MATERIALS FOR SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE
In recent years, the world of architecture has been placing a strong emphasis on sustainability and efficiency in buildings. 84 % of Spanish buildings are energy-efficient according to a study by EuroACE, the alliance of companies for energy efficiency in buildings.
Buildings have different energy efficiency ratings, just like the appliances in our homes: from G to A, A being the most energy efficient. Buildings rated as A consume 55 % less than the average and 90 % less than those rated as G. Therefore, the new goal of architecture is to create buildings that reduce energy consumption, which has resulted in the search for more efficient materials for sustainable architecture.
To start with, we have wooden buildings, which save between 50 and 60 % per year on heating and air conditioning. Houses made from wood usually take less time to build and are 30 % cheaper. This system is good for single-family homes, not for construction overall.
But not only is wood a growing trend when talking about energy efficiency, but we also have concrete. This material has many negative aspects attached to it that may not be as true as you think.
Firstly, once this material‘s lifespan is up, it is 100 % recyclable. In addition, concrete has thermal inertia –it saves energy– and allows for using renewable energy to heat the slabs –thermal activation of structures– that can increase energy efficiency by 60 %.
Continuing with the list of materials for sustainable architecture, we find baked clay. This material has to be heated at a temperature below 950 ºC. It must also undergo a series of natural treatments so it conserves its earth properties, such as hygroscopicity, insulation, low radioactivity and very good thermal inertia.
Lastly, we have insulation boards made from wood fibers on the list of materials. This product comes from waste generated by sawmills and other wood industries. It is made through a technique of applying glue and pressure. After this, the board is made with mechanical strength that is used for thermal and sound insulation. Through using different additives, different properties can be added to make it fire, insect or humidity-resistant. These panels are not suitable for the exterior, as they can absorb humidity and swell.
There are many more materials in the market that can make our buildings more sustainable for the environment. These are the most well-known and are the easiest to find to take the first steps towards sustainable architecture.