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There are hundreds of sustainable materials available on the market of which many claim to be sustainable but are they really?

The best way to find out how sustainable the material is to contact the supplier and ask for a detail report on what makes their material sustainable or not.  Don’t be fooled by the glossy brochure.

How to find sustainable materials, what to look for and what makes a material more sustainable?  

There are many ways a material can be classed as sustainable but rarely are many materials fully sustainable.  A truly sustainable material is one that comes from the land, earth, mud from your block, timber from trees from your land but not many can actually have the luxury of building with materials source from their own property.

It’s not easy to have fully sustainable materials, but if you can choose as many sustainable materials that use renewable materials like FSC plantation timbers, as well as using materials that are grown or made as local as possible thus minimising transportation from manufacture to your property. 

A major aspect of sustainable materials is the energy used to produce and transport the material to your site.  Low Embodied energy is what you are looking for and materials such as timber have a low embodied energy to produce. Concrete, aluminium, steel and brick all have a high embodied energy and are more expensive to transport, particularly to Regional areas. Hence locally sourced materials use lower embodied energy to transport.  Using Low energy embodied materials will get you closer to creating a carbon neutral home. Great for your health and wellbeing as well as supporting the future wellbeing of our environment.


Recyclable materials are another aspect of sustainable materials; it is another form of low energy to produce because they already exist & if they come from the existing building or within the local area, minimal transport.  It can be as small as using some old timber beams as feature shelves or old bricks as a feature walls or paving etc.  You can re-invent a use for an old material or just give it a new lease of life, with a little bit of effort & time you can renew an old material into a brand new one for minimal cost.


List of sustainable materials.

                                           Embodied energy                             Carbon 

Mud bricks                                    Low                                               Low

Rammed earth                             “                                                     “

Renewable plantation timber    “                                                     “

Local milled timber planks         “                                                     “

Recycle materials                         “                                                     “


SIPS panels.                                  Mid                                               Low

Weathertex cladding                   Mid                                               Low

Hardie Scyon cladding                Mid                                               Mid


Clay brick                                      High                                              Mid

Recycle brick                                Low                                               Low

Concrete                                       High                                              High

Pot ash concrete                         Mid                                                Mid

Steel                                              High                                               High

Aluminium                                   High                                               High

Glass                                             Mid                                                Mid


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