Construction materials to consider for a more sustainable build

Building Better

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Sophie Sisko

Edward Birch, Peter Clarke, Jack Lovel, Diana Snape, Emma Cross, Kai Wasikowski

Most of us are aware of the environmental implications our building industry is having on the planet. Though it is unrealistic to expect this to slow the progress of development, there are alternative building methods and materials we can consider that are kinder to our environment and look fantastic.

Great Wall of WA by Luigi Rosselli Architects is the longest rammed earth wall in Australia. Photographed by Edward Birch.

Rammed Earth is a construction technique that dates back to the Neolithic era and has remained prominent because of its highly competitive properties. Comprising of primarily pressed earth, often from the area of the site, rammed earth has a natural finish that replicates the colour of its surroundings and requires no further plastering or render. This structural material has a high thermal mass and low embodied energy as well as impressive noise and temperature insulation capabilities.

Interior shot of The Great Wall of WA. Interior design by Sarah Foletta. Photographed by Edward Birch.

Charcoal rammed earth wall built by Olnee Construction and designed by Branch Studio Architects. Photographed by Peter Clarke.

Rammed earth interior built by Olnee Construction and designed by David Hicks. Photographed by Jack Lovel.

Home built using Hempcrete. Image courtesy of The Australian Hemp Masonry Company.

Hempcrete is another composite stone product that consists of hemp and lime. It shares similar insulative and moisture resistant qualities as rammed earth, however does not have the same structural abilities and does require framing. As a plant-based product, Hemprete absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, retaining the CO and releasing the oxygen.

Docklands Library by Clare Design was the first commercial building in Australia to be built with CLT. Photographed by Diana Snape.

Cross laminated timber (CLT) is breaking into the Australian market after being used as a structural building material in Europe for many years. Similar to rammed earth, CLT does not require an additional finish which allows it to boast its raw and tactile natural timber texture.

Docklands Library. Photographed by Diana Snape.

Docklands Library. Photographed by Diana Snape.

Docklands Library. Photographed by Diana Snape.

CLT can be pre-cut to size offsite, making it a very time efficient material choice. In fact, the Library at the Dock went up in 60 days with a team of six builders. Photographed by Emma Cross.

An age-old resource, that has been used for centuries in south-east Asia, is bamboo. Known for its strength and highly renewable nature, bamboo has the capacity to be utilized as a structural material. However, as it does not have a structural rating in Australia (yet) it is being used in a variety of other architectural applications such as flooring, fencing and cladding.

Cave Urban is an architectural firm that has worked to research and develop bamboo as a building material in Australia. They have created several art installations such as the above image called Woven Sky designed by Wang Wen Chih for the Woodford Folk Festival. Photographed by Kai Wasikowski.

So, whether it’s new technologies or ancient building methods from around the world, there are a broad number of options available when it comes to choosing a material that’s right for you and the environment.

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