Your choices make a difference.
When renovating or building, consider the environment and our limited resources when deciding what products to use in your project.
Recycled or recyclable? High or low carbon emissions? Locally sourced or imported? With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to know what to choose. Your architect or designer can help guide you, but it’s important to understand some basics about the resource friendliness of some common building materials:
Brick and tile
Clay brick is one of the oldest, continuously used building materials in the world and is also one of the most resource-efficient. Made from natural materials with minimal waste, long-lasting clay bricks present countless possibilities for recycling or ‘down-cycling’. If not used in new structures, salvaged bricks can be used in road construction or crushed into landscaping mulch.
Brick also requires next to no maintenance – saving even more on resources and energy consumption.
While concrete is somewhat less resource-efficient to create than brick, concrete roofing tiles can also be entirely recycled. They are also made from naturally inert materials, so water collected from them is safe to drink.
Steel is the most recycled product in the world, able to be recycled over and over again without losing its mechanical properties.
Steel is strong, lightweight and dimensionally stable. When used structurally, it will not shrink, expand, warp or twist, meaning that finishes should not crack and floors should not squeak as the building settles and ages.
Unquestionably a renewable resource, New Zealand is particularly rich in wood. Not all wood is created equal however. As we learned to our detriment when logging our own native forests throughout the early 1900s, hardwood does not replenish quickly.
When buying New Zealand wood, we can be reasonably certain that it has been sustainably grown. The internationally-recognised mark of environmental sustainability and responsibly sourced timber is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) badge that certifies that the timber has come from a well-managed forest.
Carter Holt Harvey and Cortex can both provide FSC certified woodproducts.
Plasterboard is an ideal product for sustainable construction, lightweight and made from the naturally-occurring mineral gypsum.
Gypsum is used as a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner. The reuse of clean plasterboard off-cuts from construction, renovation or demolition as compost provides a similar benefit (by montgomery). It also reduces the environmental impact from waste going to landfill.
Winstone Wallboards’ GIB® plasterboard consists largely of natural gypsum and 100% recycled paper and does not contain the toxins inherent to a number of other manufactured building products.
As New Zealand’s only local plasterboard manufacturer, they offer a special cut-to-length service for their plasterboard which reduces on-site waste. Because of the care taken in the manufacturing of GIB® plasterboard, all GIB® plasterboard 13mm or greater has Environmental Choice certification.
As a nation we are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of insulation to our health, the efficiency of our homes and our personal comfort. Insulation reduces dampness, creates a warmer environment that you can heat effectively and efficiently, and reduces power bills by minimizing heat loss.
New Zealand-made Pink Batts insulation is manufactured from up to 80% recycled window glass, dramatically reducing the amount of glass going to landfill, is non-carcinogenic and non-combustible, reducing the risk of fire in homes as well.
Roughly a third of the average household’s energy bill is spent on water heating, so insulation of hot water pipes, although often overlooked, is as important in creating an energy-efficient home as insulating the walls, floors or ceiling. Aquatherm’s Fusiotherm® pipes are highly insulative and 100% recyclable.
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Find out what you can do to be Resource Responsibility savvy in the articles linked below.