The building industry accounts for up to 40% of the earth’s energy usage from material extraction through building operation; housing constitutes roughly 30% of energy use in North America. Owners and consumers are looking for more efficient building systems that would decrease this use of energy. The material chosen to construct the structure of a building has the potential to reduce the building’s initial environmental impact and its life cycle energy use. However, this is rarely considered during conceptual design. Sustainable construction materials that have low embodied energy include earthen construction and straw bale construction. However, these materials are not widely accepted alternatives in North America because they are included only in select building codes in North America and around the world. In this paper, an extensive review of the current construction practice of sustainable construction materials is summarized. Durability concerns and limitations of the methods of construction are discussed, and areas of future research are identified.
Authors: Swan A. Jenkins, Rteil A., Lovegrove G.