can retain
heat in winter and keep the indoor cool in summer because it can reflect rays
to the source. The vinyl and aluminum can be used as exterior window to reduce
de maintenance cost. But, the fiberglass windows offer more advantages than the
Vinyl and aluminum especially in terms of maintenance. By using this kind of
material, the usage of wood or steel for framing is not required anymore.

I.1.7)      Roofing

The choice
of the system and materials to be used as roof is very important because it can
affect the energy efficiency of the building. Material for roof with longest
life span slate is expensive and difficult to install. But now, new imitation
slate materials offer a longer life than asphalt or other shingles, at a
fraction of the cost of real slate. 

I.1.8)      Interior finishes

Gypsum board
and wall board are commonly used to enclose the wall studs and about then painting.
Now, non-toxic paint and easy to clean up is available. Casein paint can be
used as sustainable materials for the interior finishes, because it is made
from natural pigment. Sisal wall coverings offer a natural, durable, and sound absorbent
alternative to vinyl and paper wall coverings. If the material is made from
wood, it is more sustainable to choose wood from certified forest sources, for
example for the interior finishing, sustainable material like wood veneer can
be used.

I.1.9)      Flooring

A large kind of materials can be used for
flooring, the determination of the types of the floor define the material to be
used. Traditional wool carpeting, while non-toxic and made from a renewable
resource, has not been able to compete economically with cheap petroleum products.  But now, there is a sustainable and non-toxic
material that can be used such as natural fiber carpet made from recycled burlap
or virgin jute fiber with some animal fibers, and another available carpet
cushion is made from recycled ground-up tire rubber. The linoleum can be also
used as sustainable material for flooring, because it is made from a natural
and renewable source, it has also a moderate price. In effect, it is made from
linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, cork powder and natural dust (University
of Santabarbara, 1999). The cork and tiles are both a sustainable material too,
the cork has many sustainable features such as shock absorption, acoustic and
thermal insulation, cheap and have a very high durability, it can provide a
comfort in indoor environment and has a long life. While the tiles are noted
for its long life, even in high-traffic areas. 
Vinyl composite tiles is also a recommended material for flooring
because it is more cheap and composed by non-toxic materials such as life
stone, vinyl resin and natural pigment.