Alternative Construction MaterialsAssociation of Construction and Development
October 9, 2012 — 4,500 views
Alternative Construction Materials
Traditional wood and brick homes are still popular, but many buyers are now asking for alternative construction materials. Learn more about the benefits and downsides of the following five alternatives.
#1 Paper Insulation
This material is made from post-consumer newspaper and cardboard. Borax, boric acid and calcium carbonate make it an insect repellent and fire retardant alternative to synthetic insulation. It's suitable for use in any sealed cavity.
It's made of all-natural materials with no off-gassing or other associated health risks. The seal is air-tight and comparable to synthetic foams.
The material has lower thermal resistance. Additives are water-soluble and leach with moisture. Special equipment and a certified installer are requirements.
#2 Insulating Concrete Forms
A hollow foam material is filled with concrete and reinforced with rebar. These interlocking blocks have been used for exterior wall construction on homes and offices since 1995.
The foam works well as insulation against noise, temperature, and humidity change. No air leakage, faster construction time, and severe weather resistance are the primary selling points.
Cost is generally from 1-8 percent higher than lumber exteriors. Oddly shaped walls raise this premium much higher by complicating the build.
#3 Wool Bricks
Wool and a seaweed polymer are added to the clay before curing. These bricks are suitable for the same interior and exterior uses of traditional bricks.
Wool bricks are 37 percent stronger than traditional bricks, and they have greater cold and wet resistance. These bricks are not fired, and production requires much less energy.
The only drawback is under-utilization in the market. Wool bricks may cost more due to shipping from far-away manufacturers.
#4 Steel Framing
Steel roofs are popular, and steel framing is gathering a following. Light-gauge steel studs are an alternative for lumber.
Steel studs hold heavier loads and last longer. They are also more stable than wood.
Steel studs are more expensive. The framing process requires special training.
#5 Solar Tiles
Photovoltaic cells are designed in the shape of traditional roofing materials. They may replace the existing roof entirely or integrated. Tiles tie into the home's electrical system for power generation, and they are as durable as the existing material.
Solar tiles pay for themselves over time when properly installed. They increase home value and are an aesthetic alternative to solar panels.
They must be installed at the correct angle and orientation for electrical generation. Tiles are more expensive than solar panels.