Sustainable Building Materials - Make your Home Environmentally Friendly

It’s now a widely accepted fact that the activities of humankind are damaging our planet and, at Build it Yourself, we are certainly finding that interest in using sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials has never been so high among our clients.

If you are planning a house extension and would like it to be as environmentally friendly as possible, it’s a good idea to choose materials that do not use a huge amount of the earth’s finite resources in their construction. Concrete is an obvious and popular choice, but here’s the lowdown on five sustainable building materials that you might not have considered: 

Traditional Cob

Cob is an ancient building material that is still used to build dwellings in many parts of the world. It consists of a mixture of clay-based soil with water, straw, and sometimes sand. These elements are thoroughly mixed together and then used to form walls or floors.

Cob’s unique structure means that it is particularly ideal for creating organic structures. Although building with cob is labour intensive, it is extremely sustainable and has many other benefits, being: 

  • Affordable
  • Energy efficient
  • Noise insulation
  • Healthy – as long as it is kept free of damp

Recycled steel

Steel is the most recycled metal in Europe and the USA, partly because there is no reduction in its quality or strength after the recycling process – it is the one material has a truly closed recycling loop, unlike paper and plastics.

Frequently used for interior frames in the construction industry, steel is a superior material with many advantages. Recycled steel reduces landfill and the use of natural resources and less energy is used to recycle steel than to make it from iron ore. Overall, steel is a versatile, cost-effective, durable and low-maintenance metal that deserves a place in any house extension. 


Bamboo is a highly sustainable building material as it grows rapidly in a variety of climates and uses little energy, especially if organically grown without chemicals and pesticides. This means that harvesting it has a minimal environmental impact.

Bamboo plantations also offer a haven for wildlife and can be grown in areas with poor soil while its roots help to prevent soil erosion. And bamboo is undoubtedly a fantastic building material, did you know that it is twice as strong as concrete and, amazingly, slightly stronger than steel! 

Although mainly associated with homes in SE Asia, bamboo as a building material is catching on in the West, as people become increasingly keen to investigate alternative means of construction. 


Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly building materials around. Using wood in your project is certainly a green choice as long as you choose wood sourced from a renewable and responsibly managed forest.

Trees absorb carbon, reducing the amount in the atmosphere, and are a naturally renewable resource. Wood is extremely durable and can be easily recycled at the end of its life. Research from the Southern Forests Association suggests that wood is the most environmentally friendly choice as a building material. Added to the fact that wood is cost-effective and scores highly when it comes to aesthetic appeal, wood is always a key material for any project that aims to have a minimal environmental impact. 

Mycelium composite

Innovative architects and scientists have been experimenting with mycelium composite, a substance that combines mushrooms with rice and glass fines to create a building material that forms a ‘ lightweight yet robust bricks’.

Mycelium are the thin root-like fibres from fungi which run underneath the earth. When these fibres are dried, they can be used as an enormously strong, mould, water and fire-resistant construction material that can be organically grown into specific forms, saving time and energy.

Mycelium composite is a wholly organic material that has been sparked interest across the architectural and construction sector because of its numerous positive implications. Use of mycelium is still at the experimental stage but it is an emerging material that could help to reduce landfill waste and deliver massive sustainability and energy reducing benefits.

Mycelium composite is: 

  • Low carbon
  • A termite deterrent
  • Affordable
  • Ideal for fire resistant cladding and insulation material
  • Versatile – the structure means that it is possible to grow the bricks into many different shapes


Ferrock is another emergent material that is being heralded as a stronger and greener alternative to the ubiquitous concrete. Developed in Arizona by David Stone, Ferrock is made from waste steel dust, a by-product of industrial processes, and silica from ground up glass. Once the mixture has dried, it is harder than Portland cement and even absorbs carbon dioxide in its dried state, helping to make it even more of a carbon negative product.

If you would like to find out more about how you can build your own home using eco-friendly materials or would like advice about the design or the project management of your build, contact us at Build it Yourself.

Between us, we have over sixty years’ experience and have the contacts and knowledge to help you bring your self-build to life. Our services are specifically designed to take the stress and uncertainty of each stage of your self-build project. Call us today and let’s start to get your project off the ground!