6 Trends For Eco-Friendly Construction In 2024

Green is all the rage. Consumers are getting more conscious about how their choices impact the environment – and are putting brands on the spotlight to explain what goes into the products they have on market. From shopping items, means of transport, to waste disposal, they are keen on how it will affect Mother Nature. This extends right through to the construction industry, with home and business owners requiring that contractors and architects give them more sustainable options to get their projects done.

Here are six ways they are doing this in 2024:

1. Turning to Composites

Composites blend together two or more constituent materials – and they can have significantly different physical or chemical properties. They retain the characteristics of their individual components while still offering enhanced overall performance from their combined benefits.

Tale Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC) for instance, also known as bendable concrete. It combines mortar with polymer fibres to achieve a high tensile strain capacity, making it more durable and crack-resistant than traditional concrete. ECC’s flexibility and resistance to carbon dioxide infusion reduces maintenance costs and carbon emissions ​​.

Timber Ireland too provides composites, designed for various applications such as decking, cladding, and fencing. They blend the durability of synthetic materials with the aesthetic appeal of natural wood. You have the likes of the PURA Composite Decking made using 100% FSC certified timber and recycled plastic, as well as Composite Cladding that includes Puratech boards that are constructed with a 60:40 ratio of recycled dense wood fibre and high-grade recycled plastics (HDPE). This results in sustainable, low-maintenance alternatives to traditional timber, suitable for homes and businesses alike.

2. Building Sustainably with Green Materials

The focus here is materials that are either by their nature good for the environment, or help reduce the strain caused by conventional materials in the construction industry. These include:

  • Bamboo: It grows fast, making it a top pick for sustainable wood flooring or as a structural element.
  • Recycled Steel: It reduces the demand on iron ore, with the bonus of needing less energy to produce.
  • Low-Emission Paints: They help maintain indoor air quality by reducing how much volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced.
  • Sustainably sourced timber: These are softwoods and hardwoods harvested from forests managed under strict guidelines – where there is no harm to the environment, wildlife, or the communities that rely on them. Timber Ireland has an extensive range that includes aesthetically appealing options like Southern Yellow Pine, Quebec Yellow Pine, and Western Red Cedar, widely used for cladding and decking due to its durability.
  • Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs): They’re like building blocks filled with concrete. Great for energy efficiency because they keep temperatures steady indoors.
  • Reclaimed Wood: Old but gold. It brings character and reduces the need for new timber.

3. Biophilic Architecture: Designing with Nature In Mind

The idea is pretty simple: use natural light, air, plants, and materials to make spaces that house people while also boosting their mood, health, and productivity. For instance, you can have large windows that let in lots of sunlight, walls covered in greenery that makes them ‘come alive’, as well as constructing your decking and other structures with materials like sustainably sourced wood. It’s like bringing a slice of the outdoors into your home. These buildings end up being more energy-smart, cutting down on artificial lighting and air conditioning.

4. Cellulose insulation: Giving Old Newsprint A New Purpose

It’s made from recycled newspaper using a low-tech process – yet ends up with more thermal resistance compared to traditional fibreglass. It scores a higher R-value for better performance in keeping your indoor temperatures stable – translating to lower bills at the end of the month, and a smaller carbon footprint overall.

The material is treated with safe, non-toxic fire retardants like boric acid and ammonium sulphate – making it less flammable​​. There’s also the welcome benefit of being toxic to insects and other pests, thanks to its boron-based flame retardants ​​.

5. Prefabrication and modular construction

Prefab construction is all about making parts of buildings in a factory setting, away from the actual construction site. This approach cuts down on mess and the pollution from heavy machinery at the building site. Modular construction steps it up by putting these prefab parts together into bigger pieces—think of them as big Lego blocks. These blocks are then shipped to where the building is going up and slotted into place. It’s a neat way to build, with everything made in advance and just needing to be fitted together on-site.

This approach reduces the construction time significantly. Because much of the work happens indoors, bad weather doesn’t cause delays. This efficiency saves on energy and materials. There’s also less waste since materials can be used more precisely and excess can be recycled more easily than on a traditional construction site. Greener materials can also be incorporated right on the factory floor, making buildings more sustainable from the get-go.

6. The Mass Timber Way

Mass timber is made from multiple layers of wood bonded together, form of plywood – as is the case with products like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) – Super Plywood and Glue-Laminated Timber (GLT) Traditional Plywood. The end result is a strong, solid, and sustainable alternative to traditional concrete and steel​​. Buildings made with this can be assembled faster and with less waste as well, leading to more savings and fewer emissions.

A study highlighted that hybrid mass timber buildings could cut down global warming by 26.5% when you compare them to ones made of concrete. Plus, since wood captures carbon from the air as it grows out in the forest, building with it means we’re actually storing away carbon that could have ended up being released into the atmosphere. Mass timber structures also meet fire safety standards – performing just as well, and sometimes better, than steel. That’s due to their ability to char on the outside while remaining intact on the inside​​.

Find The Right Material For You

So what do you have planned for your project? At Timber Ireland there is a wide range of solutions to pick from for both commercial and residential needs. For more information, reach out to us at +353 1 8427669 or via email at sales@timberireland.ie.

Timber Ireland : Selecting the Best Wood for Your Project

Looking for the perfect wood for your upcoming construction? Or perhaps you’re an architect bouncing around ideas with your client, to help them make their choice. The choice made here can make or break your plans, as it affects everything from the aesthetic appeal of structures to be installed, to their durability and longevity, in the face of the tumultuous Irish weather. Plus with so many wood options out there, it can get overwhelming. Let’s break things down:

Hardwoods

Hardwood comes from a type of tree known as a dicot. These trees are typically found in forests with broad leaves, stretching across both temperate regions and the tropical belt. In the cooler temperate and boreal areas, these trees are often deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves seasonally. However, in the warmer tropics and subtropics, they tend to be evergreen, keeping their leaves all year round.

These trees are part of the angiosperm family, which means they reproduce through flowers and have broad leaves to catch the sunlight – the likes of oak, teak, mahogany, and maple.  They take longer to grow and mature compared to softwoods – but during this time they build up a more dense and more compact structure. This is why they are heavier, stronger and more resistant to wear and tear. 

Hardwoods are your go-to for things like high-quality furniture, flooring, decking, and architectural details. The complexity seen during their development process also causes them to have unique grain patterns and colours. Perfect for when you want that extra pizzazz to your project. For example:

  • Oak is often used in flooring and kitchen cabinets due to its strength and the beautiful grain patterns it displays. Composite decking, like Timber Ireland’s PURAPRO Oak Decking, combines the beauty of wood with increased durability and low maintenance, ideal for creating inviting outdoor areas that last. You also see this with European Oak Cladding, combining a timeless look with the durability to withstand Ireland’s weather, offering both beauty and longevity to any façade.
  • Teak is usually sought for outdoor furniture and decking because of its natural oils, making it resistant to water, decay, and pests.
  • Mahogany is popular for fine furniture and musical instruments, thanks to its workability and smooth finish.

Granted, hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods. This cost is due to their slower growth rate and the complexity of the harvesting process. They more than make up for this with their durability and aesthetics. External factors also affect prices, such as ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine which has caused shortages of European white oak.

Softwoods

Softwood comes from gymnosperm trees. Many of them are coniferous – think pines, cedars, spruces, firs, you know, the ones with the needles and cones. These trees grow quickly and in large numbers, making their wood softer and less dense. Handling them is a breeze. And yes, that translates to them being more affordable in comparison. 

Whether it’s framing a new house, laying down a roof, or adding some cladding, softwood’s lightweight and easy-to-shape nature comes in handy. For example:

  • Pine is great for window frames and paneling, because of its versatility and availability.
  • Cedar is prized for outdoor applications, like fencing and shingles, due to its natural resistance to moisture, decay, and insect damage. You get this with products like Timber Ireland’s Cedar Battens for the homeowner looking for stylish, durable fences that complement the natural landscape, right through to decking solutions.
  • Spruce is strong and used in building houses and even in making paper because of its straight grain.

Despite the name “softwood,” not all softwoods are actually soft. There can be overlaps when comparing the different types. For example, Balsa wood is categorized as a hardwood but is softer than many softwoods. Meanwhile, softwoods like Douglas Fir, can be harder than several hardwoods.

While not as hardy as hardwoods, treating softwoods with preservatives can boost their lifespan, making them a smart pick for many projects – especially where the superior durability of hardwoods is not necessary.

Going Green With Your Timber Choices

‘Sustainability’ has been infused into every aspect of our lives. Shopping, fashion, packaging people use, even transport choices. No surprise that it made it to the construction business. Consumers are aware of this too, which is why they are all for making eco conscious choices. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between keeping our timber supplies going and making sure we leave healthy, vibrant forests for the next generations.

How do you go about this? Look for certifications from recognized bodies that guarantee that wood has been sourced from responsibly managed forests. Any manufacturer can claim that their products are eco friendly – but you’ll be better placed when you look for proof from an independent body with a verifiable track record.  One popular one is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It’s a non-profit that’s been around since 1993, certifying wood products from areas where the biodiversity and local communities are properly taken care of.

You also have the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which started in 1999. They use a system of checks by other companies to confirm everything’s up to scratch with forests’ management practices, adapting to the specific needs of different places while sticking to globally recognised standards. 

Whichever scale of construction you’ve got going on, choosing the right wood and making sure it’s eco-friendly can make all the difference. Need expert help in finding what’s suitable for you? Reach us on +353 1 8427669 or email sales@timberireland.ie.

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