The 9 Healthiest Renewable Building Materials You Can Build

A detached two-storey house with a garage and driveway surrounded by a lawn. In the bottom left is a cartoon hand holding a plant (white with a partly-transparent green background). In the bottom right is a cartoon person with a heart shown on their chest (white with a partly-transparent blue background). Across the top are the words "The 9 Healthiest Renewable Building Materials You Can Build."

Studies have discovered that we are all surrounded by toxic materials that can harm us and the environment.

Some construction materials contain chemical compounds that release toxic gases into indoor air resulting in poor indoor air quality.

In extreme cases, this can result in what’s become known as “sick building syndrome,” where occupants feel ill, often reporting headaches and respiratory issues.

That’s obviously something to avoid, but what are some of the healthiest renewable building materials you can use to create a healthier space for your home?

Some of the healthiest and most sustainable building materials are stone, bamboo, cork, and unfinished or reclaimed wood. Some additional green and healthy materials that can be used around your house are copper, wool, milk paint, and water-based latex varnishes and sealants.

This article will explain everything you need to know about the above materials.

I will also answer a few additional questions about eco-friendly and healthy building materials, so you can look after your family’s health and reduce the environmental impacts of your building project.

Let’s get going!

1. Stone

A stone wall with different sized pieces of stone arranged in an irregular pattern.
A stone wall is a popular choice of building technique in areas where this material is abundant. It looks very natural and blends in well to the area if local stone is used.

Using stone as a building material for your home has several advantages, including the following.

  • Fire resistant.
  • Pest resistant.
  • Highly durable.
  • Improved indoor air quality.
  • Low maintenance.

You can use stone for the exterior of your home, but you can also use it for flooring, stairs, or countertops on the inside. It’s a versatile material that lasts a very long time and doesn’t require much maintenance.

Stone occurs naturally, so you won’t have to worry about harmful production processes.

Moreover, the stone is not treated with harmful chemicals, so you won’t have to worry about this material emitting dangerous fumes that could harm you.

Stone isn’t a single building material. Instead, it comprises a wide variety of stones, all of which can look very different.

2. Reclaimed Wood (One Of The Top Eco-Friendly Building Materials)

A series of wooden planks that have a distressed appearance due to wear and tear. A few splinters can be seen and the varnish has rubbed off in places.
Reclaimed wood can be cost-effective and is eco-friendly. Re-used wood has character, too, which makes it more interesting.

Wood is an excellent option for your house’s exterior and interior. Not only does it have a certain rustic and cozy aesthetic, but it can also be very healthy and environmentally friendly if you know what to look for.

Reclaimed wood is wood that has been used in the past for some other purpose, so on top of being very sustainable, it’s wood that has a history behind it, which makes it more interesting.

If the wood was originally grown and harvested from a sustainably-managed forest (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council), then you know it came from a renewable source and is very eco-friendly.

If you’re using reclaimed wood on your floor, it will need a coat to be protected and look better. I recommend using one of the water-based sealants described below.

3. Unfinished Hardwood

An unfinished hardwood floor in good condition with bright light reflecting back along the top edge.
Unfinished hardwood floors are a popular choice in many homes, especially if they are going for the rustic look.

If you can’t find or don’t want to use reclaimed wood, you can choose unfinished hardwood for your floors. As the name suggests, unfinished wood is raw, unprocessed wood containing no hazardous chemicals.

As long as it’s sourced from responsible logging companies, unfinished wood is sustainable and has a small carbon footprint.

Moreover, it is not treated with harmful chemicals that could cause health issues when inhaled.

However, unfinished wood is not well-protected, so you must find ways to ensure water will not penetrate or physically damage it.

4. Bamboo

Interwoven bamboo poles forming a wall.
Bamboo is a flexible construction material that can be used for a wide range of applications. These include scaffolding around buildings during construction, and structural elements of sustainable buildings.

Bamboo is sustainable because it has an incredibly high growth rate compared to similar plants used to produce building materials.

A bamboo tree can grow to its full size in just a few years, which is a much shorter time than most trees. Moreover, bamboo is lighter and requires less energy for transport and building, meaning it has much lower embodied energy than other construction materials.

You can use bamboo as a building material for the exterior and interior of your house. It is durable, doesn’t require much maintenance, and creates a unique look for your home.

One thing to be aware of when building with bamboo is that home insurance companies often charge higher insurance rates due to fire concerns.

We have a guide to building with bamboo that you should read if you’re interested in going that route. You can find it here.

5. Copper

Copper pipes running along a wall in parallel. The pipes are held in position on the wall by steel clips.
Copper pipes are an excellent option for carrying water around your home. They don’t allow harmful chemicals to contaminate your water, unlike lead, which is extremely harmful to health and used to be commonplace in plumbing systems.

The material your water pipes are made from can significantly impact your health.

In the past, there have been issues with lead and plastic pipes, which could contaminate your water with harmful chemicals.

Experts believe copper pipes are your house’s healthiest and most sustainable option.

Copper doesn’t contaminate your water with any toxins. Moreover, it is pretty sustainable since it’s easily recyclable.

6. Wool

A cream-colored wool carpet in close up. The individual piles are clearly visible.
Wool carpets are made from a renewable resource, which the sheep need to get rid of each year. They use minimal toxic chemicals and are warm and cosy in winter time.

Carpets are not ideal in terms of health and sustainability. Most of them are treated with harmful toxins and are not produced sustainably.

If you can, avoid carpets altogether and use the materials mentioned above for your floors.

However, if you want to use carpets for a cozier look and warmer feeling, you should get natural, untreated wool carpets. Make sure the producers of these carpets have green certifications that guarantee that the fibers are natural and made sustainably.

7. Milk Paint

A steel tin of paint with a clean paintbrush lying across it. The paint pot is still sealed.
Milk paint is made from natural ingredients and cuts out the harsh chemicals that many alternatives use.

When it comes to paints, you need to know that most of them contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which can pose a health risk when emitted.

Unfortunately, most wall paint types contain these chemicals, but some contain much less than others.

The healthiest option is to use no toxic organic milk paint, which is made of natural ingredients like water, clay, and milk protein.

Not only is milk paint produced in an environmentally-friendly way, but it is also much healthier than most paints because it doesn’t emit toxic fumes. This helps to maintain much more healthy indoor air quality in your home.

8. Water-Based Latex Paint, Varnishes, Sealants

An open tin of water-based latex paint.
Water-based paints contain fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to human health.

Milk paint is great, but it can be costly and sometimes chips faster than other types of paint.

Some healthy and sustainable alternatives exist if you don’t want to use it. For instance, you can use water-based paint made of latex, a much healthier building material.

Less Volatile Organic Compounds

You should check to ensure your paint contains much less VOC per liter, so you won’t have to worry about toxic fumes. To make sure the paint is sustainable, only buy from companies that have been certified.

The same criteria should apply to varnishes, sealants, and finishes. Typically, these materials contain many VOCs, so they can be highly toxic if inhaled.

Make sure to choose water-based products for a more healthy home.

9. Cork

A closeup of a cork tile showing the beautiful texture and natural patterns.
Cork is a renewable material that is very eco-friendly, non-toxic and a good thermal insulator. It also looks beautiful in your home. What’s not to like?

When it comes to choosing insulation for your house, you will be faced with a variety of options.

However, not all are sustainable, and many can be toxic, so you must be careful. Most insulation materials contain chemicals to make them more effective or less flammable.

In this case, the healthiest and most eco-friendly insulation option would be cork board. Cork is made of natural materials and is recyclable.

Moreover, it’s healthier than alternatives since it doesn’t contain many of the chemicals that can cause health issues contained in other insulation options.

Thanks to its impermeability, cork is also very resistant to mold and mildew.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let´s take a look at a few more questions you might have about eco-friendly and healthy building materials for your home.

What Is a Natural Material Used in Buildings?

Natural materials used in buildings are substances extracted or sourced from nature and are not processed or transformed in any way. Some examples are bamboo, stone, copper, and clay, which can be used for various purposes around your house.

Other natural materials include wool, cotton, and rattan. Make sure that your natural materials are not treated with harmful chemicals to protect them or make them look a certain way.

What Is the Most Eco-Friendly Building Material?

Three visually appealing bamboo poles. The poles are dark brown and the texture and nodes are clearly visible.
Bamboo is a beautiful natural material, full of visual interest that can bring character to any home.

There is no way of determining the absolute most eco-friendly building material, given that different materials can have different standards, but bamboo is close to being the common choice among experts. It’s sustainable, doesn’t require treatments, and requires less energy to transport and use.

What Is the Healthiest Building Material?

Bamboo is the healthiest building material because it’s completely natural and requires minimal to no treatment. Stone is also very high on the list of the healthiest building materials. Regarding paint, milk paint is the best choice since it’s completely organic and contains no toxic chemicals.

How To Build a Toxic-Free House With Good Indoor Air Quality

A woman with long hair opening a window in a brightly lit home.
Building a house with natural, eco-friendly and non-toxic materials will help you to ensure good indoor air quality, minimizing the risk of health problems and making for a more comfortable living environment.

Everyone deserves a toxic-free house without harmful gasses or chemicals that can cause significant damage to their health and the environment.

Nowadays, it’s easier to find and source healthy building materials and methods to help you have a toxic-free environment.

To build a non-toxic house, you should avoid plastics and synthetic materials. You should also ensure that the paint, varnishes, and coats you use don’t contain too many VOCs, which can cause health problems. In any case, make sure that your house is adequately ventilated.

To identify a healthy building material, seek out companies that mention green certifications and give information about how their product is produced.

Is It Better To Use Natural Materials To Build a House?

It is always better to use natural materials to build your house, as long as they are not treated with toxic chemicals and are sourced in a sustainable way. However, using natural materials to build your home may be more expensive than the alternative.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 Of The Most Non-Toxic Sustainable Building Materials that you might find interesting to read for more information.

What Are the Four Most Environmentally Friendly Building Materials?

Throughout this article, I have described several building materials generally regarded as environmentally friendly. However, some are more sustainable and have a smaller carbon footprint than others.

Stone, bamboo, cork, and reclaimed wood are among the world’s most environmentally friendly materials. They are entirely natural and require very little modification. Their modification and transport require less energy and release fewer harmful toxins than other materials.

To learn more about sustainable building materials, read our article, “23 Sustainable Building Materials You Can Use Today.”

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