THE Fast Fitouts Guide To Sustainable And Eco-Friendly Building Materials

The last few years have witnessed a huge increase in the popularity of sustainable building materials, and to tell you the truth we couldn’t be happier. Using sustainable building materials in your office renovation, commercial makeover or restaurant fit out is a great way to reduce your carbon foot-print and, in some cases, it can even save you a bit of money. See below for a list Fast Fitouts’ favourite sustainable building products of 2019.

Bamboo Flooring

Price: ~ $90 to $135 per square metre

Over the last few years, we have seen a huge increase in the popularity of bamboo products, particularly bamboo flooring. It’s no wonder, really; the stuff looks and feels amazing.

You might be surprised to learn that bamboo isn’t technically a wood; it’s a grass. However, according to the Janka test – a test that measures the resistance of wood to indentation – bamboo is as hard and resilient as ironbark, which is one of the hardest timber species in the world. Super grass.

In terms of sustainability, bamboo is quick and easy to grow, practically self-mulching and actually puts nutrients back into the soil via fallen leaves. Compared to European oak, which can take over 200 years to grow, bamboo can be harvested every four to six years. Rather than being clear-felled, bamboo plantations are continuously pruned and compared to pine plantations, they produce seven times the biomass.

Once considered an exotic and expensive building material, bamboo has dropped significantly in price and now rivals that of conventional timbers.

Straw bale Insulation

Price: ~ $8.50 per bale at 350mm x 450mm x 800-850mm

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about straw houses. Easy to grow, eco-friendly and sustainable, straw bales have been used as a construction material for thousands of years, but have recently gained popularity as a natural and carbon-conscious alternative to fibreglass insulation.

Being composed mostly of air, straw bales have incredibly low thermal mass. They have excellent insulation properties, and are among the most cost-effective insulation products available.

Centimetre for centimetre, straw has similar insulation value to fibreglass batts which are damaging to the environment and people's health.

A typical straw bale wall has an R-value greater than 10 (how well it resists the conductive flow of heat).

The insulation value of a straw bale wall exceeds conventional construction.

In terms of sustainability, straw is one of the greenest insulation options available. Made from agricultural by-product, straw bales take little energy to manufacture, with the bailing process and transportation being the only additional energy required. They are also 100% biodegradable and can easily be returned to the earth when they’re no longer needed.

Rammed Earth Walls

Price: ~ $250 to $300 per vertical square metre

In our opinion, rammed earth has to be one of the most striking and texturally beautiful building materials out there. So warm, textural and full of geological nuances, it’s almost impossible not to touch.

This incredible material has been in use for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, some of the most impressive structures on earth are constructed from this incredible material, notably the Great Wall of China and the sprawling Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Traditionally, rammed earth walls are made on site with a composite mixture of local dirt, gravel, sand, silt and clay. Over the last few decades, however, a modernized version of rammed earth known as CSRE (cement-stabilised rammed earth), has gained popularity, especially in Australia, Canada and California.. Like traditional rammed earth, this mixture is compacted inside formwork guides and left to dry and is made from a mix of clay, earth and water but has an added element of cement.

Both traditional rammed earth and CSRE have several characteristics that make them a wonderful sustainable building material. Hey, the main ingredient is soil, which is pretty darn cheap (if not free). In remote areas, building with local soil means reducing the costs of transporting to the site, so it can be financially friendly, too.

Hempcrete Walls

Price: ~ $135 per vertical square metre

Hempcrete has to be one of the most exciting innovations in the building industry we’ve seen in a long time. Invented in France in the 1990’s, this interesting material is made from a mixture of lime, water, and the woody core of hemp plants.

Hemp core or “shiv” has an impressively high silica content which allows it to bind well with lime, a property unique to the hemp plant among all natural fibres. One mixed, the resulting product is a lightweight, cement-like material weighing around 8x less than concrete.

Currently, hempcrete is not used as a structural element in construction, but as insulation and infill between the structural framing. However, hempcrete differs from typical insulation materials as it forms the walls and insulation in one whole piece. Internal walls are then plastered with clay or lime and external walls with lime.

Hempcrete is completely natural product, free from synthetic materials. The cool thing is that because it's naturally pest-resistant and fire-retardant, you don’t need to treat with the nasty chemicals that are typically added to bolster other insulation materials.. This makes hempcrete a wonderful alternative that will create a healthy and hypo-allergenic environment in your home.

The hemp plant is an extremely tenacious plant that has adapted to grow on every continent except Antarctica. From seed to harvest (10-15ft tall), hemp plants take just 3-4 months to grow. Commonly referred to as “weed” for a reason, the hemp plant grows incredibly fast and require fewer pesticides, fertilisers and water than wood.

Because hemp is grown so easily and fast (especially compared to wood that takes many years to grow), it makes for an excellent sustainable building material.

Cork Flooring

Price: ~ $60 to $120 per square metre

One of the first sustainable flooring materials available to the Australian public, cork flooring remains a popular choice for homeowners wanting eco-friendly alternatives to traditional building materials. Oh, and it feels amazing underfoot.

Cork is a natural insulator. Floors made of this remarkable material will help to regulate the ambient temperature in your home during both the summer and winter, reducing energy bills and increasing family comfort. Cork is also fantastic when it comes to sound insulation.

Homeowners enjoy cork’s longevity and aesthetic integrity; the material is able to be sanded and polished multiple times to treat scratches and wearing that occurs due to normal wear and tear. The material is stripped from the outer bark of the tree leaving the tree intact.

Cork comes in two types of tiles: traditional raw tiles and pre-finished floating tiles. Most Traditional tiles are sized at approximately 305x305x6mm, but pre-finished floating tiles are significantly larger, coming it at 900x298x11mm.The benefit of cork flooring is that it can be installed directly over most existing flooring types, including hardwood flooring, particle board, plywood, and more.

Is is the case with bamboo, Cork plantations are repetitively harvest, rather than clear-felled. Once they reach maturity, the trees are stripped of their bark every nine years. This process doesn’t hurt the tree, and the cork bark grows right back again.

Recycled Everything

Price: ~ variable

What could be more sustainable than repurposing second-hand materials and giving a second life to products that would otherwise occupy landfills? We all know that raw natural-resources are precious and that the earth's stores are becoming increasingly finite. By repurposing existing building materials, you can alleviate some of the pressure that the industry places on the natural world. Here at fast Fitouts , we pride ourselves on our ability to refashion second-hand materials into beautiful and functional components of our projects – check out this amazing repurposed marble bench we made for Mrs Brown’s. Working closely with our clients, we strive to recycle building materials wherever we can, reducing our carbon footprint and saving our clients money.

If you’d like to create a sustainable workspace on a feasible budget, why not reach out to Adam and the team at Fast Fitouts. Fill the contact form below or call 1300 303 831 for a free quote.

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