Tag Archives: building materials

What Is R-Value and What Does It Mean To You?

R-value of building insulation

What Is R-Value? Simply put, R-value is a measurement of how insulating a building material is, protecting one side from the heat or cold on the other side.  A higher R-value means that a material insulates better than one with a lower value. In order to get an idea of what these values are, here…

Green Materials Report: Linoleum Flooring

Samples of linoleum from Shutterstock

This post is the first in the Green Materials Report series.  GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green.  Each post focuses on one material.  We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it…

6 Building Materials of the Future

These futuristic building materials will change the way we construct buildings in the years to come. 1. Graphene Graphene is a one-atom thick layer of carbon.  It is thin, strong, flexible, conducts electricity, and is virtually transparent.  Researchers won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for developing graphene.  It’s potential uses include solar cells, touchscreens,…

10 Earth-Friendly Building Materials for Earth Day

Borrowing from Discovery.com’s 2012 top ten list of natural building materials, here are ten earth-friendly building materials, some old and some new. 1. Rock Locally sourced rock is the most earth-friendly, due to short transportation distances.  Extraction may be the most energy intense part of the life cycle of this material.  Rocks can be mortared together…

What is Life Cycle Assessment?

Life cycle assessment

Life cycle assessment (LCA) looks at the environmental impacts of a building material over the entire life of the material, from extraction to disposal.  LCA attempts to quantify these impacts for the purpose of comparing materials or buildings. What is measured? LCA is a scientific study of the environmental inputs and outputs to a building…

Green Building Elements: Decking

It's full-blown summer now, and people are spending more time outdoors on their patios and decks. So let me offer a summertime question for discussion. Which is better to use for an outdoor deck: wood, or a manufactured product (like Trex, Timber Tech, etc.)?

This is no more a black and white issue than most other green building questions. This can depend on the particular situation and the specific needs of a particular project. I'm not going to give you a definitive answer, because I don't think that there is one, any more than I do for most green building topics (other than greener is better).

First, there is the issue of material content. On the one hand, the manufactured products often use some combination of wood fiber (which is often sawdust and other scrap that would otherwise go to waste) and plastic (sometimes incorporating post consumer recycled material). On the other hand, wood is a natural material. It is sustainable, in that wood can be grown and harvested. There are some deck materials that have natural rot-resistant properties, but these tend to be more expensive. There is also the question of whether or not they are sustainably harvested, as well as the issue of shipping these materials.