Choosing Healthier Building Materials and Methods

The use of responsible building materials and practices is part of a growing worldwide initiative in the building industry.

Buildings are responsible for a substantial amount of the global use of energy, resource consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Almost 40% of CO2 emissions in the United States are from our buildings—even more than the industrial or transportation sectors. One way to offset these environmental and financial costs is to use healthy and sustainable construction materials and practices.

The Cost of Healthy Building

A popular misconception within the industry is that going green will cost you more money. However, according to the World Green Building Council, using a green approach in construction doesn’t have to cost more than traditional design and construction.

“A landmark study by the firm Davis Langdon found no significant difference between the average cost of a LEED-certified building and other new construction in the same category: there are expensive green buildings, and there are expensive conventional buildings. Certification as a green building was not a significant indicator of construction cost,” says Nora Knox for USGBC.

LEED-certified Nippon Life Marunouchi Garden Tower in Japan Image source

This becomes especially true when builders and designers incorporate healthy materials and environmentally sound practices from day one.

Healthy buildings also contribute to long-term value and savings in terms of heating, cooling, and electrical costs. That can be appealing to investors who value the lower risk that comes with reduced long-term expenses.

The market is responding dramatically to the savings and environmental benefits of healthy buildings as consumers increasingly seek eco-friendly projects. The 2016 Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends SmartMarket Report, concluded that the worldwide green building sector will continue to double every three years.

Healthier Upgrades

LEED is known as a gold standard for excellence in healthy, sustainable construction across the world. There are currently over 90,000 LEED building projects in 167 countries. By using green building materials, projects can meet LEED standards and, in turn, market the project as LEED certified.


When it comes to healthy building materials, there are many different options that offer good value depending on the type of project, location, and target market.

One of the best ways to achieve healthy building design (and obtain LEED credits) is to use healthier materials especially in insulating components. Traditional insulation materials like fiberglass and mineral wool are efficient, but have an impact on the environment as their production requires extensive use of fossil fuels.

There are a number of green insulation alternatives which can certainly suit the different needs of your projects. One example is sheep’s wool which is completely sustainable, 100% natural, and has better insulating properties that some man-made alternatives. Sheep’s wool is often thicker than mineral wool and glass wool cellulose—as a bonus, it requires less energy to manufacture.

Fire Safety = Healthier Buildings

Another component of healthy buildings is safety. Planning for emergencies and natural disasters is key to healthy building design, and this includes the steps taken to ensure a building has fire and smoke protection for its occupants.

Buildings without automatic fire protection can be expected to generate a greater volume of burned material in the case of a fire—materials that eventually end up in landfills.

“Fire sprinklers have been stopping fire growth and minimizing greenhouse and toxic gas production for over 130 years,” states Dominick Kasmauskas for SFPE. “Fire in buildings contributes to the production of CO2 and potable water consumption. While the impact of building fires are considered in the code process, they are not addressed in the green process.”

Ensure healthy building standards in your design by incorporating not only sustainable materials and strategies, but also protection from smoke and fire risks. (Looking for additional strategies for smoke and fire protection? Check out our recent article here.)

As you can see, healthy building materials offer not only environmental advantages but are also a good business decision. Healthy buildings appeal to the new generation of buyers and investors and have lower long-term operating costs and environmental impacts. Choosing green, eco-friendly materials is the first step towards making the construction industry a healthier one.