Natural Fibers – The Better Building Materials
As you begin your eco-friendly home building research, many resources will discuss building with natural fibers and recommend using raw, unprocessed materials in order to maintain a healthy home and be environmentally sustainable. We’ve compiled a quick list of some of these fibers – but we’ve also provided links to some great companies/products that you might find useful!
Wood – Obvious, Yet Worthy!
Sustainably harvested wood products are the obvious choice for many needs around an eco-friendly home. It’s pretty common knowledge that timber-framed homes are the “standard” in the US for most homes. Wood is relatively low-cost and when harvested by practicing sustainable standards (FSC rated lumber) is a great renewable resource. It’s overall life cycle provides carbon storing benefits and is why using proportionally higher amounts of timber (versus concretes, steels, bricks, etc.) in homes is one way to lower a homes environmental impact. Additionally, when specifically using solid varieties of flooring, siding, cabinetry, or roofing, you will get a durable, chemical free (when paired with low VOC finishes) product that have been used for generations. One reason wood products had become less popular in recent decades was due to the low-cost nature of petroleum based alternatives – ex. vinyl siding, fiber cement siding, vinyl flooring, particle board (wood pulp plus plastic adhesive fillers), etc. These are all produced at the expense of human health and environmental wellness.
Where wood is great and adds character to a home in many areas, there are other areas where alternative, natural fibers shine! The challenge with the idea of building with natural fibers is that, historically, there had been limited offerings, which required a certain expertise during construction. This made them difficult for the average homeowner to adopt, or required the homeowner to make performance or aesthetic sacrifices.
That is not the case anymore.
There are so many great, creative, and progressive companies producing amazing natural fiber products today! Here are some specific examples of a few products you can and should consider using in your next home project to make your home more sustainable and healthy!
Hemp – The Super Fiber!
HempWood® is a hard flooring option that uses soy based binders (instead of formaldehyde based plastic adhesives used in laminates or vinyl products) and layers of shredded hemp. It looks and performs in similar ways to hardwoods.
Wool – Yes, From Sheep!
Wool insulation – either loose fill blow-in or batt style insulations are great for providing a moisture resistant, breathable, and fire-resistant thermal barrier. Completely natural and highly insulating – this product is becoming increasingly popular from brands like Havlock Wool or Black Mountain Wool.
Wool carpet and rugs are the best eco-friendly way when looking to add comfort, softness, and warmth to a home’s floors. Naturally anti-microbial, sheep’s wool is durable and can come in a huge variety of weaves, patterns, colors to meet your needs. It’s plastic free chemical free, so you can feel good about your family and pets being in close contact with it for years. Nature’s Carpet is a high quality manufacturer to consider.
Choosing natural fibers for your home’s build and finishes is the way to go for preserving indoor air quality, keeping your family healthy, and to ensure your home is eco-friendly in the long run.
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