Eco-Friendly Construction in Cornwall: Sustainable Materials and Methods


Cornwall is a beautiful part of the world: it’s the reason so many people want to come on holiday here! But keeping Cornwall beautiful is another challenge. We’ve felt the effects of climate change and global warming recently in the South West, with rising sea levels, increasingly hot summers and periods of acute rainfall. For a county that is small and relies on its land for its economy, Cornwall is in trouble if we can’t find eco-friendly solutions for climate change. Hysmark also has a part to play. Building and construction- whilst necessary- is also an energy and material intensive process. That’s why we must discover and use eco-friendly construction methods and materials in the houses that we build in Cornwall.

If you would like your building to be constructed using more sustainable materials and methods, just give us a ring, and we are happy to have a chat with you about proceeding with your eco-friendly project.


Eco-friendly Construction Materials in Cornwall


1. Eco-friendly rigid foam

Rigid foam is extensively used as a building insulation material. Kelp, hemp, and bamboo are used to make it. It can be used as insulation because it is stiff and resistant. It is mould and pest resistant, as well as sound insulation and heat resistant. And… the best news about plant-based polyurethane rigid foam?… Well, hemp is grown locally in Cornwall’s famous Eden Project, and kelp is also grown and harvested right here on our very own coastline! Seaweed farms are renowned for being crucial for climate health. Just think of the potential for Cornwall’s industry and economy if more construction projects could use this amazing sustainable construction material!

2. Sheep’s wool

Sheep’s wool is a readily available sustainable construction material. It can be easily regrown and quickly harvested! Sheep naturally produce a new crop after shearing. Wool’s insulating characteristics have long been known by clothing designers, and it makes for incredibly warm sweaters and socks. Sheep’s wool can be used as an energy-efficient insulator in walls, ceilings, and attics because of the same insulating properties. Sheep wool insulation is completely natural, safe for the environment, and simple to install. Wool insulation and other environmentally friendly goods appeal to an increasing number of homeowners and buyers looking for energy-efficient homes.

In recent years, local sheep farmers have seen the price of wool plummet. However, imagine the demand and value that could be placed on local wool if this becomes a commonly used insulation material! British wool is, however, having a revival, as customers realise the potential of this beautiful, useful, renewable and accessible construction material.

sheep wool as sustainable construction material
(sheep wool as a sustainable construction material)

3. Precast concrete

Concrete is a natural material that can be recycled, making it an excellent alternative for environmentally conscious homes. Pre-cast concrete is more environmentally friendly than concrete that is poured on-site. It’s put into pre-made moulds and cured over rebar or wire. The concrete can be shipped and installed in a variety of constructions once it has been set. As a result, precast concrete can attain economies of scale that on-site concrete cannot.

4. Recycled steel

This is steel that has already been used for structural purposes in a residence.

The scrap metal from just six old cars is enough recovered steel to construct a 2000 square foot home!

Recycling can save up to 75% on energy expenditures. Steel is the most recycled substance on the planet, and most ‘new’ steel is actually made from recycled steel.

5. Straw bales

Straw bales also provide excellent insulation. Straw bales are used in walls, attics, and ceilings to help maintain cooler summer temperatures and warmer winter temperatures. Straw is easy to harvest and replant with very little influence on the environment. The process of turning straw into bales has very little environmental impact. No mining, no quarrying, no chemical reactions! According to research, straw-bale construction is a sustainable building option in terms of both resources and energy required for heating and cooling.

Straw is sometimes grown and harvested as a byproduct of a wheat crop. The straw is traditionally used as animal bedding, or as mulch. But Cornish farmers could find that selling straw as a sustainable construction material provides an extra source of income, and uses the wheat harvest in an eco-friendly way!

6. Bamboo

Bamboo is becoming more prominent as a construction material. Bamboo is extremely sustainable due to its rapid growth. While pine and cedar trees can be replanted, the process can take years. Bamboo can be reforested considerably faster and is found all over the planet. Bamboo, like ordinary wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio that can be used in construction. Bamboo has a compressive strength greater than wood, brick, or concrete, as well as a tensile strength comparable to steel. Amazing!

But, perhaps even more surprisingly, Cornwall is no stranger to growing and using bamboo for unusual purposes.

The Lanivet Inn has been a tavern since the 18th century and is one of the oldest in the St. Austell Brewery estate. It was purchased for £400 in 1893 by brewery founder Walter Hicks. The bar sign, which depicts a Panda Bear in a bamboo grove, has been in use for more than 70 years. The sign commemorates the time when the village’s local bamboo plantation provided the staple diet for pandas at London Zoo! Near the settlement, there was a commercial bamboo grove where cub scouts cut shoots to send to the Zoo. Who’s up for bringing back Cornwall’s commercial bamboo industry!

bamboo can be used as an eco-friendly construction material
(bamboo can be used as an eco-friendly construction material)


Eco-friendly Construction Methods in Cornwall


1. Use local construction companies and suppliers

Construction companies in Devon and Cornwall will not be using as much fuel to travel to projects located locally, and therefore employing local workers is more eco-friendly!

2. Employ skilled and conscientious construction companies

A skilled and experienced constructionist will cut and order materials so that there is very little waste. An inexperienced constructionist will be wasteful and may make mistakes, costing you money and time, and will also contribute to unnecessary landfills.

3. Eco-friendly renovation, not new builds

Older buildings are sometimes judged to be ‘a bit beyond it’. But wherever possible, we believe in using clever renovation techniques that can make even grade 1 and 2 listed buildings warm and safe to live in. If you do have to knock down your old property, why not recycle the construction materials for your new building? This maintains the history of your home, looks beautiful and is more environmentally friendly!

We hope that you’ve been inspired by these sustainable construction materials and methods, and has given you some ideas for your next building project in Cornwall. Do get in touch to discuss any of the materials or methods that we’ve mentioned in this article, and be sure to share it with your friends and family to provoke more conversation and sustainable construction in Cornwall!