Sustainable Materials: The Role of Recycled and Renewable Resources in Construction

Sustainable Materials: The Role of Recycled and Renewable Resources in Construction

Erecting new structures requires a lot of building materials and heavy equipment, which understandably comes with a high amount of carbon emissions. To combat this issue and promote a healthier world, leaders in the construction industry are exploring the use of new materials with a focus on sustainability. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages using recycled and renewable goods. They are becoming more and more common in construction projects, and they come with plenty of benefits for the environment as wll as the people who live and work in these structures.

Explore the role of recycled materials in construction and how this heightened focus on sustainability is paying off for construction companies. 

Benefits of Using Sustainable Materials in Construction

Sustainable materials are shaping the future of the construction industry and providing us with more environmentally friendly ways to build. The following are some of the many benefits that come from using sustainable materials in your structures:

  • Lower environmental impact: Compared to traditional construction materials, sustainable solutions are far better for the environment. These materials are made with renewable resources and/or production processes with lower levels of carbon emissions or demand for water and energy. 
  • Enhanced air quality: Sustainable materials have the potential to preserve the indoor air quality of the buildings that incorporate them. By using materials like formaldehyde-free insulation, natural fiber carpets, and low-volatile organic compounds paints, builders release fewer harmful chemicals into the air and promote a healthier environment.
  • Higher market value: Buildings made using eco-friendly materials and practices attract more environmentally conscious tenants and buyers, making them more marketable to a broader group. They generally have a higher return on investment — selling for up to 16% more — than buildings made using traditional construction materials.
  • Excellent longevity and durability: Modern sustainable materials can endure harsh environments and offer an extensive service life. Durable components require less frequent replacement, which translates to savings for the building owner and provides yet another benefit for the environment. 
  • Better energy efficiency: The sustainable insulation on the market today is highly effective at containing treated air, thereby reducing strain on heating and cooling systems as well as energy consumption. This is good both environmentally and economically. 

Sustainable Construction Materials in Use Today

The construction industry has found ways to use numerous types of sustainable materials in building structures. The following are a few of the most common and their typical use cases:

  • Green concrete: Materials like slag and ash make up green concrete. You can also find biocomposite cement, a green cement made from algae, and hempcrete, which comes in large blocks made from lime and hemp fiber. Though the production of green concrete generates significantly less carbon emissions than that of traditional cement, this substance offers similar qualities.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo is a fast-growing and incredibly powerful renewable material. This strong, versatile plant makes an ideal replacement for timber in construction, and its replenishment speed makes it highly sustainable. 
  • Cork: Commonly used for pinboards and wine stoppers, cork is a popular sustainable construction material because it is water-resistant, thermally efficient and lightweight. Cork comes from oak trees, and a single large tree can produce hundreds of pounds of it. The way cork is grown and harvested makes it one of the most renewable sources available today. 
  • Mycelium: Mycelium is a construction material made out of fungus. This substance is organic, biodegradable, flame-resistant, durable, water-resistant, lightweight and nontoxic. It's also remarkably easy to grow and therefore highly renewable. 
  • Recycled plastic: Plastic has been an environmental concern for decades because it's so widely available and takes so long to break down. Fortunately, there is a way to use it for good by repurposing and recycling plastic for construction purposes. Plastic is strong and works well as insulation, and using it in construction does good on multiple levels by letting it serve a new purpose and keeping it out of the environment. 

Rent Equipment to Support Your Construction Projects

Changing the methods and approach to construction is a big part of making the industry more environmentally friendly. Caterpillar does its part by manufacturing equipment that offers enhanced fuel efficiency to minimize emissions and work more productively. 

Explore the latest in construction technology by renting machinery and other equipment from your local Cat® dealer. Rental solutions are an excellent way to gain the functionality you need temporarily or test-drive the latest technology while maintaining a lean, agile fleet. Find out what you can rent from your nearest dealer today by browsing our online catalog.