• Kelly Fountain

Sustainable Architecture using Raw Materials

Sustainable residential design in Portland Oregon by Black Sheep Design Team

What is sustainable material architecture?

We can preserve natural resources in many ways and constructing buildings by using sustainable materials is not only good for the planet but can also save clients money and help preserve our heritage. A sustainable material is one which does not deplete natural, non-renewable resources and has minimal to zero adverse impacts on the natural environment when they are used. Despite it being very difficult to achieve both of these objectives, they provide the guidance and aspiration for sustainable materials in construction.

Raw materials for sustainbale eco friendly design in Portland

What materials are used in sustainable construction?

The most sustainable materials which are used in construction are; recycled steel, responsibly sourced or reclaimed timber, bamboo (as it grows very quickly) and sheep’s wool (as it can be re-grown on a large scale with ease). Other sustainable materials which can be used include straw bales which can be harvested and re-planted easily with minimal environmental impact as well as concrete, another natural material which can be recycled. Concrete is also easily reinforced with other natural fibers and is perfect for the long term efficiency of insulation.

The avoidance of non-renewable materials in construction is key to achieving sustainable material architecture. When most of us think about non-renewable resources we immediately consider fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, crude oil and petroleum products) and though these energy sources are the most widely spoken about, there are a vast number of other resources which are also running out. For example, aluminum, copper, silver, gold and diamonds cannot be replenished at a high enough rate to counteract their usage.

It isn’t just the type of material which is used, we must also consider how and where they are sourced from. Using reclaimed and recycled materials, rather than new materials, are also a great way of preserving natural resources. Waste not, want not! In this same token, creating less waste and generally using fewer materials by designing minimum weight structures and matching demand to supply are also fundamental to sustainability.

Sustainable architecture in Portland Oregon by Black Sheep Design Team

How does sustainable architecture affect the environment?

We can reduce the negative impact on the environment by using construction materials which help with long term building costs. This includes using materials which are efficient insulators, reducing energy costs and the use of fossil fuels after construction. It also means using materials which are fit for purpose and require minimal upkeep from the elements and minimal need to be replaced.

It is also a good idea to design and construct buildings for ease of reuse and the potential to recycle at the end of the building’s life; many buildings are so specific fit for purpose that they must be knocked down, rather than having any ability to convert into offices, apartments and so on. We must also consider using locally sourced construction materials with the view to reduce the environmental cost of transportation; consider the use of fuel, emissions and road congestion in importing materials from afar. Finally, use only what is necessary and minimize unnecessary waste going to landfill, especially for materials which cannot be recycled or reclaimed.

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