The walls are probably the most important part of any building. But just which material should you build them out of? Here are five of the most common wall materials compared.
Brick is the most common material used for walls in houses in the UK. It’s also used for many other structures ranging from offices to schools. A big reason for brick’s popularity is that it’s very low maintenance compared to materials like wood and metal, as well offering amazing fire resistance. It’s also available in many different styles including different patterns and colours.
The downside of brick walls is that they have to be built on site - and this can be time-consuming. Brick also often has to be combined with other materials to provide insulation, and it’s not the most eco-friendly material to manufacture.
Stone shares many of the same properties as brick. It’s arguably even more resilient, lasting centuries without much maintenance required. Materials like slate are sometimes favoured for their luxury look, while other stone materials can provide a more rustic look.
Compared to brick, stone does generally come at a higher price tag. This is particularly the case with luxury stones like marble. Stone also does not absorb heat as well as brick - which can make it more suitable in warmer climates, but sometimes less suitable in colder climates.
Concrete is generally cheaper than brick and can offer increased strength and water resistance. It’s this increased water resistance that makes precast concrete wall panels very popular in many industrial settings like docks and farms, where grains and aggregates need to be kept dry. Concrete is also a popular material for general buildings - unlike brick and stone, it can be more easily molded into various shapes.
Manufacturing concrete unfortunately produces more emissions than brick, and concrete also isn’t as good an insulator, making it less suited to eco-friendly builds. On top of this, concrete is known for not ageing particularly well, and may be seen as a little too ‘brutalist’ for some people.
Timber has been making a comeback as a wall material. The rise of sustainable forestry has made it a more eco-friendly choice than brick. It’s also got better insulation properties than brick. On top of this, timber walls can be prefabricated off-site, allowing for quicker construction times. It also has a rustic natural look that can be very appealing.
Of course, timber is more vulnerable to fire, floods and pests - making it unsuitable for some purposes and locations. Compared to other materials, timber walls also require a lot of maintenance including regular treatment and inspections.
You can also build walls out of metal. From steel barns to container homes, there are many different applications. Like timber walls, metal walls can be prefabricated off-site. They can also be a relatively eco-friendly option - especially when using recycled metals. An advantage of metal over timber is the fact that it is fire-proof and largely pest-proof. It’s also currently cheaper than timber.
Of course, metal’s industrial look may not be for everyone. Metal also has to be regularly treated to prevent it rusting/corroding. On top of this, metal can be noisy in weather like rain if not soundproofed with another material.
Statistics indicate that building construction and development make up approximately 40% of the UK's carbon footprint, causing the industry to strive toward decarbonisation. And you can play your role as a real estate developer to invest in sustainable practices. Admittedly, sustainability has become a buzzword. However, it's one thing to know and another to fully understand. Property development sustainability aims to promote the ecological balance of the environment long-term. For this reason, developers focus on projects without depleting the earth's resources or harming the environment.
Indeed, making your properties greener can distinguish your brand from your competitors while drawing potential homebuyers to your business. And since your clients can choose their new homes, you stand a chance of increasing sales. Likewise, you can maintain compliance with the country's regulations, preventing your business from facing lawsuits. Sustainable property development can be achieved with the right strategies. Here are a few you can consider for the best results.
1. Make a plan for biodiversity net gain
The desire for sustainable development prompted the government to establish biodiversity net gain (BNG), which is part of the Environment Act. Indeed, BNG aims to correct the biodiversity decline caused by development. The Act requires all development plans to deliver and maintain an obligatory 10% of biodiversity net gain for at least 30 years. This means you should ensure that your development proposals leave your site's biodiversity in a better state if you desire to practice sustainability. Fortunately, you can achieve this by creating a BNG plan to reduce how much impact your development project would have on the local environment.
For starters, you can work with a professional ecologist to conduct environmental impact assessments and site surveys for a more informed decision. As a tip, engage them much earlier to ascertain your project's feasibility and familiarise yourself with the new requirements. You'll also find it helpful to determine if your site has enough BNG or if you'd have to acquire more land to compensate for the law. Although entering a conservation covenant with a conservation charity is prudent, you must tread cautiously to avoid indefinite and demanding requirements.
2. Invest in solar energy
Although several renewable energy sources are available, solar energy is more popular for good reasons. Studies indicate that 70% of the population find solar energy desirable, influencing future home-buying trends. This is because solar energy translates to lower energy bills and low maintenance costs, although it may seem expensive initially. Therefore, you are likelier to attract top clients and establish business credibility if you invest in this energy source. Moreover, you'll play your part to ensure the country reaches its 2030 sustainable development goals, including the government's plan to have homes with 75-80% lower carbon dioxide emissions. Also, you don't have to stress about where to install solar panels; you can put them on rooftops or unused vacant land, so keep this in mind.
However, you don't want uncertified construction professionals to install your solar panels. Instead, work with MCS-certified solar installers, as they can safely install and maintain these panels without incurring damages. You also want to ensure they are part of the REAL Assurance Scheme. If you insist on using your construction crew, invest in training and certification to achieve the desired outcome. Since solar energy depends on the sun, proper solar panel positioning is essential. Let your panels face south, exposing them to the sun for longer periods. According to Standford University, a 34-degree tilt angle produces the best result, so feel free to consider this. Additionally, invest in quality roofs to support your panels.
3. Prioritise communal green spaces
Another sustainable idea worth considering is communal green spaces. While some people may classify these areas as a waste of space, nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, green spaces in urban areas can be beneficial for many reasons. They can help people relax after a stressful day while allowing children and pets to play. Likewise, people are encouraged to spend more time outdoors when dedicated spaces support their goals. Moreover, more greenery can improve air quality, particularly in areas prone to air pollution. On a larger scale, green spaces create wildlife habitats and protect biodiversity while reducing heat island effects and surface runoff. Therefore, you can include these green spaces in your next development project.
You can create gardens and urban parks to make room for leisure and recreational activities. To get started, choose a location that's easily accessible, safe, and unique. You also want to consider potential homeowners' demographic to determine what your park should include. For instance, playgrounds, shades, picnic tables and chairs, etc., can work well if your development targets families with children. Apart from communal green spaces, you can also incorporate greenery in various ways. For instance, you can consider investing in min-forests, green roofing, community woodlands, wetlands, street trees, etc.
4. Make room for alternative transport options
Indeed, transportation is essential for comfortable living. However, prolonged use of fossil fuel vehicles may not be best if you seek sustainability. Not only does it increase carbon footprint, but exhaust fumes can pollute the air. These fumes contain hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and nitrogen dioxide, which cause greenhouse effects and harm people's health. To prevent these gases from polluting your new development, you'll find it helpful to make room for greener transport alternatives.
For instance, you can create more cycling spaces to encourage people to ride their bikes more and ensure their safety. You can also consider investing in light tramway systems, so keep this in mind. Of course, banning cars from the area won't be feasible. However, you can reduce the rate at which people drive by promoting car club membership for your new homeowners. This way, they can rent cars for errands they can't undertake by foot or cycling. While at it, ensure that your development project doesn't affect existing road networks. As a tip, consider the transport statement for planning application to ensure that your project meets the requirements.
5. Leverage eco-friendly building materials and accessories
You can leverage eco-friendly building materials and accessories. For instance, you can swap conventional paint for low to zero-VOC paint options. Consequently, ensure that you use LED lights to reduce energy waste and help homeowners save more on utility bills. Stone, bamboo, adobe brick, earth bags, etc., are all eco-friendly materials, so feel free to consider them.
Author - chris
Author, Editor, Creator of this website.