Well over 100 years ago, gypsum drywall was invented – and it’s been used in the construction industry ever since. However, new innovations in sustainable and reusable materials are being rolled out on a consistent basis. This non-stop ecologically-friendly movement makes it easier than ever for general contractors to “go green”. An increasing number of contractors are already familiar with the many alternatives to traditional construction materials. This means an increasing number of clients are enjoying the long-term savings that using green materials can provide.
Eco-friendly construction is at the top of the list in every area of design and build and continues to expand in residential and non-residential construction. No matter what you call it – wallboard, sheetrock or drywall – the number of eco-friendly alternatives is constantly growing.
This advanced green wallboard contains no gypsum, wastes no resources to produce and contains 85 percent industrial waste by-products. The recycled materials used in manufacturing EcoRock wallboard come from steel and cement manufacturing facilities. The procedure to recycle those materials into a recyclable construction product uses a low amount of energy because the curing and drying process is done naturally – without the aid of chemicals or heat. A standard 4 by 8-foot sheet of EcoRock typically costs about $20.
The industrial materials are mixed with water until a paste is formed. That’s poured into pre-sized forms and allowed to harden. The finished product is mold- and insect-resistant and produces about 60-percent less dust than drywall during installation. EcoRock can be disposed of in landfills without harming the environment.
Made of the waste by-products from rice straw and wheat, Durra Panels uses the natural polymer in the straw as a binding agent during processing. This agricultural waste is what’s left after the grains go through a burning process that releases carbon emissions. The panels are formed by first heating and pressing the materials to form a core using the straw polymer.
Next, non-toxic, water-based PVA glue (the same as used in book binding) is used to securely wrap each core with lengths of recycled Kraft liner paper until a panel is formed. Durra Panels can be safely discarded in landfills, used as fertilizer mulch or recycled. They provide high thermal insulation and are naturally fire- and humidity-resistant. They’re available in a wide range of widths, lengths and finishes. The plain panels take paint well and have a smoother surface than drywall. At $28 per meter, these panels are typically used on high-end construction jobs.
Homasote, the brand name for an eco-friendly, cellulose-based fiberboard that’s been in production since 1909, is a well-known product in the industry. The acoustical panels are made of 98-percent recycled materials and are used in hundreds of applications besides wall coverings, including floors, ceilings and roofs. The manufacturing process conserves more than 750,000 trees annually and uses about 30 million pounds of solid waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. A 4 by 8-foot wall panel costs between $20 and $25.
Magnesium Oxide Board
While mineral magnesium has been being used in the building industry for centuries, magnesium oxide board was discovered more than 40 years ago during repairs to the Great Wall of China. This green wallboard is ideal for use in the same applications as drywall.
Unlike sheetrock, MgO isn’t a paper-faced wallboard, although the smooth-face grade is comparable. It’s usually available in white, light gray or beige and includes several additional face textures, strengths, and densities. It’s fire-, mold- and insect-resistant, waterproof and extremely durable. The cost of this material is the most comparable to drywall. Depending on your supplier and the number of 4 by 8-foot sheets you order, the cost varies between $3 to $10 or more per sheet.
There are many ways to go green in the construction industry and demand for using such materials is increasing. Staying informed about sustainable materials and applications can help you expand your expertise while benefiting the environment.