The Evolution of Sustainable Construction

By: Emmanuel A.

With the construction industry moving towards a zero-carbon future, recycled and sustainable building materials are becoming more and more popular. Around the world and in America, governments are passing stricter construction laws in an attempt to combat the global climate change crisis. Sustainable building solutions are on the rise. Like never before, we are in the generation of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Whether from plastic, food, or waste, things are being reused to produce construction materials.

In New York, buildings account for approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. New York City aims to address these emissions as part of a plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2050. One of the most ambitious plans for reducing emissions in the nation, Local Law 97 was included in the Climate Mobilization Act, and passed by the City Council in April 2019 as part of the Mayor’s New York City Green New Deal.

With this law in effect, buildings over 25,000 sq ft are required to adhere to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions limits by 2024.

There will be even more strict limits, scheduled to come into effect in 2030 as the goal is to significantly lower the amount of emissions produced by NYC’s largest buildings by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Since almost 25 % of the U.S. waste stream is from construction and demolition of buildings, roads, and bridges, recycling/downcycling solutions for construction waste and sustainable materials play a huge role in reducing overall carbon emissions.


In the last decade If you didn’t know, recycling/downcycling solutions for construction waste and sustainable materials have become an integral part of the construction process. The three most common recycled materials are Steel, Asphalt and concrete.

Steel has become a reliable material for construction that complies with low carbon initiatives and demands of the future without compromise a construction’s practicality, design, or cost-efficiency due to structural steelwork and lightweight gauge steel having an infinite reuse and recycle lifespan

The recovery rate from demolition in the US is 99% for structural steelwork for all steel construction products which far exceeds those for any other construction material. Because of the strength-to-weight ratio of steel as a construction material, steel has a high economic value at all stages of its life cycle.

By utilizing more recyclable building materials, the industry contributes to more sustainable development by reducing waste and by saving primary resources. Recycling materials such as steel and other metals also save energy and reduce carbon emissions, since it requires less energy to re-melt scrap than it does to produce new metal from primary resources, i.e., iron ore.


Of course, just recycling and downcycling solutions alone will not solve the problem. This brings us into the generation of a construction and building evolution. Through the years, there’s been a variety of new building systems and sustainable material productions being explored. Other countries, such as the UK, have already implemented some of these. With the push for the construction industry to significantly lower its carbon imprint, we are heading for new construction with unconventional materials. From using waste and turning into construction materials, to reverting to using ancient building practices. One of the examples of innovative and sustainable building materials that would be extremely beneficial in the future of construction is Hempcrete.


Hempcrete is a bio-composite which is made of the core of the hemp plant “Shiv” mixed with a lime-based binder. Shiv is woody and is high in silica content which allows it to bind well with lime. This is unique to hemp among all natural fibers. It’s lightweight and cement-like, which makes it an insulating material that only weighs about a seventh of the weight of concrete. Hempcrete blocks that are fully cured float in a bucket of water. Of course, it’s not used as a structural element, but as an insulating infill between the frame members. All of the loads are carried by internal framing. Wood stud framing is most common making it suitable for low-rise construction. Taller Hempcrete buildings about ten stories high have been built in Europe.

Others Examples of what we’ll be sing in the near future include

  • Waste Plastic Bricks
  • Rammed Earth
  • Mushroom insulation
  • Potato Chipboards
  • Memory Steel
  • Lok N Block Modular System
  • Cross Laminated Timber


Check out the links below to find out more about these materials!