We believe that the spaces and buildings that we occupy have the power to improve our mood, health and wellbeing and help to lessen human impact on the natural environment.
In the same way that we are advised to think about the ingredients we put into our food, we like to really think about the ingredients we put into our projects. Many of the mainstream materials and finishes widely used in construction contain toxic chemicals that can have a negative impact on the air quality within a building or are produced in an unethical or unsustainable way.
In this article we share 10 really good, healthy alternatives that we like to use in our projects.
Below we refer to Volatile Organic Compounds. If you would like to find out more about what these are, follow this link to read our article about Toxicity in the Home.
Lime Based Plaster
It is a natural product and doesn’t contain any harsh or toxic chemicals. Not only does it release 80% less CO2 than cement, but it also reabsorbs CO2 in its production, helping to lower the carbon footprint.
Natural clay based paints
They are an eco alternative to conventional paints. They are free from VOC’s, vegan friendly, child safe as they don’t have any harmful ingredients and they are highly breathable so they can be used with traditional lime based breathing walls.
Other paints that are low VOC (not all entirely free); Farrow and Ball, Little Greene, Home is a Tree and Auro.
Healthy breathable finishes for internal walls and ceilings
Manufactured in Cornwall from abundant raw materials, they are amongst the most sustainable and healthy wall finishes available. They are recyclable, compostable, re-useable, and contain no toxic ingredients or VOCs.
As well as being 100% natural, Clayworks clay plasters are also high performance. They regulate relative humidity, allow buildings to breathe, and absorb toxins, odours and acoustics. They can also passively regulate temperature.
The Timber Terrazzo made in Britain. A sustainable choice for all interior surfaces made from at least 65% waste material. Low VOC compared to other solid surfaces. Low carbon footprint. Made from FSC grade timber mainly using offcuts and left-overs with a clear and ethical supply chain.
Bamboo as a source, Plyboo uses non-urea-formaldehyde based adhesives to create the boards which exceed indoor air quality requirements for flooring and sheet materials. Can also be used for flooring.
Durable, low maintenance, cost effective and carbon neutral. Cork is also naturally resistant to mould, is anti-microbial and doesn’t release any toxic gases into the air.
Chalkbarn was set up to address the lack of architectural finishes that are completely safe, healthy and environmentally friendly. Most oil-based lacquers and paints have some harmful aspect or ingredient, whereas these products use non-carcinogenic ingredients.
Waste materials transformed into sheet products
All their panels are made using 100% recycled materials, working with (amongst other things) plastic bottles, yoghurt pots and packaging, plant pots, food packaging and coffee grounds.
Insulation made from natural materials with no added formaldehyde
A healthier and more sustainable alternative to rigid board insulation, many of which require an energy intensive process for production and contain unhealthy toxins. The trade-off with natural insulation products is they usually result in thicker walls.
Other alternatives include Sheeps Wool, Denim (made from recycled jeans), Cork
Low VOC MDF board
MDF is one of the most commonly used sheet products used for interiors and joinery but also can contain some of the highest levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) that can lead to very poor internal air quality. Medite have a board that is Formaldehyde free, which means the VOC’s are kept to a minimum.
To read our guide to designing a home that is healthy click here.