Innovation That Matters

Seven sustainable construction innovations

Innovation Snapshot

Discover the most exciting recent innovations in green construction

According to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for 39 per cent of all the world’s carbon emissions related to energy consumption. And within this headline figure, 28 per cent of emissions come from the ongoing operation of buildings, such as the need to heat, cool, and light them, while a further 11 per cent are related to materials and construction.

Construction is therefore an extremely important sector in relation to broader decarbonisation efforts and the push to limit global greenhouse gas emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And, while there is still a lot of work to do to deliver truly sustainable construction, there is no shortage of innovative solutions.

Read on to discover seven of the best sustainable construction innovations recently spotted here on Springwise.

Photo source RMIT


Alongside materials technology company Livefield, engineers at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have used recycled glass to make fire-safe building claddings that observe circular economy principles. The sustainable claddings are made with 83 per cent recycled glass, along with relatively low amounts of plastic binders and fire-retardant additives. This approach helps to recycle the 130 million tonnes of glass that are produced annually while ensuring that the cladding meets safety and other standards. Read more

Photo source Tour lab/Rice University


A research team at Rice University recently made a breakthrough that could significantly reduce the emissions associated with the energy-intensive concrete industry. The team, led by chemist James Tour, started with fly ash – a powdery byproduct of coal-based electric power plants that is used in many concrete mixtures. They then removed toxic heavy metals from the fly ash using a process called flash Joule heating, in which an electrical current is passed through carbon-containing materials, heating them to about 3,000 degrees Celsius in milliseconds. This is much more energy-efficient than standard processes. The purified fly ash is then added to cement. The researchers found that by replacing 30 per cent of the cement in a batch of concrete with the purified coal fly ash, the concrete became much stronger and more elastic. On top of this, it reduced greenhouse gas and heavy metal emissions by 30 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively. Read more

Photo source Tania Melnyczuk on Unsplash


The residential sector accounts for 21 per cent of total energy consumption in the US, with over half of a house’s energy usage coming from heating and cooling. Home insulation is one of the swiftest, easiest ways to improve the energy efficiency of a home, and cellulose could be the ideal solution. Cleantech company CleanFiber uses recycled cardboard boxes – many of them from the millions of Amazon orders placed locally – as the base for its innovative new cellulose-based building insulation. CleanFiber insulation is made by using a proprietary liquid to separate the fibres that make up a cardboard box, which are then infused with an all-borate, liquid fire-retardant before being dried and shredded. Read more

Photo source Canva


Concrete is a mixture of aggregate (small stones) and a paste made from cement and water. Through a chemical reaction, the cement and water hardens and gains strength to form concrete. The problem is that creating cement involves heating limestone and other ingredients to a very high heat – which takes a lot of energy. Now, startup Carbonaide has developed a solution that involves the development of an efficient method to bind carbon dioxide into precast concrete using an automated system. This method operates at atmospheric pressure and reduces the amount of cement required to produce concrete. In fact, the company claims its technology can halve the CO2 emissions of traditional Portland cement-based concrete. In addition, the precast concrete components can include industrial side streams, such as industry slags and bio-ash, further reducing carbon footprint. Read more

Photo source Canva


Where other innovators have focused on alternative energy sources and processes for concrete production, startup EnviroCrete is taking a different approach, using wood to create more sustainable concrete. EnviroCrete replaces traditional concrete aggregates (such as sand or stones) with wood, giving the structural properties of cement and the thermal insulation and acoustic properties of timber. This novel material is then cast into hollow-core blocks, slabs, and structural wall and roof panels to create a lightweight construction system with several advantages. These include the use of less energy to create and transport the materials, faster construction times, cost savings, economies of scale, and less wastage and maintenance. Read more

Photo source Max Bender on Unsplash


A patent-pending innovation by startup LuxWall called Net Zero Glass aims to reduce building carbon emissions and energy consumption by up to 45 per cent. The windows consist of two vacuum-insulated coated glass (VIG) panes that are installed from inside the building, making it much quicker and easier to retrofit as tenants experience minimal disruption.  The panes act like a thermos bottle, reducing the transfer of heat and cool air via convection, conduction, and radiation. Heat from the sun’s rays is reflected, and HVAC conditions inside the structure are blocked from leaving the space. Read more

Photo source Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash


The global insulation market predominantly uses products made from inorganic mineral wools like fibreglass, and fossil-fuel derived plastic products such as polystyrene. These products have both health and environmental impacts. In addition, they are not biodegradable and frequently end up in aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems. Now, a Finnish company called Fiberwood has developed a more sustainable alternative. The company’s product is made from wood pulp and materials generated from the mechanical wood industry. A proprietary foam-forming technology is used to create insulation sheets that include the natural traits of trees, along with air pockets that increase the material’s insulation capabilities. Because they are made from wood, the products are also carbon negative, storing and binding the carbon dioxide in the wood for as long as it exists. Read more

Written By: Matthew Hempstead

For more innovations, head to the Springwise Innovation Library.