Sustainable building materials to watch

Sustainable building materials to watch

Discover what’s trending in this steadily growing product category.

Sustainability is a hot topic across most sectors, and those working in trades and construction are having to look beyond traditional materials in order to meet changing consumer demands. Here, we look at the state of sustainable products and why they are the smarter option for eco-friendliness and energy efficiency.


Despite the economic impact of the COVID-19, consumers and businesses still spent nearly $80 billion on green construction last year. So it’s no wonder architects and construction firms are keeping a close eye on sustainable products for the future.

One fast mover is a recycled timber-chip product affectionately referred to as smartwood, which aims to replicate the properties of natural hardwood without the excess waste. The brainchild of Australian firm 3RT and Flinders University, the team have so far developed ‘recipes’ for more than 100 different types of wood including 30 international species.

Their latest partnership with Bosch means we can expect to see the material adopted right around the world within the next five to 10 years.

Faux concrete

Everything old is new again, and there’s been a resurgence in projects that hero the humble concrete. Despite their ability to withstand the elements and retain their integrity over decades, their creation is responsible for high levels of greenhouse gases.

An alternative – faux concrete – seeks to address those environmental concerns while offering the same qualities: long-term durability, resistance to water and repeated impact, and structural stability. Products like ExoTec Vero are already being used in residential developments across Sydney.

Smart glass

For years, we’ve deliberately used windows for natural light and warmth to reduce heating bills, but smart glass is taking things one step further.

This innovative material can be controlled automatically or manually, and is able to change its heating properties based on the environment around it – such as whether the air conditioning is turned on. During summer, for example, the glass can become translucent and block heat wavelengths that would otherwise cause your air conditioner to work harder. In winter, the glass becomes transparent to strengthen the natural heat from sunlight.

Green steel

Australia is already investing heavily into renewable hydrogen, which is opening up new avenues for materials like green steel. Made using hydrogen rather than metallurgical coal, it’s an efficient way to cut greenhouse gases and reduce iron ore usage.

Excitingly, a report from the Grattan Institute found that creating an industry out of renewably powered hydrogen steelmaking could net the country $65 billion in revenue and create 25,000 new jobs. Green steel is already taking off overseas thanks to HYBRIT, so watch this space.

Buildings from bacteria: The future is not so far away

While we’re still some years away from the Living Materials Laboratory’s long-term vision, it’s worth looking ahead to see just how incredible our buildings of the future may be. This dedicated team at the University of Colorado Boulder is focused on using “synthetic biology toolkits to engineer bacteria to create useful minerals and polymers and form them into living building blocks that could, one day, bring buildings to life,” according to The Conversation.

You probably won’t be able to pick up building bacteria any time soon, but it’s an intriguing vision of the future – one that literally integrates our natural environment into our building blocks.


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