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Designing with Sustainable Materials

Posted on: September 10 2017

When you are building a new home, it’s also the best time to consider what materials you are using, as many things are unable to be retro-fitted, replaced easily, or will cost a lot to do so. Flooring is a great example of this. Selecting sustainable items for your home can also mean saving money, and saving the planet at the same time.

So what sustainable materials can you consider?

Reclaimed, recycled and renewable timbers are a great place to start. They can be used for  cabinetry, flooring, furniture, and even benchtops. There are cabinetry products that are now being produced from 100% post-consumer waste, so completely recycled.

The use of recycled or natural and organic products for soft furnishings such as curtains, carpets and fabrics for furniture. Think cottons, linens and cotton velvets as an alternative to synthetic fibres. Some carpet manufacturers are now starting to produce carpet from bamboo fibres, with another made from recycled fishing nets!

Think about the use of non-toxic and non-polluting products in your home. The use of water based sealants instead of polyurethane, and paints with low or no VOC (which means solvents are not released into the air as the paint dries).

Another thing to consider, that is frequently overlooked, is how the products you select work with sustainable design features for the home. An example of this is when passive solar design and thermal mass have been designed to work together, yet materials chosen are not allowing these features to work optimally. For example, the use of timber floors when the concrete slab is to be used for thermal mass is not ideal, as timber acts as an insulator instead of allowing the thermal mass to release heat back into the building slowly.

Look for products that have the Green Tag logo. This is an international accreditation and is recognised by The Green Building Council of Australia. It tracks the complete manufacturing process including transport, waste management, components for production and provides a star rating with Gold being the highest accredited.

Up-cycling is another way to be sustainable, by using pre-loved items that can be re-purposed and re-modelled to suit the styles of today.

Finally, sustainability is not always about choosing recycled or reclaimed products. It’s also about choosing products that are built to last so they don’t end up in landfill. Buying quality, well designed products, that will stand the test of time are all part of the sustainable story. Products that are cheap to produce end up holding minimal value, and are therefore thrown out, which doesn’t make for a great sustainable story.