The dog Kaia finds a spot for a nap on the stranded bamboo floors in this remodeled green home. Bamboo is not a wood, it is a grass, and it is fast-growing, but at least as strong as some slow-growth woods. (Leonard Ortiz/Orange County Register/MCT) ( LEONARD ORTIZ )

Whether framing a new addition, building a deck or making a piece of furniture, wood is often the go-to material. Lumber, plywood and other products made with sustainably harvested wood are widely available and relatively inexpensive. However, there are environmental costs and structural drawbacks to many traditional wood products. Plenty of creative alternatives are available. Here is a sampling of wood alternatives, most with some environmental advantages, for home construction and remodeling projects.

1. Hemp

Hemp is a fast-growing and sustainable crop that generates more construction-grade fiber per acre than most trees and other crops. It can be used in place of lumber and a wide range of other materials. For example, Washington State University researchers found hemp-based medium-density fiberboard to be twice as strong as wood.

2. Bamboo

Bamboo is often considered a wood, but this grass is really a wood alternative. It has been called the world’s most useful plant (though hemp advocates might argue otherwise). Bamboo is fast-growing but at least as strong as some slow-growth woods. It is a very trendy flooring option. It is also used in furniture and a wide variety of other construction materials.

3. Wood composites

As the name suggests, composite materials combine wood with recycled plastics or other components. As compared to lumber, composites are a more sustainable way to use trees. For example, composite deck boards can be made with scrap wood fiber leftover from cutting solid hardwood deck boards. Composite decks and other products also have other advantages over hardwood. They require virtually no finishing, staining or maintenance, and are very durable.

4. Plastic wood

Another growing segment of the deck market is basically the plastic — recycled or not — of composites without any wood fibers. Like composite decking, plastic wood requires no maintenance. Of course, it’s hard to make plastic look exactly like wood, so it’s not a perfect aesthetic substitute. However, in many other ways, composites and plastic wood are good hardwood alternatives.

5. Soy

No, you can’t build walls out of tofu, but soy is another immensely useful plant that is used for insulation, carpet backing, paint strippers and more. While soy fibers may not be a substitute for wood, soy can make traditional wood products safer. Soy-based chemicals can replace the potentially dangerous formaldehyde, glues and other solvents.

6. Cork

Cork is made with bark rather than the core of a tree. That means it re-grows faster and is more sustainable in some ways than many traditional wood products. It is a popular flooring material, and is growing into other areas of construction and remodeling.

7. Cardboard

Cardboard construction isn’t just for kids. A couple of plywood substitutes on the market are made primarily with recycled cardboard.

8. Newspaper

Similarly, recycled newspaper is being used to create fiberboard products for roof decking and much more. For example, Homasote is a New Jersey company that claims to recycle up to 250 tons of newspaper each day into construction materials.

9. Nutshells

Maderon is a recyclable Spanish furniture-building material made primarily of crushed almond, hazelnut and walnut shells. The shells are ground into a paste, then mixed with resin and molded into chairs and other furniture.

10. Straw

Look closely at plywood. The fibers look a lot like straw, so it’s no stretch to imagine particleboard from varieties of straw, including wheat, oat and flax straw. All these are available and useful alternatives to traditional pressed-wood products.



Energy Efficient Home Features

Components of a Typical ENERGY STAR Qualified HomeENERGY STAR qualified homes are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC).

Any home three stories or less can earn the ENERGY STAR label if it has been verified to meet EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency. This includes site-constructed homes, attached or detached homes, single or low-rise multi-family residential buildings, manufactured homes, systems-built (e.g., SIP or modular) and log homes, existing homes, or retrofitted homes.

ENERGY STAR qualified homes achieve energy savings through established, reliable building technologies. Builders work with Home Energy Raters to select from a number of features when planning and building homes.

Take a tour behind the walls of an ENERGY STAR qualified home.

  1. Effective Insulation

    Properly installed, climate-appropriate insulation in floors, walls, and attics ensures even temperatures throughout the house, less energy consumption, and increased comfort. Learn more about Properly Installed Insulation PDF (149KB).

  2. High-Performance Windows

    Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies, such as protective coatings and improved frame assemblies, to help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. These windows also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furnishings. Learn more about Qualified Windows PDF (212KB).

  3. Tight Construction and Ducts

    Sealing holes and cracks in the home’s “envelope” and in duct systems helps reduce drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise. A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. Learn more about Efficient Duct Systems PDF (163KB).

  4. Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment

    In addition to using less energy to operate, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can be quieter, reduce indoor humidity, and improve the overall comfort of the home. Typically, energy-efficient equipment is also more durable and requires less maintenance than standard models. Learn more about:

  5. Lighting and Appliances

    ENERGY STAR qualified homes may also be equipped with ENERGY STAR qualified products — lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances, such as refrigerators, dish washers, and washing machines. These ENERGY STAR qualified products provide additional energy savings to the owner. Learn more about ENERGY STAR qualified products:

  6. Third-Party Verification

    With the help of independent Home Energy Raters, ENERGY STAR builder partners choose the most appropriate energy-saving features for their homes. Additionally, raters conduct onsite testing and inspections to verify that the homes qualify as ENERGY STAR. Learn more about Independent Inspection and Testing PDF (182KB).




The sustainable design and green building movement have made tremendous advances over the past decade to the point that virtually every building project today employs some level of green design.  And yet despite the bar being raised significantly there remains resistance in the public and private sectors to embracing “no brainer” investments in sustainable building and infrastructure that would further benefit all stakeholders.

It is my belief that in order to convince business and government leaders to take the next step, and invest more heavily in sustainable design solutions, design professionals need to become more conversant in the economics and profit potential inherent in smart, sustainable design…we need to talk the talk.

Proponents of green building and sustainable design have included a “triple bottom line” (TBL) argument in their pitch as the movement has grown.  The three P’s of TBL are most commonly listed in the following order:

1.      People (social)

2.      Planet (environmental)

3.      Profit (economics)

For background, Wikipedia states that sustainability was first defined by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1987. Over a decade later the TBL phrase was coined by John Elkington in his 1998 book “Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business.”

The most prominent US organization in the green design space, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), has stated that they “pursue robust triple bottom line solutions that clarify and strengthen a healthy and dynamic balance between environmental, social and economic prosperity. “ Although the USGBC speaks about a commitment to TBL solutions, the origins and current focus of their successful Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) system are primarily rooted in environmental concerns. When factoring in the life cycle returns achieved from investments made in pursuit of LEED® credits there is a clear economic benefit, yet architects, engineers and designers often are less passionate and only marginally successful at making a strong business case for sustainable designs.

Of course most design professionals are not trained as business people, and our motivation for embracing sustainability seems naturally biased towards the first two P’s of the TBL triumviri, namely “people” and “planet.” By contrast, the original protagonists for sustainability and TBL thinking started with economic “profit” driven decision-making and sought to add social and environmental performance considerations to the formula.

To achieve the more ambitious goals of the green building movement, architects, engineers and designers need to further embrace and communicate the profit and economic potential of sustainable design measures. We need to focus on honing our skills in communicating the economic and profit potential of smart design, with the same rigor that we have applied to advancing technical building solutions.

As an example, many business clients will balk at spending money on energy saving enhancements that they are told have a payback period of 7 to 10 years. However, if these same business executives were told that they could obtain a 10% to 14% return on investment (ROI) by investing capital in the current financial climate they would be more likely to sign on. By understanding and reframing the conversation in an economic and finance perspective project leaders can be more persuasive in obtaining managements support for green capital spending.

In the public sector as well more passionate communication about the economic ROI to taxpayers from sustainable building and infrastructure investment is needed to sway politicians to take action. Too often rational decision making is derailed, and policy stalls, when liberals focus only on saving the planet and their conservative foes challenge the science behind global climate change, rejecting any consideration of spending on sustainability. Despite the divisive social or environmental beliefs across the population, it is safe to say that there is more political unity around the economics of capital spending that saves taxpayers money.

Do you agree that the third “P” in the TBL formula – profit and economics – needs to be more prominently embraced by the design and building industry as we seek to promote a more sustainable built environment? Do you have successful ideas or examples to share on the topic?



Ronald Weston, AIA, LEED AP is an architect and consultant who assists small business and social entrepreneurs with the sustainable design and planning of their built environments.

A "green" White House?

Agencies face many mandates to become more environmentally friendly: Reduce gasoline consumption in cars and trucks, lower water use and greenhouse gas emissions, and adopt more renewable energy sources, among others.

But the mandate that agencies struggle with most is one to convert their existing buildings to meet green standards. That means decreasing energy use at hospitals and health clinics and reducing waste at laboratories. Agencies will also have to work to bring historic buildings, and even prisons, into compliance.

Those steps take money, and that’s what agencies are increasingly short on.

Of 20 agencies graded by the Office of Management and Budget on their compliance with green mandates, only seven met the 2010 mandate to have at least 5 percent of their buildings meet energy-efficient and sustainable standards.

Dan Tangherlini, chief financial and performance officer at the Treasury Department, said tighter budgets are certain to make this an even tougher challenge going forward.

But, he said, tighter budgets “shouldn’t be an excuse for us not to continue to find efficiencies and try to create new sustainable practices.”

Treasury used a strategy of “1 percent solutions,” such as installing low-flow fixtures, instituting recycling programs and making small improvements to help make their mandates more achievable, Tangherlini said. In that way, it exceeded the 2010 mandate by making 8 percent of its buildings sustainable.

To be considered green, a newly constructed building must use 30 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size. Renovated buildings must use 20 percent less energy. Also, they must meet specific standards for water efficiency, recycling, indoor air quality and low-emission paints and sealants, among other things.

Agencies need to have 15 percent of their buildings meet these green guidelines by 2015.

OMB’s scorecards grade agencies on how they comply with mandates for reducing energy use in federal facilities, reducing gas use in fleets, and other sustainability goals. Agencies were given green lights for meeting or exceeding the goals, yellow for partial completion and red for failing to meet the mandates.

Agencies scored worst on the green buildings mandate.

“Conquering the green buildings beast will be difficult,” said John Selman, energy and environment program director for LMI, a nonprofit organization that helped develop greenhouse gas reporting protocols.

He said agencies need to think of new strategies and innovative ways to bring their building portfolios into compliance while keeping costs down.

Still, agencies will need extra funding and time to achieve these sustainability goals, he said. And making a business case for these projects will be hard in the current budget environment.

“These projects, they are not donated. Someone has to pay for these things, and that’s the greatest challenge,” Selman said.

Olga Dominguez, senior sustainability officer at NASA, said the space agency is looking at more innovative ways to achieve sustainability goals. NASA missed the 5 percent mark, with 4 percent of its buildings meeting the guidelines.

NASA has used energy savings performance contracts, in which a private company makes efficiency upgrades to an agency facility in exchange for long-term payments from the energy savings generated by the upgrades.

Willie Taylor, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, said the green building mandate was Interior’s most challenging. Less than 1 percent of its buildings meet the green goal.

Interior does not construct many new buildings, and its building portfolio contains many historic structures that cannot be renovated to comply with the goals. But Interior will be tackling the goals in increments over the next few years.

According to a June sustainability report, the department plans to have 6 percent of its buildings meet the guidelines in 2014 and 15 percent in 2015.

At the Health and Human Services Department, less than 1 percent of buildings meet the green goal. Ned Holland, the department’s chief sustainability officer, said HHS is working to upgrade its buildings as it secures funding for the projects.

The department’s many laboratories, hospitals and American Indian health clinics require more resources and funding, and making those buildings more sustainable is fully consistent with its core mission.

But HHS has made progress by upgrading laboratory space, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Laboratory Sciences Building 110, which follows the guidelines and blends the use of natural daylight, sustainable design and energy-efficient lighting.

Stephen Leeds, senior counsel to the administrator at the General Services Administration, said tighter budgets will present additional challenges in finding ways to further reduce the use of energy and other resources.

Leeds pointed to an effort at GSA to develop sustainable technologies that aim to yield savings.

“It means that we have to tighten our belts, and we are going to find new ways to accomplish the goals laid out for us,” he said.




The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has named its top ten sustainable, green buildings for 2010.

The shortlisted developments include the new Research Support Facility at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a school in Greensburg, Kansas rebuilt after a tornado and an addition to Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Meeting House in Madison, Wisconsin.

The AIA judging panel said the NREL facility, which aims to be net zero-energy, is both a ‘challenge to the building industry’ and a ‘blueprint’ for future low-energy developments.

Also making it onto the rankings is the world’s first LEED Platinum convention centre in Vancouver, Canada, which boasts the country’s largest green roof spanning 6 acres and comprising around 400,000 indigenous plants.

The building also features a heating and cooling system supplied by sea water heat pumps, which are powered by hydroelectricity.

Other ranked projects include two housing projects and a school in California, a dilapidated warehouse in Austin, Texas transformed into office space, a waste water treatment plant in Olympia, Washington and an LEED Platinum house in Racine on the edge of Lake Michigan.

For further information:

Related stories:
US architects name top ten green buildings (21-Apr 2009)
Top 10 US green buildings named (7-May 2008)


Steve Feldman, president of Green Demolitions, has a Riverdale showroom filled with kitchens and baths salvaged from high-end homes and ready for resale.

Steve Feldman, president of Green Demolitions, has a Riverdale showroom filled with kitchens and baths salvaged from high-end homes and ready for resale.

BY KATHLEEN LYNN | Renovating? You could just rip up the old room and sweep everything into the trash bin. But a growing number of homeowners, architects and builders are trying to reuse or recycle construction materials whenever possible — for reasons both environmental and aesthetic.

Architect Anthony Garrett of the Bilow Garrett Group in Ridgefield Park went this route with the gut renovation of a Hoboken building. Its wooden floor joists, more than a century old, were reclaimed and trucked to Montville Township, to be reused as flooring and exposed beams in a planned mixed-use development.

“It’s dismantling, as opposed to demolition,” Garrett said. “I can’t think of anything more sustainable than that; there’s an embedded energy in that material that we salvage, and we don’t have to cut any more trees down.”

With construction waste making up as much as 25 percent to 50 percent of the junk in landfills, the push to salvage building materials is “gaining a huge amount of momentum,” said Anne Nicklin, executive director of the Building Materials Reuse Association, an Oregon-based trade group.

Reusing and recycling

Building materials can be either re-used or recycled. Reused materials are used again in their original form — for example, kitchen cabinets or wood flooring that are installed in a new home. Other materials, such as wallboard, roof shingles or concrete, can be recycled by being crushed and reconstituted in new products.

The Green Demolitions showroom has kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures and bedroom items taken from high-end homes being recycled.

The Green Demolitions showroom has kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures and bedroom items taken from high-end homes being recycled.

Reused materials are not just better for the environment; they also can be higher quality, she said.

“You can’t buy old-growth timber at Home Depot, but you can find it in a building that’s coming down,” Nicklin said.

Municipalities, worried about scarce landfill space, are offering cheaper or faster permits for deconstruction, rather than demolition, Nicklin said. And federal agencies offer training to workers on how to salvage building materials. She estimates that 75 percent or more of most buildings can be reused or recycled.

A number of non-profit retail outlets offer a marketplace for old building materials. They include Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Mine Hill, Build It Green NYC’s store in Queens, and Connecticut-based Green Demolitions, which has a store in Riverdale occupying space donated by Bograd’s Fine Furniture.

Green Demolitions targets affluent homeowners who decide that their kitchens aren’t quite right, but who feel guilty about dumping cabinets and appliances that are sometimes only a few years old.

It might be hard to believe that homeowners would replace kitchens that are in good shape, but “they want the kitchen they want,” said Green Demolitions founder Steve Feldman. His pitch: By donating the old kitchen to his company, homeowners can save the disposal costs, plus get a tax deduction because Green Demolitions’ profits go to support addiction treatment programs.

“Why throw out something that’s perfectly good and totally usable?” said Alan Asarnow, sales manager at Ulrich Inc. in Ridgewood, a home renovation company that encourages clients to recycle their old kitchens. Many of the kitchens his clients donate are only about 10 years old, he said.

Green Demolitions sold 600 kitchens last year in its three stores; most were donated by homeowners, but about 100 were store displays donated by kitchen remodeling contractors.

“When you think about something being thrown out, sometimes that’s where the opportunity is,” Feldman said. He estimates his company keeps 2 million pounds of debris out of landfills each year.

Those who buy the old kitchens and other materials at Green Demolitions or the ReStores find discounts of 50 to 80 percent.

Stephanie and Vincent Gurnari of Oakland visited the Green Demolitions store recently, looking to add a few cabinets to their existing kitchen, but spotted a full kitchen — including appliances — for just under $6,000.

“We just kind of jumped on the opportunity,” Stephanie Gurnari said. “It was too good of a deal to pass up. … We’ve got champagne tastes, and we wouldn’t have been able to get some of the features we got with the budget we had.”

Of course, this kitchen was built for someone else’s home, so the Gurnaris are going to have to be a bit creative about fitting it into their space. But Vincent Gurnari, a teacher, used to work in a cabinet shop, and they have some handy relatives, so they’re pretty confident about making it work.

“Kitchens are modular. They’re boxes,” Feldman said. Green Demolitions usually recommends buying a kitchen that’s a little bigger than your space to provide flexibility.

Reusing or recycling materials can help builders get the environmental stamp of approval known as LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental design. The LEED certification is awarded by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, which gives builders credit for keeping materials out of landfills.

A decade ago, “the marketplace was unsophisticated in its ability to effectively divert a large amount of materials from the landfill,” said Daniel Topping, an architect with NK Architects in Morristown. But it’s a lot easier these days to find a new home for old materials.

“It’s just a little more legwork,” Topping said.

Because reusing materials requires careful deconstruction of a room or building, it is usually more time-consuming and can be more expensive than simple demolition. But it also doesn’t create the clouds of dust — potentially laden with asbestos or lead paint — created by demolition, Nicklin pointed out.

“There’s a steep learning curve for a lot of contractors,” said Petia Morozov of the architecture firm MADLAB in Montclair, who takes a “surgical” approach to deconstructing a house.

Morozov and her partner, Juan Alcala, worked recently on Alcala’s brother’s home, a ranch house in Township of Boonton that was taken down to the foundation and rebuilt. They reused a lot of the wood and brick, for esthetic as well as environmental reasons. Cypress wood paneling and some flooring from the home’s interior weren’t needed in the new design, but were salvaged and resold, helping to offset the costs of the project.

Homeowner Carlos Alcala said he and his wife, Vicki, were motivated partly by a desire to be green, but also by their feeling that the re-used brick is more attractive, and preserves some of the house’s history. Saving money was also part of the equation.

“When it makes sense, especially from an economic perspective, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t reuse materials,” he said.

From E-mail:

By Jerry Yudelson Yudelson Associates –  More people are going green each year, and there is nothing that will stop this trend. In fact, it is accelerating each year. As a result, we expect to see considerable interest in green products that promote water conservation and energy efficiency, including fixtures and appliances, as well as energy-efficient windows and doors, certified wood products (either FSC or SFI), and recycled-content materials.Many individual homes and businesses are investing in new resource-efficient technologies and green operational practices, and cities are developing certification systems to reward this behavior. My consulting company, Yudelson Associates, is a good example. In December 2010, we were certified by the city of Tucson, Az., as a green business because of our operational practices, including solar electric and thermal systems, water conserving fixtures and rainwater harvesting, waste recycling, and environmentally preferable purchasing. These are all measures that you will begin to see adopted in greater numbers by many of the end-users served by you and your direct customers.

Let’s take a look in more detail at where some of the green building trends are headed.

1. Worldwide, the green building movement will continue to accelerate, as more countries begin to create their own green building incentives and develop their own green building councils. Inside the U.S., we expect to see an expanding roster of green product certifications, each aiming to influence the consumer’s choices. Dealers will need to stay on top of these product choices, to find which are favored by their customers.

2. Green building in the commercial sector will rebound in 2011, as measured by the new LEED project registrations. The dramatic slowdown in new construction of commercial real estate was not offset by other sectors, such as government, so the growth rate of new green building projects fell dramatically in 2010. However, we expect a continued upward movement of new green buildings, albeit at a slower pace, as green continues to take market share.

3. Recent announcements of the federal government’s commitment to a minimum of LEED Gold for all new federal projects and major renovations of public buildings highlight the Obama Administration’s continued focus on green technologies. At the state and local level, other layers of government show no signs of “green fatigue.” In fact, new green building mandates and incentives continue to grow. This means more product sales, as commitments become action.

4. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings. The fastest growing LEED rating system in 2009 and 2010 was the LEED for Existing Buildings program-and I expect this trend to continue in 2011. Affordable energy and water conservation devices will accelerate this trend, and should lead to greater sales of such devices.

5. Blue will become the new green, especially in arid areas of the West, Southwest and Southeast. Awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply will continue to grow, inducing building designers, owners, and managers-as well as consumers-to take further steps to reduce water consumption and increase sustainability. This will be accomplished through the use of more conservation-oriented fixtures, rainwater recovery systems, and innovative new water technologies. Many new packaged systems are coming to market, and these could provide good opportunities for dealers and distributors in water-short regions.

6. Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings will become increasingly commonplace in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR ratings become too common to confer competitive advantage. From a product standpoint, you may start to see demands for such things as triple-pane windows and better building monitoring and control systems.

7. Performance disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California and cities such as Austin, Tx.; Seattle, Wa., and Washington, D.C. In these areas, commercial building owners will be required to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers, to comply with new requirements.

8. Certified Green Schools will grow rapidly as part the LEED System. This trend will accelerate as understanding of the health and educational benefits of green schools grows. By mid-year 2010, green schools represented nearly 40% of all new LEED projects in the U.S. We’ll also see energy-efficiency retrofits come into vogue as a way to green existing schools, so be on the lookout for what local energy managers for school districts are saying and doing.

9. Local and state governments will step up their mandates for green buildings, for both themselves and the private sector. In 2011, I expect to see at least 20 major new cities with commercial-sector green building mandates. The desire to reduce carbon emissions by going green will lead more government agencies to require green buildings.

10. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow. This trend will be enhanced by municipal utilities trying to comply with state-level renewable power standards for 2015 and 2020. Third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for large rooftop solar systems, such as on warehouses. However, we may very well see a slowing of large solar and wind systems, as federal grant support, in lieu of tax credits, is phased out. In the building products area, look for new forms of solar roofing systems that allow a homeowner or building owner to do their own retrofits at minimal extra cost.

11. The development of “software as a service” using the Internet “cloud” will rely on a whole new generation of smart meters, monitoring devices, and intelligent controls. Energy-monitoring services such as Google “Power Meter” will lead consumers, business, and industry to start investing in more home and building electronics.

– Jerry Yudelson is an engineer and business consultant with nearly 15 years experience in green building. Since 2005, he has written 12 books on green building, green products, green development, and water conservation. His most recent book, Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Crisis,  showcases business opportunities in water efficiency. His firm, Yudelson Associates, provides green marketing, green building, and sustainability consulting services nationally to a wide variety of private sector clients. He can be contacted at


Materials from Rematerialise, Kingston University London (Credit: Image courtesy of Kingston University)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2011) — After 17 years of research sustainable design expert Jakki Dehn is launching Rematerialise, a catalogue of eco-friendly materials for use in the construction industry.

From insulation made from mushrooms to kitchen tops created from recycled glass, Kingston University has catalogued more than 1,000 different sustainable materials for use in the construction industry. The result is a materials library, Rematerialise, which is being launched at EcoBuild, the world’s largest event for showcasing sustainable design and construction practices.

Reader in sustainable design, Jakki Dehn has been developing Rematerialise at Kingston University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture for 17 years and believes designers will find it invaluable when planning new products. “They can come and touch and feel a whole range of materials all in one place — materials which, otherwise, they might have to spend weeks investigating themselves,” she said.

Several firms have already drawn on Dehn’s expertise to help with ongoing projects. Product design company Jedco, based in Weybridge in Surrey, has developed a scaffolding board made from recycled polymers and a solar-powered bus-stop. “The scaffolding boards have proved useful on oil rigs, because unlike wood, they don’t absorb water. So, in this case, the sustainable product is actually better than the material it’s replacing,” Dehn said.

Dehn began her research into sustainable materials in 1994 and received Arts and Humanities Research Council funding in 2003. Rematerialise now houses more than 1,200 materials from 15 different countries. It contains recycled materials, products made from resources that are very plentiful and easy to re-grow and products made from resources that are not generally used very much. The University hopes eventually to put the entire library online so planners can do initial research before making an appointment to view the materials themselves at Kingston University’s Knights Park campus.

As word about the resource has spread, new products have started arriving on an almost daily basis. “We recently received a new type of insulation material made from mushrooms. The piece we were sent was only an inch thick but, apparently, you could put your hand on one side of it and take a blow-torch to the other side and you wouldn’t be able to feel the heat,” said Dehn, who admitted she was yet to put it to the test. Another eye-catching material is resilica, which is used to make kitchen worktops as an alternative to granite or formica. It’s made mainly of glass recycled from cars and building sites.

Source: Science Daily

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