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Simply by adding wool and a natural polymer found in seaweed to the clay of the brick, wool bricks are 37% stronger than other bricks, and more resistant to the cold wet climate often found in Britain. They also dry hard, reducing the embodied energy as they don't need to be fired like traditional bricks.
In these walls are paper-based insulation. Made from recycled newspapers and cardboard, paper-based insulation is a superior alternative to chemical foams. Both insect resistant and fire-retardant thanks to the inclusion of borax, boric acid, and calcium carbonate (all natural materials that have no associations with health problems), paper insulation can be blown into cavity walls, filling every crack and creating an almost draft-free space.
Traditional roof tiles exist to simply protect a building from the elements despite the fact that they spend a large portion of the day absorbing energy from the sun. With this in mind, many companies are now developing solar tiles. Unlike most solar units which are fixed on top of existing roofing, solar tiles are fully integrated into the building, protecting it from the weather and generating power for its inhabitants.
More sustainable forms of concrete exist that use recycled materials in the mix. Crushed glass can be added, as can wood chips or slag - a byproduct of steel manufacturing. Whilst these changes aren't radically transforming concrete, by simply using a material that would have otherwise gone to waste, the CO2 emissions associated with concrete are reduced.
Three-layered glass windows do a better job of stopping heat from leaving the building, with fully insulated window frames further contributing. In most double-glazed windows, the gas argon is injected between each layer of glass to aid insulation, but in these super-efficient windows, krypton - a better, but more expensive insulator - is used. In addition to this, low-emissivity coatings are applied to the glass, further preventing heat from escaping.
A building that combined all five of these methods would be an admirably sustainable option for housing. Whilst the construction industry tends to progress at a slow pace, the importance of sustainability is a high profile issue, and one which is only likely to increase.
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