Sustainable Materials in Architecture

Sustainable materials are defined as those which conserve natural resources, reduce waste and energy consumption, are durable and environmentally responsible, and often come from recycled or renewable sources. These low-impact materials may also be known as low-impact.

Bamboo is one of the leading sustainable building materials. It grows quickly, is strong and insulates well; used extensively in flooring, siding and furniture manufacturing.


Bamboo is an exceptionally fast-growing grass that can be grown and harvested without deforestation of its native environment. Used extensively in construction applications ranging from flooring and wall paneling to thatch roofing and water pipes, bamboo also boasts unique flexibility which enables it to be bent into unusual shapes for unique uses.

CO-LAB has designed the Luum Temple as an architectural work with bamboo that features arched vaults that support each other to emphasize interdependence and showcase how connected life truly is. Inspired by concrete shell structures, its designers used an unconventional bending and assembly method to connect flat sections of bamboo together.

This project highlights bamboo’s versatility and earthquake resilience. Furthermore, the project shows that bamboo works seamlessly with earthen construction techniques such as light straw clay or wood chip clay for increased capacities and expanded possibilities of fully regenerative solutions that satisfy human needs while at the same time revitalizing ecosystems.


Cork is one of the most sustainable materials used in architecture due to its durability, insulation and aesthetic qualities. As an adaptable material that can be used in multiple ways – wall panels and acoustic walls being just two examples – cork has one of the lowest heat conductivity rates among natural materials while its air pockets make it an excellent insulator. Furthermore, cork naturally resists mold growth while remaining non-toxic.

Cork is a beloved building material of European homes and now it is being introduced into US homes as a renewable construction material for various eco-friendly construction projects. Harvested manually from cork oak tree bark without harming them, cork harvesting provides an eco-friendly solution that does not deplete resources like paper.

Other sustainable materials becoming more and more prevalent in the US include sheep’s wool for insulating buildings, paper bricks made from recycled waste materials and pollution-absorbing concrete that uses gypsum and iron oxide to neutralize emissions. It is important to also take into account any economic costs of using sustainable materials – even those designed with environmental consideration in mind can have significant effects on energy costs for buildings.


Buildings consume increasing amounts of natural resources, prompting innovative sustainable materials to be designed that reduce their ecological impact. Green building materials have now become part of many architectural projects around the globe.

Pinatex, an innovative alternative to leather, is an innovative material made entirely from pineapple leaves produced as byproducts from existing agriculture – no additional water or land resources are needed for its production and the process generates significantly fewer CO2 emissions than its traditional counterpart.

Recycled steel is another popular environmentally friendly material. This low-carbon material can be used to create structural components and add beautiful design elements for any structure, while offering significant energy efficiency benefits. Some eco-conscious homes make use of rammed earth houses built using local soil and clay from around their property to build strong yet energy-efficient homes; other builders reclaimed old barn wood to construct buildings; while some innovators are even exploring how fungi and algae might produce materials useful in building construction.

Recycled Plastics

Recycled plastics have fast become one of the most eco-friendly building materials. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and giving second life to tons of single-use plastic that would otherwise end up in landfills, recycled plastic is helping improve energy efficiency within buildings. Insulation made from this material also aids energy conservation.

Bamboo is another eco-friendly building material that can be used both structurally and decoratively. Bamboo grows quickly, can be harvested without harming trees, is extremely strong, can withstand seismic shocks, absorbs more CO2 than wood and helps preserve our environment.

Mud and mycelium fungi are two other sustainable materials. Mud bricks have long been an ancient tradition used in various cultures across time; their production requires less energy than concrete and steel production processes. Mycelium fungi is also an organic sustainable material originating from mushroom roots.