Skip to main content

Sustainable Building Materials for New Construction

When constructing a new commercial building, such as an office space, it is important to consider sustainable building materials for several reasons. First, it is important to do our part to be kind to the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of large buildings. Additionally, sustainable materials can help businesses cut down on energy costs for their spaces.

Below, we’ve reviewed several sustainable building materials that would be great to consider when building a new commercial space.

Flat Roof Insulation

Many commercial buildings feature a flat roof design, as it provides more interior space as compared to a building with a slanted roof of the same height. Additionally, a flat roof provides an easy location to store HVAC equipment that doesn’t take up valuable interior space.

However, this type of roof is often one of the most vulnerable parts of the building when it comes to heat transfer as it is constantly exposed to the elements. Adding flat-roof insulation can be a great way to improve the thermal envelope of your commercial building.

Flat roof insulation is a simple addition to a building that will reduce the amount of heat escaping your building during the winter months, as well as the amount of heat entering your building during cooler months. This will greatly reduce energy use for a commercial building, as HVAC accounts for a significant portion of a building’s energy use.

Flat roof insulation is an important addition to your commercial building not only because it improves the sustainability of your building’s energy usage, but also because it is a requirement by the IECC, or International Energy Conservation Code, according to Chapter 4, Section 402. This requires that flat roof insulation provide a minimum R-value or resistance to heat transfer or conduction. The higher the R-value, the more well-insulated a building will be. According to this code, the required R-values are R-20ci to R-35ci depending on your climate zone.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is a heating system that circulates electricity, water, or air beneath the flooring in space to heat objects and individuals in a space via infrared radiation.

This type of heating system is considered sustainable for several reasons. First, they can be more energy efficient than traditional heating systems. Heating from the floor upward ensures that a space will maintain a more consistent temperature in all areas, as compared to heating systems which can leave cold spots.

Ceiling-based heating systems are also prone to “short-circuiting or air stratification.” This occurs because warmer air rises within a space, so ceiling-based heating can remove warm air before it can effectively circulate throughout the space to increase the temperature. Additionally, ceiling-based heating is an inefficient system that first heats the space higher up in a room where no occupants exist, while radiant floor heating warms the most important areas of a space first.

Radiant floor heating is also viewed as a preferable heating system in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it does not require the circulation of air which may contain microbes that lead to illnesses.

To complete a sustainable flooring system, consider pairing radiant floor heating with sustainable flooring material such as engineered wood.

Architectural Grilles

Architectural grilles have multiple sustainable purposes: they can provide air ventilation, and also serve as a barrier against thermal conduction and noise intrusion.

First, architectural grilles or louvers can be incorporated into a building’s HVAC system, allowing for the use of more ventilation air in a building. This improves the health of occupants by bettering indoor air quality.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, increased ventilation rates in commercial spaces have become an important factor to preserve and protect occupant health by limiting the spread of microbes and viruses through HVAC systems. Additionally, this has become a priority for increase work performance and improving overall employee morale. Architectural grilles allow you to bring in more ventilation air without affecting the aesthetics of the building, maintaining a clean and modern look.

Additionally, some architectural grilles are not incorporated for ventilation purposes, but rather are simply an addition outside of large windows to reduce heat transfer in extreme climates. These types of structures help reduce the energy used by a heating or cooling system, without compromising the aesthetics and visual appeal of the building.

Acoustic Glass

Offices require separate meeting rooms and spaces with sound-reducing properties so that gatherings and meetings can occur without disturbing others in the office. A previous solution to this problem was partition systems, but this is an outdated style that clashes with modern office settings.

Acoustic glass is an alternative solution that offers a trendy, open concept look while also providing sound-dampening effects. It is also a more sustainable choice when compared to partitions, as it uses less material to provide a comparable sound barrier as well as improved acoustics in a space.

Not only does acoustic glass improve the privacy of meeting spaces, but it also helps to reduce the background noise caused by A/C systems and fans in a commercial building, which has been known to contribute to an uncomfortable working environment.

Acoustic glass is a sustainable building material that can be used to meet several LEED requirements. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification given for sustainable building design. Depending on the manufacturer Acoustic glass helps to meet the requirements of some or all of the following:

  • design for flexibility
  • recycled content
  • material reuse
  • minimum acoustic performance
  • enhanced acoustic performance
  • views
  • daylight

If you’re not fond of the idea of using a large amount of glass in your office space, there are more private options, such as privacy glass. This type of acoustic glass can be switched to a cloudy or translucent look with the press of a button.

Acoustic glass is an excellent sustainable acoustic material to improve privacy and comfort in commercial buildings while maintaining a modern and aesthetically pleasing office design.

Guest Blogger: Natalie Akins is the Interior Design Editor at Innovative Building Materials. With over 20 years of interior design experience, Natalie has worked on many projects including commercial office design and residential spaces.