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Five essential building materials for green schools

Suhayl Laher, from Tiles Direct, runs an expert eye over options that are as practical as they are eco-friendly

Posted by Julian Owen | October 02, 2017 | Sustainability

There’s no escaping the environmental challenges we are facing, both now and in the future. From climate change and pollution to depleting natural resources and fossil fuels, it’s time to acknowledge the environmental impact we’re having on our planet and look for greener and more sustainable ways of living. One aspect of this focus surrounds eco-construction - using green materials and energy saving processes to help make a positive impact on our environment.  
And within the educational sector, there are a number of schools who are also embracing eco-friendly practices for building design, showing future generations the importance of reducing our environmental impacts as much as possible. From natural materials like cork and bamboo to recycled glass, there are a number of essential building materials that are environmentally-friendly and widely available. 

1. Recycled metals 

In modern school design, it’s likely there will be a need to use materials that provide additional strength and structural support, and with traditional building methods, these are typically metal and wood. The former is undeniably a better long-term choice for durability and strength, yet wood is often more affordable - although not in terms of the cost of forest degradation. A great alternative is to use recycled metal instead that not only reduces the energy consumption and air pollution involved in the metal production process, but also  decreases over harvesting of trees, landfill waste and natural ore mining.  
2. Recycled glass 
There are various ways recycled glass can be used as a building material. For example, as a construction aggregate to strengthen the composite of other building materials like glass building blocks, window panes or even as a decorative feature, creating glass tiles or splashbacks. As a durable and wipe-clean material that can be recycled many times without affecting its quality, it makes an ideal building material for areas where cleanliness and hygiene are crucial.  
3. Bamboo 

With some conventional building materials full of harmful chemicals and pollutants, sourcing natural construction materials like bamboo will give you peace of mind, as this is a non-toxic and eco-friendly material. As a fast-growing plant that can be grown almost anywhere, bamboo is highly sustainable and minimises the environmental impacts of transportation. Furthermore, as a building material, it’s incredibly versatile and strong, making it suitable for use in various guises, from structural elements to aesthetic features.  
4. Cork 
Another popular natural construction material is cork, which offers numerous benefits for schools looking to become more eco-friendly. Harvested from the bark of living cork oak trees that can live over 250 years, it’s a brilliant material to work with and highly sustainable, as one tree can be harvested multiple times. With excellent thermal insulation, non-slip resistance, and impermeability, it’s hard wearing and safe, making it the perfect choice for flooring and insulation and increasing a building’s energy efficiency in the process.  
5. Recycled or reclaimed bricks  
If you prefer to use traditional building materials, then it’s still possible to do so in an eco-friendly way with reclaimed or recycled bricks. Salvaged from building de-construction or recycled from other buildings, bricks comprise of four common natural components that are readily available - oxygen, silica, iron and alumina. Sustainable, natural, reusable and renewable, as well as very durable, they are still a ‘go-to’ building material for all kinds of construction.  
With so many different environmentally-friendly building materials now available and new ones appearing all the time, achieving a greener, eco-friendly school design is much more achievable, with even the smallest changes having the potential to make a big difference.  

Suhayl Laher is the owner of Tiles Direct.

Picture credits: Pixabay and Pexel

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