Popular Sustainable Building Materials in Use Today


The sustainable building market is one of the fastest growing markets across the globe, with 64 percent of U.S. customers wanting green homes to lower their energy consumption and 71 percent of remodelers wanting to curb energy use through green renovations. High demand means that today's remodelers will find many great materials to choose from. Here are top sustainable building materials to consider. 

Straw Bales

While straw bales aren't exactly an innovative material, they are sustainable and they deliver strong insulation for a low price point. Straw bales are used inside the house framing to create walls. When they are properly sealed, they keep the home comfortable year round. 


HempCrete uses the inner fibers of the hemp plant, which have a woody structure, to create a material that functions like concrete. HempCrete is lightweight yet strong; hemp itself is a fast-growing, renewable plant. It takes less energy to transport a load of HempCrete than concrete, due to the lower weight -- which is roughly one-eighth what concrete weighs. 

Natural Linoleum

Linoleum is easy to clean, sustainable, and can last as long as 40 years when properly installed. Natural linoleum is made of natural and renewable products including pine resin, limestone, ground cork, wood flour, and linseed oil (from flax). Linoleum that is dyed with natural pigments and installed using a low-VOC adhesive is earth friendly as well as sustainable. 


This concrete alternative uses 97 percent recycled material. It's predominantly made from fly ash, which is a naturally occurring byproduct of burning coal. Since AshCrete can prevent cracking, permeability, and shrinking, it eliminates many of the common complaints about concrete. If coal is going to be burned anyway, it makes sense to repurpose waste material in a green manner. 

Wool Insulation

Created from the fur of shorn sheep, wool insulation offers many advantages. Not only is the wool itself highly renewable (sheep need to be sheared regularly), but wool is natural, breathable, elastic and non-combustible. The insulation won't settle over time, unlike other types of loose insulation. Since wool will not catch fire, this can increase home safety. Wool continues to insulate even when wet (one reason it's popular with hikers).


Bamboo has become a favorite replacement for old growth hardwoods, which are not sustainable. Bamboo grows quickly and displays incredible tensile strength. Bamboo can replace rebar in framing or provide a luxe alternative to hardwood floors. Using locally-grown bamboo can keep costs down in remote areas, making this an affordable pick for many families. 

Recycled Denim Insulation

Created from recycled jeans and scrap denim, recycled denim insulation -- also called natural cotton fiber insulation -- is highly sustainable. By using this over fiberglass batts, homeowners can improve home comfort, improve indoor air quality, and improve acoustics. Approximately 200 tons of denim waste are diverted from landfills to create this insulation. It takes less energy to create denim insulation over fiberglass, another plus. Recyclable denim insulation typically contains 85 percent recycled material; at the end of its lifetime, the denim is 100 percent recyclable. 

Repurposed and recycled materials

Any time homeowners can repurpose or recycle something, they're keeping material out of the landfill. When renovating a home, don't forget about repurposed and recycled materials. Homeowners may purchase everything from appliances or kitchen cabinets to natural stone for patios within their community or through online brokers. Buildings materials exchanges or ReStores, which are run by Habitat for Humanity, offer donated goods and materials that can add unique charm, keep the project within budget, and make creative use of pre-existing materials, all part of a sustainable remodel. 

These materials span the price spectrum, so homeowners across all budgets can look for sustainable building materials to suit their needs. 

Author: Gary Ashton