Recycled Materials Offer Technical and Aesthetic

The use of recycled or reclaimed materials not only adds to the sustainability of a home but provides a unique and distinct aesthetic

To create a home that is both aesthetically striking and energy-efficient is no longer a daunting task thanks to the many manufacturers that have noticed and responded to traction in the green homebuilding industry. What was once a fad is now becoming the norm, and thus builders and manufacturers are paying more and more attention to products that can help them deliver sustainability and efficiency—all without the need to compromise aesthetics.

The green building sector, however, isn’t just being noticed by builders. As one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, Zion Research recently valued the sector at around USD 127.5 billion just two years ago, with expectations to increase to USD 255 billion by 2020.

The rise in sustainable and efficient products comes at a perfect time when lawmakers are prioritizing environmental and sustainable homes. California, for example, a state that has been at the forefront of environmental regulations, will require homes to be built to zero energy by 2020. In 1986, concerned California voters approved Proposition 65. The proposition required businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals used in products they purchased, due to the fact that said chemicals could end up in their homes, workplace, or released into the environment. With materials needing to adhere to strict VOC emission requirements, new products emerged.

The report from Zion Research expects interior finishing products to be the fastest growing segment. Conventional materials used in interior finishing operations are being replaced with more sustainable solutions, including wood, recycled carpet tiles, and low- to no-VOC paints. Interior finishing application is expected to exhibit the fastest growth rate in the future, with an increase demand for VOC free glue and paints, and solar tiles manufactured from recycled material to be key components for the green building materials market.

The great thing about using recycled or reclaimed material is that consumers can use a product’s distinct look to supplement the home’s exterior or interior aesthetic details. Andrew Mann Architecture’s House for an Artist in Alameda County, Calif., for example, was constructed from honest materials per the owner’s request. This of course greatly influenced the design and finish details of the home. To achieve this level of green commitment, the home’s design team included two consultants who evaluated each and every building product used in construction of the home from a comprehensive list of more than 900 chemicals of concern.

“The benefit of building a home this way is to really educate oneself about all the harmful chemical components (both natural and man-made) that we are exposed to each day, and realize one has a choice to limit that exposure,” said Andrew Mann, principal of Andrew Mann Architecture.

Siding is another segment of the green building market that is being driven by consumers. New siding products offer top value for remodelers and builders looking to bring added value to the home. “Most exterior cladding products—including vinyl siding, fiber cement, or engineered wood—can incorporate continuous insulation with improved aesthetics as well as advanced energy efficiency,” said Jason Culpepper, vice president of Progressive Foam Technologies. The look of siding is changing, greatly due to manufacturers responding to homebuyers’ preferences for bold colors and mixed materials now more than ever before. Products now reflect personal design ideas and styles, implementing a variety of colors, textures and shapes which the builder can then take and use to create a distinct, personal style for homes.

Using recycled steel is another popular trend in the green building sector. There are many benefits to using recycled steel for the frame of a home. Compared to wood, there is no need to worry about termites, rotting, or expansion. Steel allows for a much cleaner home site; using recycled steel as the frame for the home reduces onsite waste, decreases dust onsite, and is less disruptive to adjacent neighbors. Builder BONE Structure, a Canadian company that opened a West Coast division, is currently building their first U.S. home in Palo Alto, Calif. The 3,200 square foot custom home uses a patented light steel frame building technology.

Although green building is a whole system approach, these are just some of the current trends homebuilders are utilizing to balance an efficient yet striking home design. As the green building materials market continues to evolve over the years, we will continue to see more products that are elegant and efficient.

Sergio Flores is an Assistant Editor for Green Home Builder magazine. He may be reached at