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Building Materials: Buy Local and Buy Natural

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 29 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
Local Materials Natural Buying Building

When you’re looking for building materials, buying locally instead of ordering from afar has many advantages for your local community and the environment.

You will be contributing to lowering carbon emission levels and saving resources by reducing the carbon miles involved in transporting the goods and you should also save on packaging and shipping costs.

By choosing to buy local materials you will also be strengthening your local economy by keeping your cash in the area and this could help to create new jobs within your community.

Too many householders are now buying from superstores or online building suppliers to the detriment of local, small businesses which are struggling to survive. If you buy from a local independent business, you will benefit from local knowledge and expertise and often, the price difference is minimal due to transport savings.

Bear in mind too that any cost savings from 'bargain' online suppliers could be lost if your long-distance delivery doesn’t turn up on time, arrives damaged or incomplete. This could cause major delays for a project and with contractors hanging around waiting for a delayed delivery, this will add a massive burden to your budget.

Buying Natural Products

When buying your building materials, always try to source products made from natural materials, since they are much better for the environment.

With the race to reduce carbon emissions and reduce ozone depletion, natural solutions are becoming much more widely used and include glass, stone, untreated wood, lime/mud plaster, rock, sand, cob and adobe.

Of course, building with concrete blocks is much quicker and easier than using adobe or irregular shaped rocks but if rocks are available locally, they are a great alternative.

Rocks also have a high thermal mass which means they will absorb the sun’s heat during the day so that it is cooler indoors. At night when the outside temperature drops, the stored heat will help to warm the house.

Using Wood

Wood has been used in buildings and interiors for centuries but the world’s forests are now badly depleted so use wood sparingly unless it comes from a renewable source and/or carries certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.

Of course, wood from local fallen trees is different and this can be used for a multitude of uses such as step ladders or railings and will give your house a rustic feel.

‘Green’ Building Materials

The term ‘green’ usually indicates that a product has been harvested from sustainable-managed sources or uses renewable materials. But the term is much over-used on packaging to encourage sales so always ask questions about a product to satisfy yourself that it is really 'green'.

If you can’t buy natural materials, then try to buy renewable materials which won’t sit in a landfill site for years – and look out for new uses for age-old materials. For example, straw is now being increasingly used for insulation.

If you are working to a tight budget, you might also want to check out local recycling points which sell or give away unwanted building materials.

This is a brilliant way to create or extend a building when cost is an issue and you will also be giving a new home (quite literally!) to materials which might otherwise be wasted.

Finding Surplus Materials

If you can’t find what you are looking for at a recycling point, try checking localclassified ads, recycling websites and car boot sales. If you know any local contractors, let them know that you are looking for cast-off materials and put the word around between friends and family.

Often, you will see goods that you know you could use lying in roadside skips. Although it is illegal to simply take what you want from a householder’s skip it is perfectly acceptable to knock and ask whether you can have their pile of bricks, old door or surplus plasterboard.

In most cases, people will be only too happy to oblige, but if they expect payment then you should still be able to negotiate a much lower price than buying new – and will have the satisfaction of recycling into the bargain.

Why Re-using and Recycling Matters!

Whenever new products and materials are manufactured, they use raw materials – often extracted from the earth – so by re-using materials, you are helping to protect natural resources.

High volumes of energy are needed for the manufacturing process and the goods then need to be transported or shipped to suppliers so you are also lowering carbon emissions and helping to reduce energy use.

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