Green building trends are growing in popularity. According to a recent analysis by Future Market Insights (FMI), the green building materials market is expected to flourish at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8 percent, reaching $823 billion by 2032. Builders, contractors and architects are discovering the benefits of integrating biodegradable, recycled and reclaimed materials into residential and commercial construction and design. Swapping out conventional building materials for greener options can help conserve energy, improve health, lower operating costs and reduce strain on resources. Below are some of the top green building trends to look out for in coming years.
Green Building Materials
Conventional building materials (CBMs) like vinyl flooring and composite wood products can be a major source of indoor pollutants, namely volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Breathing in VOCs can cause a wide range of adverse health effects, from eye irritation and headaches to more severe effects like damage to the liver or central nervous system. To reduce the risk of environmental hazards and health concerns, a growing number of builders are turning to green building materials that emit very low to zero VOCs. Some notable green alternatives include:
• Bamboo: Twice as strong as concrete and slightly stronger than steel, bamboo is gaining attention for its efficiency. It has a fast growth rate, with the first harvest occurring three to six years after planting compared to 25 years for timber forests. It is 100 percent biodegradable, and its lightweight construct makes for energy-efficient transportation.
• Cork: This material is much more than a bottle stopper. It is a versatile alternative to many building materials, including flooring, countertops, roof shingles, siding and so much more. Cork is harvested by extracting the outer bark of a cork tree by hand, without causing harm to the tree. The bark regenerates itself every eight to 12 years. Cork has extraordinary eco-friendly properties and its flexible texture makes it easy for builders and contractors to work with.
• Hempcrete: A mixture of hemp stalk and a lime-based binder, hempcrete, is used as a green alternative to insulation. It is known for its absorption of carbon and resistance to mold, fire and pests. Although the cultivation of hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, hempcrete has yet to be listed as a standard material for construction in U.S. building codes. To utilize hempcrete, builders must seek approval on a project-by-project basis – a process that can last up to six months or more. At the beginning of the year, the U.S. Hemp Building Association submitted hempcrete for certification with the International Code Council®. If approved, hempcrete would be readily accessible to builders, contractors, engineers and architects.
Numerous green building materials continue to emerge in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of building construction and operations. Many organizations throughout the U.S. continue to develop model codes or rating systems that communities can utilize to build greener communities.
Architects, developers and interior designers are finding new ways to incorporate biophilic design – a concept introduced in 1984 by biologist Edward O. Wilson that focuses on humans’ innate need to connect with nature. Biophilic design uses science and philosophy to incorporate natural elements into built environments. Studies conducted over the years reveal that bringing the outside world inside has tremendous health, environmental and economic benefits. For instance, a 2015 report led by psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper, titled “Human Spaces: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace,” found that employees who worked in environments with natural elements reported a 15 percent rise in productivity and well-being when compared to groups without natural environments.
Biophilic design is not just about throwing a potted plant on a desk or discarding window treatments. It consists of incorporating three main pillars:
• Nature in the space: This is all about the physical elements of nature: potted plants, courtyard gardens, living walls, roof terraces, water fountains and natural light.
• Natural analogues: This concept refers to man-made elements that mimic nature. Materials, colors, shapes and patterns found in nature are depicted in furniture, artwork, textiles and other décor.
• Nature of the space: Deliberate configurations of space – like those that allow for movement or incorporate natural light – are included to generate a physiological response.
Sustainable consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green published a white paper entitled “The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design – Improving Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment” that outlines categories within each pillar that enhance human health and well-being. Developed through extensive research and reviews of hundreds of publications, the firm’s white paper and case studies lay the groundwork for how to successfully execute the three biophilic pillars in a built environment.
Shipping containers, known primarily for transporting cargo, have also been repurposed to construct residential and commercial properties. This architecture, often referred to as cargotecture, was patented in 1987 by Phillip C. Clark. While the concept is nothing new, it has gained attention in recent years as people search for more affordable and sustainable housing options. Some of the top reasons people are exploring cargotecture include:
• Construction speed: A traditional housing structure can take months or years to build, while a shipping container is much faster. There is preparation work that needs to occur, such as setting the foundation, but after that, shipping container homes can be completed in four to 10 weeks.
• Affordability: Shipping containers are generally available in 10, 20 or 40 feet, which computes to between 80 and 320 square feet in living space. The costs of the containers can range from $1K to $6K or more. Multiple containers can be added together to increase the size and layout of the home. The average price to build a smaller and more basic home is between $10K and $35K. The price of the home will increase based on the size, quality and amenities included.
• Durability: Shipping containers are typically made out of corrugated steel, which makes them perfect for withstanding extreme weather conditions, including winds up to 100 mph.
• Eco-friendly: Thousands of shipping containers are discarded every year. Repurposing and recycling containers help reduce a major source of solid waste.
Although this non-traditional housing style is growing in popularity, it has not been around long. While some states, such as California, Texas and Florida, have zoning laws and building codes that are less restrictive and make it easier to implement shipping container housing, it may take a great deal of research to determine how it works in your local area. It can also be difficult to obtain a mortgage loan on shipping container homes and conduct appraisals due to the lack of comparables.
With increasing concern over the health of our environment, it’s no surprise that green building products, technologies and practices continue to grow in popularity. Green buildings can create healthier spaces and use less energy and resources compared to traditional housing. Who knows? In the coming years, non-traditional homes like shipping containers may even help increase housing supply and provide more affordable homes. Whatever the future brings, Old Republic Title will be there to support your title and closing needs.