As the ideas of green design and environmentally friendly building become more popular, builders, designers, landscapers and homeowners are all looking at composite materials as a low-maintenance substitute for wood. Recycled plastics and other composite materials have been around for a long time and are finding new uses in decking and landscaping. They can also be used as low-maintenance building materials in different settings ranging from playgrounds to civil engineering projects.
The basics of green building
The idea of green design is still evolving but it is already being implemented in buildings around the world. While there is no clear definition of what constitutes green design, some common features are emerging, such as efficient use of energy, water and natural resources, a focus on renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, the use of non-toxic, renewable or reusable building material, improving indoor air quality, and minimizing the impact of the building on the environment.
These features are being incorporated into buildings around the world, including homes, offices, schools, hospitals and even large spaces like malls and community centers. With the focus on using recycled and renewable or reusable material, composites like recycled plastic wood are increasingly being used as a substitute for wood in many different settings.
Using recycled plastics for green building
The earliest composite building materials were the mixture of mud and straw used by the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. These date back to as far as 1500 BC, but modern composites were developed in the 1900s. These included various types of plastics like vinyl and polyester. More recent examples of composite building materials are recycled plastic lumber, which can be used as substitute for wood in a number of applications.
Wood has a natural beauty but is not very durable, especially when compared to composite alternatives. In fact, only three things are needed to begin the process of decomposition in wood. These are the presence of water and oxygen and temperatures in the range of 40 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Recycled lumber is a composite made from recycled plastic and other materials. It can be used as a substitute for wood as well as concrete and metals for weather resistant landscaping, playground equipment and even roofing shingles.
Some applications of recycled plastic lumber
This low-maintenance wood substitute can be used for decking, landscaping and playground equipment. It has a number of other applications as well, and can be used to provide equipment for agriculture and gardening as well as industrial and civil engineering projects. It is resistant to rot, mildew, insects and many chemicals, making it a preferred choice over treated lumber for engineering projects like retaining walls, piers, pilings, sea wood and boat docks.
Recycled plastic lumber fulfills many of the conditions of green design. It keeps materials out of landfills, has a smaller impact on the environment, and can be recycled at the end of the useful life. They are low-maintenance and don’t need much care, unlike wood which must be treated and repainted at regular intervals.
Low-maintenance recycled plastic lumber is finding many applications in building and other industries. As green design takes hold in the building industry, its use will continue to grow and evolve.