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Maintaining a home

5 sustainable housing materials for a climate-resistant home

11 October 2021


Many housing materials and upgrades available in the market today can help play a part in protecting your home and your family from events like fires, floods and major storm damage. Whether it’s your flooring choice, plasterboard, insulation or windows, check out some of the below materials to help with your new build or home modification .

1. Insulation

Insulation can be one of the biggest factors in how energy efficient your home is. What you choose to use can have a large impact on your energy use.

Insulation is a passive house-building material. Without any insulation, your home leaks hot air during winter, costing you more to keep your home at the same temperature, while the opposite is true during summer. Insulation allows for the ‘passive’ regulation of temperatures in your home, as opposed to ‘active’ regulators (air conditioners, heaters).

There are three main areas to consider with your insulation:

  • its manufacturing footprint
  • how much energy it saves in your home
  • how resilient is it to severe weather such as storms or fire.

How can I make my home more resilient to weather events?

  • Wall wrap and sarking provide a protective barrier to your home, preventing rain, draughts and even dust from entering your home.This also improves how thermal your home is and can even provide ember protection in bushfire-rated zones.
  • Look for water resistant internal plasterboards for your walls.These can make a real difference to the amount of damage caused in the event of flooding, large leaks or burst internal pipes.
  • Install external shutters to your windows to protect them from cyclones.
  • Rubber roofing for homes can prevent unwanted hail damage and many are made with recycled materials. If choosing metal roofing,  consider steel as it can resist hail better than aluminium or copper.
  • If you’re in a bushfire zone, consider installing roof-top sprinklers or in a flood zone go for tiles instead of carpet.

What is the best insulation for my home?

Fibreglass insulation is often used as a cheap option in homes, but it has a heavy manufacturing footprint. Here are three great alternatives:

Plant-based polyurethane foam

Made from materials such as hemp or kelp, this has a high R-value, which is a measurement of insulation’s ability to resist heat flow, measured from 1.5 to 7.

Sheep's wool

A relatively expensive but sustainable insulation material. Sheep’s wool can be harvested more quickly than alternatives like cotton, is resistant to heat (R value of approximately 3.5-3.8 per inch), is highly breathable so can help purify air, is long-lasting and can help regulate humidity. 

Polyester

This insulation incorporates recycled materials, like plastic bottles, taking them out of the landwaste system. It is non-flammable and does not release dust into the air. 

 

2. Recycled materials

Including recycled materials in your home can help keep them out of landfill, contributing to a circular economy. For some rebuilds or renovations, reusing existing materials can save a lot of money and time.

Some common recycled materials you can purchase for your build are:

Plastic concrete

Concrete made with plastics is a relatively new material, which will increase in supply as its production costs gradually reduce. What’s particularly special about it is the type of plastics included in its production: soft plastics.

Soft plastics are famously hard to recycle and often end up in landfill or in our oceans, so researchers have created products such as Polyrok, which is made with these soft plastics and can be included in concrete mix. 

Recycled metals

A big chunk of a metal’s environmental footprint comes from its manufacturing. Sourcing recycled metals for your build or renovation means you can remove that manufacturing footprint from your build, while adding a material that is highly pest resistant, strong and long-lasting.

Reclaimed timber

Timber has often been reused in renovations and home builds. This is not just because it saves on money and sourcing new timber, but the aesthetics of reclaimed timber actually work in its favour as a timeless addition to your home design. The older the timber, the more character and history it exudes. 

3. Engineered timber

Engineered timber can be easily sourced and designed to your specifications. But what is it?

Engineered timber is usually a composite of different timber materials, like the hard and soft woods you would usually buy, but make use of waste materials and use heat or chemical treatments to create a strong material.

As an alternative to concrete or steel, timber like this can be a more sustainable building material, but make sure your manufacturer can provide proof their engineered timber has been made to reduce or eliminate any leeching of chemicals over time into the air.   

4. Cork flooring

Check out any house from the 70s and you’re likely to see cork flooring. A highly recyclable and renewable building material, cork went out of fashion for a little while but is back in vogue. This is because it can be made to suit your style and décor, while being an affordable and highly sustainable building material.

Cork grows incredibly quickly and is harvested from the bark of a cork tree. Once harvested, the tree replaces its bark, so it can be harvested again every decade or so for up to 200 years!

As insulation, cork has a higher thermal resistance range than traditional materials like loose fiber glass. In flooring, cork is durable, pleasant to walk on in bare feet, resistant to mold and termites, and can come in a variety of styles to even replicate timber flooring.

5. Vinyl window framing

Your choice of material for framing your windows can make a difference. While durable and low-maintenance, compared to timber framing, vinyl windows are a sustainable choice as a form of passive energy management.

A recycleable material, vinyl is more energy efficient when used in window framing than alternatives like timber or aluminum. 

Use sustainable materials to protect your home

When building or renovating, the materials you choose are important, but so is the insurance you have. Get a quote today to make sure you’re approaching your insurance coverage the same way you approach your building materials — by choosing what insurance best meets your needs.

Most homes in Australia weren’t built with natural hazards in mind, and as the intensity and frequency of disasters increases, we need to act. While we can’t change or control the weather, we’re constantly looking at ways homes can be more resilient to weather. As an automatic inclusion on our home cover, we offer ‘Build it back better’.* After a large weather event has resulted in major damage to your home, we’ll look to build it back in a way that makes it more resilient to future weather events.

Get cover for your home and contents

* Cover applies to claims with building damage over $50,000 or 10% of sum insured, whichever is highest. Resilience improvements are tiered according to level of cover up to $10,000. Limits, conditions and exclusions apply. 

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. AAI Insurance shall not be held liable for any loss or damage caused by any reliance on or use of the contents of this article.

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