There are a great many decisions that architects and designers need to make when creating a sustainable building or structure. Everything from form, to orientation, to intensive light calculations, can have significant impacts on the efficiency and sustainability profile of the project. But perhaps none of these decisions is as important as choosing what to build with.

The market for sustainable building materials and products has grown hugely as the construction industry seeks to become more informed, more sensitive, and less impactful. Some even call ‘green construction’ a market in itself - and predict it to be worth US$774 billion by 2030 (globally, of course. Not just in Australia).

But what defines a sustainable building material? Is it something extremely durable? Something locally sourced? Is it something old that is now being used in a new way? Or is it something the world has never seen before, with the promise of revolutionary new properties?

Well, it’s all of those things. And that bears remembering as we seek to define some of the trends that are shaping, adopting and adapting these incredible products.


If it’s good enough for pandas, it’s good enough for global construction. Bamboo has long been touted for its vast array of sustainable properties, and with good reason. It’s abundant, incredibly fast-growing, versatile, lightweight, and strong. It has been used structurally for more than 7,000 years, and is now commonly used for applications as diverse as flooring, soft furnishings, and acoustic panelling. With its growing popularity certain to lead to an increase in production, bamboo will be in our sustainable buildings for many years to come.


While it may seem a little cheeky to follow up one sustainable wood product with another, we’re doing it. Like bamboo, cork grows extremely fast, and because it’s actually the bark of a tree (as opposed to the tree itself), it can be harvested without logging. As a material, it’s highly durable (hence its widespread use in floor tiles), but it’s also excellent at maintaining its shape despite being incredibly flexible. It’s almost impermeable, so it’s basically waterproof, and it has great shock absorption and thermal qualities, making it an excellent insulator.

Smart glass

On the other end of the sustainable material spectrum is smart glass. Also known as dynamic glass, this tech-forward take on a building essential seems set to dominate our windows in the future. Smart glass can alter its transparency or light transmission properties to restrict the amount of natural light entering a building. In doing this, it makes the glass an active contributor to the overall energy efficiency of a

building by reducing the need for cooling and assisting with maintaining a more stable temperature at all times. For years the technology was almost inaccessible due to cost, but recent advances mean smart glass will soon be coming to a window near you.

Of all the contributors to sustainable construction, green building materials and products are perhaps some of the most innovative, intriguing, and eye-opening. And it’s safe to say we’re more than a little excited to see where the next big thing pops up in the coming years.

Got the next big thing in Green Building Materials? Submit it for the 2023 Sustainability Awards here.