Everything you need to know about plant based building materials

The material industry has been undergoing some drastic changes. The science of innovation is the driver for this change. As societies and people evolve and develop, the needs of the hour also change. As a response newer and better technologies and materials emerge so as to make the present and future better in any way possible.

The idea to grow responsibly enough for the present and the future is what sustainability is all about. The need for sustainable choices has become a rather pressing one considering the climate and environmental crisis the world stands in today. Out of the call for sustainability has risen the practice of sustainable architecture. 

Sustainable architecture is all about making more responsible, sustainable and greener choices in the short and long term so as to usher in permanent changes in the way build and design keeping in mind what's best for the environment. 

Complying with the need for sustainable and greener architecture, a lot of new building materials are venturing into the market as alternatives to what we may typically use, packed with eco-friendly features. One of the categories that has been powering through the most is that of plant based building materials. Derived naturally, these materials are useful and equally responsible. 


Here's all you need to know about them. 

UNDERSTANDING PLANT BASED MATERIALS: 

 

The plant based lifestyle has been making waves in the global market for quite some time now. Be it food or be it fabric, a lot of industries have seen a shift by the venturing of plant based alternatives. 

Plant based alternatives basically signify goods produced by utilizing the flora to swap the chemical and man made lifestyle that mankind has been living for quite some time. The most interesting developments of the plant based movement has been its venture into the building material industry. 

It's hard to imagine that a plant or tree can be made into a strong building material that could easily replace conventional one. Not only are such materials more sustainable but are also extremely eco friendly, with each making a positive difference in the environment in their own way. There are a lot of different plant based materials in the market while some are still being developed. 


Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting plant based building materials available. 


MINERALIZED ALIEN CONCRETE

 

Mineralized alien concrete is a unique plant based alternative to conventional concrete. Concrete as a material is widely used in architecture of all sorts. 

However, its production is rather pollution intensive. Concrete production alone is known to be responsible for close to 7% of the world’s carbon emissions which is a rather huge percentage. A material inflicting such environmental damage is bound to need replacement with a better more functional alternative which is offered by alien concrete. 

Mineralised alien concrete is derived from the Australian paperbark tea trees. The wood from the paperbark tea trees is taken and processed with the help of a mineralised lime solution. The mineralised wood is then molded into boulders and blocks of alien concrete ready to use at construction sites. 

Not only is the whole production process a lot more eco friendly but the product itself has a lot more merit with better insulation, sound proofing qualities while being significantly lighter than traditional concrete. 


MYCOBOARD 

 

Mycoboard is a material that has been developed as a variant of composite wood boards, but greener in its nature. While the traditional plywood and hardwood boards we see are bound together through resin and complex chemical compounds releasing toxic fumes into the air, mycoboard has an organic alternative. 

Rather than utilizing toxic glue, resin or chemicals, myco board has an all natural binding process facilitated by mycelium fungus to bind the material well together.  The basic ingredient in mycofoam which is a plant based packaging material, the mycofoam is processed with agricultural byproducts, bound together by fungus and solidified into the desired shapes needed for the design. 

Mycoboard is known to have similar structural integrity at a fraction of the cost to the environment as well as the manufacturer. 

HEMPCRETE 

 

Hempcrete is yet another innovative plant based alternative to traditional concrete. Considering the amount of environmental impact concrete production leaves, such alternates offer a safer yet effective way to achieve the design with minimum damage to the environment. 

Hempcrete is a material that takes the zero waste pledge to heart. It utilizes the hemp shives otherwise considered waste. The hemp shavings, shards form the plant and a binding agent such as lime or mud is used to bind the formula together. 

The result is hempcrete, an extremely strong and durable material which can be purposed into blocks, sheets and other shapes as needed, also reducing the waste generated in modifying shapes. Further, hempcrete has the great insulation, fire and earthquake resistant qualities that make it a practical alternative. 

The biggest plus of this material is that it is actually carbon negative, i.e. it is known to absorb CO2 making it the ideal pick. 

PLANT BASED POLYURETHANE FOAM 

 

Rigid foams are a material that have been widely used in the field of construction to facilitate insulation. However, they are made from rather complex chemicals. 

Be it the production or the application, such foams leave a rather bad mark on the environment which is why innovators have come up with a way to provide such insulation through a plant based formula.

The plant based polyurethane foam essentially utilizes biopolymers from plants, starch, bamboo fibers, kelp and even derivatives of vegetable oil in order to formulate a foam that solidifies upon installation to provide effective insulation. Apart from proper insulation, the polyurethane foam also provides resistance to pests making it a practical and sustainable pick. 

MILKWEED FLOSS INSULATION 

 

Yet another plant based insulation solution is the milkweed floss. Milkweed or asclepias is a plant that is rather light and dandelion like in appearance. It has natural super light fibers that are packed with features such as the ability to float, to keep a space warm and it is completely hypoallergenic. 

While milkweed floss as a material is not new, its identification as a resource in construction is fairly new. The fibers from this plant are threaded and processed to form panels that can be used for insulation.

These panels are not only sustainable and eco friendly but a lot less labor intensive as compared to other forms of insulation. The panels themselves are structurally extremely light yet prove to give similar or better insulation in comparison to chemicals. 

The qualities and potential of this material has been well appreciated with experts calling it the future of insulation which is why we may see a lot more of this material in the near future. 


Overall, sustainable architecture has developed from a slogan, and a movement to a way of life. Consumers and architects alike are realizing the need for better choices. Plant based construction materials offer a friendly alternative to traditional materials ensuring proper construction with lower environmental impact. While such materials exist, a lot more of these are under development for a better and safer tomorrow. 



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