Sustainable Building Materials in NZ

When building a new home, you can protect the environment by using sustainable building materials that are readily available in New Zealand. When you choose to use sustainable building materials, you also help the local community and decrease the amount of health hazards to you and your family.

Purchasing Sustainable Building Materials

When you decide to build a sustainable home, the design plays an important role in your raw material selection. You should consider using paint that has low volatile organic compounds to improve the air quality of your home. You should ensure that the natural airflow is optimized to stop mould growth so that you do not have to use much mechanical ventilation. You should consider appliances and furnishings that are sustainably designed to conserve resources.

Green materials fall into five main categories. You need to ensure that they are designed for water conservation, energy efficiency, affordability, resource efficiency, and for improving air quality in the house.

It is important to know that many traditional building supplies contain chemicals that are toxic to humans, animals, and the environment. It is also important to know that there are many non-toxic, harmless, sustainable building materials that have become widely available.

You should look for wallboards, glues, solvents, paints, and carpeting that is 100% free of formaldehyde. When you are choosing your paints, stains, and glues, be sure to choose solvent free, water based products. When you purchase any spouting, piping, electrical cables, and other traditionally plastic materials, be sure to look for the items that are PVC-free.

Wood & Wood Products

When you look for local resources, ensure that they are natural and sustainable and that they require as little processing as possible during manufacturing. Some of the best resources that fit this description in New Zealand include plantation timber that meets the “Timber and Wood-Based Products for Use in Building (NZS 3602:2003).” These include Pine lumber, Eucalyptus, or Macrocarpa. They can be used for flooring, countertops, cabinets, window frames, walls, and anything you need to construct from wood in your home.

You should also consider a sustainable insulation such as those made from sheep’s wool, cotton, or recycled paper. They may be slightly more expensive, but unlike the traditional fibreglass insulation, these are free of any harmful chemicals like formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent).

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This is one of the most important mantras in the Green Movement. It is important to reduce the amount of building materials you need. For example, if you are building a deck and need 200 pieces of lumber that measure 10 metres each, try to buy exactly the amount and length of lumber that you need. If you decide to paint a room, try to buy the exact amount of paint you need because if have leftover paint, they can become hazardous waste and pose a risk to you and your family.

After you have reduced your usage, you need to reuse. If you happen to have leftover timber, try to use it for another building project, such as creating a flowerbed. Try to minimize the amount of leftover supplies that you have and repurpose them when possible. If you have some leftover paint, use it for the swing set or repaint the birdhouse out in the yard.

In order to recycle your natural building materials, you can use empty paint cans as planters or storage jars for nails and screws. If you have leftover wood, you can chip it and incorporate the chips into your walkways or garden. Try to recycle and repurpose as much as you can to minimize waste.

Ask us about building your new home from sustainable building materials!

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