Guide To Sustainable Building Materials and Costs

Guide To Sustainable Building Materials and Costs

February 21, 2023
Guide To Sustainable Building Materials and Costs

Sustainable materials are quickly becoming a revolutionary trend in the construction industry. Environmentally friendly materials offer a variety of advantages that make them an ideal choice for construction projects. Not only are they more energy efficient, but they also reduce the project's overall carbon footprint and can provide better insulation and durability.

In 2021, the green building market was valued at $83 billion in the United States. In comparison, in 2020 it was valued at $75 billion. This growth can be attributed to increased awareness of sustainable practices.

When considering green materials for a construction project, it is crucial to consider the long-term costs, benefits, and potential maintenance needs. One of the best ways to decide which product is suitable for a project is to compare different materials and their costs. Here are some commonly used products for renewable building projects.


Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable plant native to Asia that can be used for various construction applications in many construction projects. It is often used for structural and decorative applications such as flooring, countertops, cabinetry, and furniture. It is an essential renewable resource because it is an incredibly versatile resource. It also has a high tensile strength for larger building structures.

Structural applications for bamboo include bridges, scaffolding, and even homes. Its natural durability allows for long-term use in outdoor projects as well. However, it also has its drawbacks, including the fact that it is not fire-resistant.

Cost of Bamboo Materials

Treated bamboo can cost $4 per square foot. However, untreated bamboo can be priced lower, depending on the quality and size of the material.

There are several things to consider when calculating bamboo costs for projects. Cost estimators review the type of bamboo used, such as species and grade, and the source, whether it's sustainably grown or imported from another country. Its size, shape, and application must all be considered, including the advantages such as durability or thermal efficiency.

Ultimately, researching these various details and using construction cost estimator software can help builders identify the most cost-effective way to source bamboo to complete a project on budget.


A new material on the market for renewable construction is made of recycled materials. Ferrock is a revolutionary, green building material made from 95% recycled materials and industrial byproducts like wasted steel dust and glass silica. It is created via an energy-efficient process with no emissions or water pollution.

This product is used in construction projects to increase the strength and durability of structures while reducing emissions and energy consumption. It is incredibly cost-efficient and helps minimize construction projects' environmental impacts.

Cost of Ferrock Materials

There are various factors when calculating the cost of using Ferrock in projects, such as the amount and type of material needed, labor costs, transportation costs, equipment needs, and installation. Cost estimators must also review the price of materials depending on where they are from, both locally and globally, which could affect the price significantly.

According to Certified Energy, Ferrock is cost-effective and lowers the cost of sustainable construction materials. When used correctly, it provides excellent value for the money. The reduced environmental impacts make Ferrock an ideal choice for green building projects.

Manufactured Wood

Manufactured wood is a great eco-friendly alternative to using natural materials like hardwoods for construction projects. It is created from recycled wood chips, sawdust, and other waste products combined with binding agents and compressed into boards or panels. This material is highly durable and often less expensive than more traditional woods.

This wood is used in various applications on the building site, such as doors and windows, flooring, trim, cabinets, and countertops. However, it is prone to water damage and must be treated with sealants for outdoor use.

Cost of Manufactured Wood Materials

Engineered wood flooring costs between $2.50 and $10 per square foot. However, the majority of manufactured wood materials will range from $4 to $7 per square foot. Estimators typically calculate the cost of manufactured wood for projects by considering various factors, such as the type of wood, the size, the thickness of boards, quantity required, hardware needed, availability, and sourcing.

Cost estimators must also review the types of treatments, like pre-staining or preservative coating, that could affect the price and longevity of the product. There are many uses for manufactured wood, such as countertops, furniture, and flooring, making it an excellent choice for various renewable construction projects. Additionally, flooring estimation includes forecasting additional installation labor costs and a possible underlayment expense to improve stability.

Rammed Earth Materials

One of the oldest building techniques, rammed earth, is a cost-effective and sustainable construction material used for centuries. The process involves mixing clay with sand, gravel, and other aggregates to form a stable soil mixture that can be compressed between formwork to create strong and durable walls.

Rammed earth is found in walls in residential and commercial buildings and some types of retaining walls and foundations. Rammed earth materials offer excellent thermal insulation, making them an eco-friendly choice for construction projects.

Cost of Rammed Earth Materials

A rammed earth wall costs between $450 and $750 per square meter. The labor-intensive nature of producing rammed earth can increase prices if it’s sourced from a faraway location. The cost can also depend on the type needed, installation, and any additional products, such as drywall and studs, required for a successful project.

To provide an accurate quote, builders must also calculate the drywall, framing, and hardware costs. Estimators must also consider the cost of aggregates, stabilizers, and admixtures that may be added to enhance the material's performance. Builders may also need to affix interior partitions with special hardware in order to maximize rammed earth applications.

Recycled Plastic

Home builders and corporations increasingly use recycled plastic as a construction material for green projects due to its durability, lightweight composition, and affordability. Recycled plastic includes post-consumer and post-industrial products, such as beverage containers, detergent bottles, and packaging materials. It originates from sorting and reprocessing facilities that collect materials to recycle them into new products.

Recycled plastic is used in construction projects, such as roofing tiles, concrete, indoor installation, and other landscaping applications. It offers versatile design options, is durable and low maintenance, and helps reduce environmental waste by eliminating the need for virgin plastics.

Cost of Recycled Plastic Materials

Calculating the cost of recycled plastic for projects requires considering various factors, including the size and quantity of the material needed, the type of plastic required, and where it is sourced. Estimators then apply market research to understand current price trends. Additionally, they consider environmental factors such as how long it takes to transport the plastic from its source to the project site.

Recycled Steel

Mining and manufacturing require large amounts of energy, so construction companies increasingly turn to recycled steel to reduce their environmental impact.

Recycled steel is a construction material made from scrap metal that is re-melted and recycled.

This material often comes from factories, autos, appliances, and demolished buildings. Recycled steel is used in various construction projects, such as bridges and skyscrapers, because of its strength and durability. It is also for smaller projects like frames, beams, fences, and sheds.

Cost of Recycled Steel Materials

Various factors can affect the cost of recycled steel, including the location and availability of the material, which can be sourced from scrap yards, manufacturers, or even damaged goods. The duration of the recycling process must also be taken into account, as it can significantly affect the cost as market prices fluctuate.

For example, recycled stainless steel can cost anywhere from $0.10 to $1.10 per pound.

By researching current market trends, understanding factors that influence costs associated with recycling processes, and appropriate software, construction estimators can provide reliable estimates for steel materials, labor, and overall cost.

Straw Bales

Families and businesses looking for an environmentally-friendly building material may consider straw bales, which offer excellent insulation value, low cost, and a unique design aesthetic. Straw bales are bundles of dried stalks — wheat, oats, rye, barley, or buckwheat — used in construction projects. They provide a reliable form of insulation and can be used as building blocks for walls, foundations, and roofs.

Straw bales have been used in construction for years, are sustainable, and can have a lifetime of 100 years. They require less energy than other forms of insulation during production, having three times the thermal resistance of conventional insulation. This efficiency can help lower green building costs associated with energy efficiency.

Cost of Straw Bale Materials

Straw bale homes cost 15% less than traditional homes and will likely save you 75% on cooling and heating costs. Construction estimators calculate the cost of straw bales by evaluating all the factors that affect their prices.

For instance, they consider the type of straw, its availability in the area, and how much must be sourced and transported to the job site. Sourcing from overseas markets can add to the cost of straw bales, as do labor and additional treatments for fire resistance.

Additionally, estimators must consider whether any special requirements or regulations apply to using straw bales in construction projects.

The cost of building a green home with recycled materials can be competitive and provide a long-term benefit to the environment. Estimators must perform careful research and calculations to ensure that the best materials are at the correct cost. By understanding the various factors influencing green construction material costs, estimators can provide reliable estimates for their clients.

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