What would you like our readers to know if they’re considering using eco-friendly or sustainable building materials for their homes and why?

Sustainability should be viewed from a holistic perspective – a cradle to recycle approach.  In other words, don’t just consider a product for its ‘eco-friendliness’ in its end state or in the application thereof, but also consider the impact of the product on the environment during its manufacturing process as well as disposal and possible recycling thereof. When it comes to building materials in context of sustainability, there are number of important attributes to consider.  Firstly, do not compromise on quality. Being eco-friendly is no excuse for poor quality.  It is possible to have a superior quality product that is also kinder to the environment.  AfriSam’s All Purpose Cement is a great example of this – it is a great quality cement with a fairly low carbon footprint. The higher strength, good workability and setting times means that you use less cement when producing quality bricks, mortar and plaster, but as important, is that you also use less water for the same amount of flow, which gives you sufficient time to work the product without having to keep adding water all the time.   Durability of the building material is also very important. More harm can be done to the environment (and your pocket) if you constantly need to repair or replace building materials.  Always look for building materials that are locally produced as transporting the product over long distances also impacts negatively on the environment. In the broader sense, ‘sustainability’ does not only refer to the environment, but take people into consideration as well.  In purchasing your building materials, product, are you sustaining jobs and preserving the livelihoods of local citizens – what is the point of preserving our planet for future generations if they are unlikely to be alive and wealthy enough to enjoy it. 

What are the pros and cons of choosing eco-friendly building materials?

On a positive note, we have seen great advancements in the responsible production and manufacture of environmentally building materials and these have become more accessible and affordable to consumers over the years.  As eco-friendly products and building materials become more prevalent in society, our beautiful planet can but only benefit, even if it is only likely to benefit future generations.  At AfriSam we have ensured that we are able to offer customers easy access to environmentally responsible cement and concrete products, however, this may not be the case with all building material producers and suppliers. Unfortunately, as a ‘con’, easy access to affordable eco-friendly building materials may especially be restricted to the larger metropolitan areas in our country, while outlying areas may struggle to find a variety of products or will pay more for sustainable building materials. Although this may not necessarily be the case for products like AfriSam’s All Purpose Cement, which is available throughout the country, there are some supplementary products like quality sand and stone as well as skilled artisans who may not necessarily be available in certain areas where a large portion of our population are in need of quality and affordable housing as well as excess to essential services.

What are some of the most exciting innovations in eco-friendly/sustainable building materials right now and why?

We have seen truly innovative alternatives to traditional construction materials and methods.  These include lightweight structural concrete products, concrete produced from recycled aggregates, graphite polystyrene, rammed earth, aerated concrete products, recycled plastic and many more.  In some cases, such as recycled plastic, waste that would have ended up in landfills are now repurposed in a constructive manner, which positively impacts the environment. Products such as aerated concrete offers great insular properties which allows for far more energy efficient homes.  The more we can incorporate the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle in construction materials and methods the better for our planet and our future generations. 

If our readers had to choose one area of the home to focus on for eco-friendly builds, what would you suggest and why?

Making sure your home is properly insulated will probably make the greatest difference in terms of its overall energy efficiency and eco-friendliness.  As your roof is the area that receives the brunt of the sun’s heat energy, start with your roof.  Also make sure that your walls are well insulated.  Instead of using traditional bricks, try some of the innovative alternative building solutions mentioned above – these have inherently better insular properties.  Lastly, also consider your windows and make sure these are double-glazed.  Include as many energy efficient or eco-friendly building materials as possible when planning a new build, trying to retrofit materials afterwards will most likely be more costly.

Person to be quoted: Richard Tomes, AfriSam Sales & Marketing Executive

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