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  • Writer's pictureZoe Jenkin

Low Carbon Materials

Low carbon materials are materials that either sequester carbon in their assembly and/or do not use a ton of carbon to produce. Materials use energy in their assembly, transportation, maintenance and at the end of their life. Consider cellulose insulation made from recycled or waste products over foam insulation. From the first day the cellulose is holding carbon from release into the atmosphere where as the foam takes so much carbon to prodcue it, that it can be decades before it reduces enough energy use to break even.

Combining lower processed, more natural materials with longevity has many benefits. These materials reduce the release of carbon into our atmosphere by storing it for long periods of time in our construction and by reducing the amount of energy we need to heat and cool our buildings. More natural materials reduce toxic chemicals in our air and some, like clay, can reduce pollutants and humidity levels in our interiors. The left over waste from any construction is huge. By using lower processed and more natural materials, the waste does not necessarily have to go to landfill. The leftover straw from straw bale construction becomes garden mulch. In prefab wood construction the wastes can be even further recycled into other projects. Off cuts from wood along the assembly line are blocking for the next stage. If you are building a new home or an addition onto your home, low carbon materials are a great option to take into consideration. Here are some of them that are available for implementing right now:

  1. Cellulose insulation is one of the easiest ways to store carbon in buildings. Made from waste materials and installed with proper attention to building science principals, this material could insulate our homes and save the planet.

  2. Rammed earth. It's amazing how ancient technology can be so beneficial from almost all modern perspectives during our "nano-advanced" age (except pricing of course😅) . We have discussed rammed earth's longevity and durability in our previous blogs. Rammed earth has less than half the cement (very high CO2) that concrete has and is way more beautiful.

  3. Softwood timber, made of sustainably forested pine, spruce and cedar is a low carbon material, especially those that have the least processing and do not include toxic chemicals.

  4. CLT or cross laminated timber. This does not have the lowest CO2 number, but worth mentioning because it's still way better than concrete and can replace tons of it in mid-rise construction.

  5. Alternative materials:

Watershed materials. Blocks and units produced from geopolymer( natural clay, basalt) using 100% solar power

Lamboo. Well known in Asia, bamboo is an excellent building material in many cases due to it's fast growing and relatively decent structural qualities for grass (yeah, officially it's considered as grass). Lamboo's posts, trusses, engineered bamboo beams have impressive 30%-50% better tensile strength then regular tree materials.

Gutex. Thermal insulation materials based on wood fiber, has good insulation and eco performance, water and wind resistance.

Ecosmart wallboards panel. Great drywall alternative that uses less energy and resources for manufacturing. Final product is lighter then regular drywall, so it's one more energy cut for transportation. Also contains less toxic ingredients.

Fortunately nowadays more and more companies are attempting to produce more eco-friendly products to reduce greenhouse effect and create a healthier environment. As consumers we have the duty to ask for them.

We here at Stone's Throw Design Inc. are always looking at opportunities to reduce our footprint. We start with reducing the size of our projects. What you do not build is the most environmental. Then we look at the existing resources on site and maximize their incorporation into our projects. After all that we choose low carbon materials to give your homes super powers to reduce your carbon footprint and give back to this big blue marble we call home.


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