Sustainable Materials in Construction

The building and construction industry contributes 37% of global emissions. A significant proportion of these emissions come from the production of materials such as cement, aluminum and steel. To reduce or combat these high emission levels, we need to replace these materials with sustainable construction materials. 

What Are Sustainable Building Materials?

Sustainability in the context of building products means the product benefits the environment, society and the economy while not jeopardizing the well-being of future generations. Sustainable building materials consist of products that are created and implemented efficiently to minimize environmental impact. The goal is to reduce the construction industry's environmental impact by using sustainable development practices, taking advantage of green technology and employing energy efficiency. 

Sustainable construction focuses on seven principles:

  • Sustainable design: This principle, also known as “green design,” refers to the practice of designing to minimize or circumvent adverse environmental consequences. Economic, environmental and social impacts are considered in this principle, with the overall goal of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the earth or planet for future generations. 
  • Durability: This principle focuses on using building materials and construction techniques that can last for long. Durability in construction also means fewer replacements and less maintenance. 
  • Energy efficiency: This principle refers to design strategies and techniques used to curb energy consumption during the planning, building and maintenance of a building or any construction project. 
  • Waste reduction: This principle refers to the processes and strategies applied to curb waste during a project's full construction. It also promotes the use of recycled materials.  
  • Indoor air quality: Sustainable building processes are also used to improve indoor air quality to promote healthy and comfortable indoor environments. 
  • Water conservation: The construction industry consumes large amounts of water, and sustainability requires processes that minimize this consumption. 
  • Sustainable materials for construction: This principle refers to the use of materials that reduce environmental impact. 

These principles offer a framework for the built environment and give the construction industry sustainability insights into minimizing the sector's overall carbon imprint. Harvesting rainwater, installing low-flow fixtures, using efficient irrigation and maintaining regular water are useful ways to minimize water use. 

Environmental Impact  

The construction industry accounts for nearly 40% of the total raw material consumption. Building materials like iron have several environmental impacts, such as the high demand for water during iron mining. Cement production disturbs vegetation and soil and increases the risk of erosion during extraction. 

High fuel consumption during construction ultimately leads to high fossil consumption. Large amounts of waste is also generated. Additional negative impacts include noise pollution, damage from outdated techniques, construction of wasteful buildings and contaminated discharge. 

Examples of Sustainable Construction Materials 

Practicing sustainable construction requires the use of sustainable materials. These materials have the advantage of reducing the carbon footprint of the buildings that use the materials. These green building materials promote a cleaner planet and a future of sustainability.


Bamboo is one of the most sustainable construction materials because it's versatile and renewable. Although bamboo is grass, it has similar strength to wood while still being flexible. Bamboo can be used in the construction process to support concrete, roofing, scaffolding, and other structures. Bamboo is easy to find and produces very little waste. Additional benefits of bamboo include:

  • 100% biodegradable
  • Antibacterial
  • Absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees
  • Fast-growing


Stone occurs naturally and can be used for foundations, building structures and accents like countertops and tiles. Its benefits include being low-maintenance, durable and producing little to no waste.

Stones also have the added advantage of being shaped into decorative designs. Good examples are reinforced stones. Stones can be used to make tree grates, trench grates, street benches and interior floor drains. These reinforced decorative grates are sustainable, durable, slip-resistant, strong and customizable.


Recycled Plastics

The global population created 139 million tons of single-use plastic in 2021, much of which polluted waterways or ended up in landfills. Plastic items take up to 500 years to break down, but they never fully decompose.

Recycled plastic materials are robust, durable and great at retaining sound. New technological advancements now make it possible to recycle plastic to create building materials such as bricks, lumber and plastic sheets. Innovations in 3D building construction are also utilizing recycled materials to reduce the amount of plastics in landfills.


This building material is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees. Cork is one of the only trees where bark harvesting does not cause any harm.  It is fire-resistant, hypoallergenic, lightweight, waterproof and a strong insulator. As a recyclable and renewable resource, cork is a sustainable replacement for traditional insulation that requires manufacturing. 

Laminated Timber

Laminated timber is stronger and more water-resistant than traditional timber. These unique qualities make laminated timber a good replacement for concrete and steel, which produce a much higher carbon footprint during their production processes than mass timber. Laminated timber can support structures like columns and beams. 

Precast Concrete

Concrete made at the construction site is poured, molded and cured at the construction location. Precast concrete is made offsite and then transported to the construction site. The precast concrete slabs are eco-friendly building materials because they take less materials and energy to produce. 

Sheep's Wool

Sheep wool is a natural and renewable resource that can be harvested without harming the sheep. It is used to insulate buildings. Unlike man-made insulating materials, sheep wool is natural, mold-resistant, lasts longer and is non-toxic. 

More sustainable materials that can be used in construction include hemcrete, reclaimed wood, recycled steel, rammed earth, cob, adobe brick, mycelium, cordwood, recycled tires, recycled glass, aerated concrete and earth blocks.

Comparison Between Sustainable and Traditional Building Materials 

Environmental considerations are the main focus when using sustainable materials for construction. In addition, sustainable construction is guided by the seven principles of sustainable building. Materials used in green buildings exhibit lower environmental impact over their life cycle.

Sustainable building materials conserve the environment and save you money on energy bills. You also have innovative design options when using sustainable materials compared to traditional building materials. 

Use Jonite Reinforced Granites

Sustainable construction materials have immense benefits for the environment. They are also durable, require less water and energy to produce and are more cost-effective in the long term because they require fewer replacements and maintenance. 

You can find sustainable solutions at Jonite, where we design intricate, reinforced stone decorative grates. We use sustainable processes and materials to produce our products, which include tree grates, interior floor drains, trench grates and street benches. Feel free to contact us for more information or to explore our custom design solutions. 03-Use-Jonite-Reinforced-Granites