What is Natural Building Material, and Why is it Trending?

What is Natural Building Material, and Why is it Trending?

It is an exciting time for sustainable development in the construction industry. Fundermax is a globally trusted leader in phenolics, and while phenolic panels are not a natural building material in the organic sense, they do pair well with other materials – including many emerging natural materials. Additionally, as a company, Fundermax shares a like-minded passion and desire for furthering sustainable construction methods and materials.

Here, we want to continue to support architects as the industry continues to innovate and inspire them to create unique, modern, sustainable designs for their clients.

What is Natural Building Material?

An exciting sustainable development in the construction industry centers on developing organic, natural building materials. Some of these materials are even designed to mimic live organisms in some way (for example, by self-repairing), and often this effect is achieved by adding actual living bacteria or fungi to the materials. There is even early research into the use of bacteria to create building materials from scratch.

Benefits of Natural Building Material

These types of natural building materials may offer exciting practical benefits like self-repair or self-replication, and just as valuable is the potential for developing carbon offsetting construction materials. (Many of the organic processes in these materials actually draw in CO2 from the atmosphere.) Compare this to traditional concrete, which produces up to 8% of global emissions. It is important to note, however, that the technology for these kinds of natural building materials is still largely at an experimental stage.

How Can Natural Building Material Combat Pollution?

Studies show that cement is the most commonly used material in construction and one of the largest contributors to industrial pollution. The hope in developing organic natural building materials is to help reduce the environmental impact of conventional construction materials by developing carbon offsetting materials.

Why is Natural Building Material Trending?

These products and ideas are growing in popularity along with the growing push to reduce our carbon footprint and develop more sustainable construction. An article out of Penn State University explains it this way: “To become more livable for more people, cities themselves will need to become smarter, with buildings, bridges and infrastructure that are no longer static but dynamic, able to adapt and respond to what’s going on around them. If not exactly alive, these structures will need to be life-like, in important ways.” For that, they say, the structures will need to incorporate organic, natural materials.

Meanwhile, architects are left with the challenge of creating beautiful, unique designs that please their clients while also prioritizing the planet wherever possible by using sustainable construction materials. As carbon offsetting building materials, organic and natural products offer a unique solution. 

Types of Natural Building Materials

There are many types of natural materials in development – and as a reminder, developing organic, natural building materials is still largely experimental. Here are a few examples:

1. Bacteria Bricks

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder hope that one day these types of bricks can create structures that absorb air pollution (rather than contribute to it). To this end, they’re working with bacteria that can absorb CO2. The experimental bricks they’ve produced have shown to be as durable as conventional bricks.

2. Bio Cement

This is a type of brick or tile that is actually commercially available and boasts the lowest carbon footprint on the market. The product, made by Biomason, is called Biolith and can be used vertically or horizontally, indoors and out.

3. Self-Healing Concrete

This material, developed at New York’s Binghamton University and Rutgers University, is not intended to be a direct replacement for traditional building materials, but rather it’s meant to enhance existing materials. In the case of self-healing concrete, fungus spores are mixed with concrete. When the concrete hardens, the spores become dormant – that is, until cracks form in the concrete. As water and oxygen make their way into the cracks, the fungus spores grow. The growing spores end up sealing the cracks, and the spores go dormant again – until new cracks form. The cycle then repeats itself, endlessly self-repairing. 

4. Self-Healing Silica

Similarly, researchers at the University of Minnesota combined bacteria with silica (commonly used in plaster) to allow the silica to self-repair, or self-heal, by activating dormant bacteria when the silica becomes damaged.

5. Green Roofs

You’ve likely seen “living roofs” or rooftops featuring gardens, but green roofs are included in the list of natural building materials as they are now being designed with eco-friendliness as the primary or even the only objective, and not necessarily for the aesthetic appeal.

How Can I Use Natural Building Materials with Phenolic Panels?

Fundermax phenolic panels pair very well with a wide variety of materials - natural or not. Particularly because our phenolic panels are so durable, there is no concern about panels becoming damaged by new or emerging natural materials. 

With phenolic panels, you can lean hard into sustainable construction without losing creative freedom. Thanks to the broad range of decor options, architects and designers can work with their clients to create something unique, modern, sustainable, and long-lasting!

Pairing natural building materials with a highly sustainable product like Fundermax phenolic panels offers architects maximum design flexibility while remaining environmentally friendly. Our phenolic panels are made 65% using kraft paper, which is sustainably sourced through FSC.

Additionally, Max Compact Exterior and Max Compact Interior F-quality panels are FSC certified and consist of 65% natural fibers. This may contribute to MRc "Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Sourcing of Raw Materials" under "Leadership Extraction Practices."

Max Compact Interior, Max Compact Interior Plus, and Max Resistance2 contains 100% Post Consumer Recycled Paper. These products contain 65% paper by weight and may contribute to MRc “Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Sourcing of Raw Materials”

Fundermax provides ultimate material transparency in our EPD and HPD so architects and building owners can be completely confident in our products.

Contact Fundermax today to learn more about how you can prioritize sustainable construction without sacrificing design.

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