Sustainable Building Ideas to Use in 2021

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Sustainable building and using eco-friendly materials are growing in popularity as more homeowners want to make the switch to eco-friendly homes. Sustainable building goes beyond just the construction process of the home; it’s as big as how much transportation is used and as small as what flooring you put in. 

Along with sustainable homes, there is a huge push for non-toxic materials. However, the two don’t always overlap. It is a great idea to avoid materials that emit harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as vapors and gas, and products that are made with formaldehyde glues or hormone-disrupting vinyl.

The best options for non-toxic materials are real hardwood, polished concrete, and tile. However, all of those options often come with a huge cost to the environment. So what is put into a sustainable home? We have a few ideas below. 

Sustainable and Nontoxic Building Materials

Not all sustainable materials will be naturally occurring. Take linoleum for instance. Did you know that linoleum is both biodegradable and nontoxic? It’s much better for the environment than vinyl, which is often its alternative choice. It also lasts up to 40 years with proper maintenance and re-sealing. 

Tesla Solar Tiles

If you like the idea of solar panels but aren’t happy with how they look, then you may want to keep your eye on Tesla Solar Tiles. They’re solar panels that are designed to look like natural roof tiles. 

Their custom solar roof shingles are small and designed to blend in almost seamlessly with traditional roof tiles. The only difference will be in the color and sheen — it will look more like a metal roof than clay, terracotta, or something more traditional. 

Additionally, solar shingles are actually easier to install than traditional solar panels. The shingles are installed over new or existing roof sheathing, and an electrician or roofer wires the units together and into the home’s electrical system. 

Not only do solar shingles provide a source of renewable energy, but they also have the potential to cut energy bill costs. They also provide the same protection for your roof as more traditional shingles! 

The major drawback is the upfront cost. However, Arizona does have tax incentives for installing them on your home to help with the bill. Solar panels are also designed to cut back on your energy bills every year, so they can pay for themselves in the long run. What’s more is that if your solar system generates more power than is needed for the home, you can sell the unused power back to the power supply for credit.  

Bamboo Instead of Wood

Bamboo has a strikingly similar appearance to traditional wood, and it’s very sustainable and organic. The normal growth cycle for bamboo is 3 years. Compared to a tree’s 25 years, and it’s a no-brainer. Choosing bamboo helps combat deforestation, and gives your home the same sophisticated and natural look, just without the harsh negative cost to the environment. 

Natural bamboo is also very durable; it ranks harder than oak and ash on the Janka Hardness Scale. If you’re looking for something stronger, Guadau bamboo exceeds mild steel in strength! 

Bamboo is a sustainable building material that has so many different uses, such as tiles, trims, flooring, lumber, countertops, decking, and furniture. It comes in so many different styles and colors too. 

Living Roofs And Fences

If you really want to dive into sustainable building, look into living roofs, also known as green roofs. As defined by the General Services Administration (GSA), living roofs are vegetated roofs consisting of “a waterproofing membrane, growing medium (soil) and vegetation (plants) overlying a traditional roof.” 

Basically, it’s a garden for your roof. While we don’t recommend having this over your whole home, they make a wonderful addition to your outdoor living space. Imagine sitting under a garden of potted ivy and hardy plants at night, with the stars shining through the green. Because we live in Arizona, we suggest hardy plants that can survive both the heat and winter. Grass looks amazing, but it’s not always the best choice for the Phoenix Valley, and flowers may have trouble coming back after the Flagstaff winter. So choose your plants wisely! 

For fences, Instead of using wood, metal, concrete, and bamboo, you can choose hedges, vines, or a wall of potted (or unpotted) flowers. These fences provide privacy, comfort, noise dampening, and fresh air. Plus, they’re beautiful. 

Smart Glass

In the winter months, bright sunlight streaming through the windows can be the best thing in the world. But in the summer, that same sunlight streaming in can be invasive, harsh, and uncomfortable — not to mention the increase in electricity bills from a heavy dependence on air conditioning.

Smart Glass windows offer a solution to this problem, without hiking your electric bill. This sustainable building idea is a lot like light-responsive glasses. The glass automatically darkens and lightens depending on how bright the sun is. 

This translates to yearly cost savings in terms of both heating and cooling, as well as avoiding the cost and hassle of installing light screens or blinds. Smart glass can even reduce fabric fading, as it can block up to 99% of harmful UV light.

If you want to design a custom and sustainable home in Arizona, contact us at Urban Design Associates! Our vast experience and LEED certification gives us intimate knowledge of the many design review boards, building techniques, and community requirements, helping streamline design, approvals, and building. Reach out today!