Imagine buildings that heal themselves like the human body, roofs that patiently harvest the sun's energy, and walls made from scientifically engineered materials that are as strong as they are beautiful. This isn't some distant utopia – it's the exciting reality of sustainable building materials and products taking root in Australia.

And it’s not just about swapping out materials for a slightly greener option – we're talking about a whole new era of construction, inspired by nature and driven by innovation. Here, we dive into some of the most fascinating trends that are shaping this area of architecture, design and construction in Australia right now.

Building materials meet renewable energy

There is a definite trend towards integrating renewable energy generation directly into building materials – and that includes roof tiles. With a growing number of Australian manufacturers, the idea of sleek roof tiles generating clean energy is becoming more attainable – and more popular, too. Why? Solar roof tiles are more aesthetically pleasing and easier to seamlessly integrate into the building envelope. But perhaps even more importantly, because the tiles are integrated into the roof, they eliminate the need for drilling and mounting structures used for traditional solar panels. That can help reduce stress on the roof during strong winds.

The wind itself is naturally a wonderful source of energy, too – and micro-wind turbines might be the next big thing. While there isn’t a wide-spread use of these particular solutions in Australian construction yet, they are another example of a green solution that can be incorporated directly into the building structure itself for localised power generation, that might get more traction in the coming years.

Mimicking the world around us

Renewable energy isn’t the only powerful source the industry is tapping into – we're looking to the ultimate innovator: nature itself. Biomimicry, the process of learning from and imitating natural systems, is inspiring groundbreaking materials. Self-healing concrete is one of the most prominent examples. Designed to mimic the human body's natural healing processes, self-healing concrete incorporates bacteria that can repair cracks in the way our bodies heal cuts. Result? Stronger, longer-lasting buildings – and potentially less construction waste.

Bioplastics derived from plants are another exciting development. These offer a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics commonly used in building components.

Closing the loop

Sustainability is all about reducing waste, and the construction industry is fervently embracing the circular economy. More and more buildings are being designed for deconstruction, allowing materials to be reclaimed and reused. Modular construction with prefabricated sections allows for easier disassembly and reuse of components at the end of a building's lifespan, while "smart" materials with embedded tracking chips help identify and sort recyclable materials during demolition, streamlining the process.

Sustainable surfaces

The demand for building materials with high recycled content is on the rise, too. Manufacturers are developing surfaces like countertops and flooring made with a significant percentage of recycled or reclaimed materials. These surfaces are designed for durability, reducing the need for replacements and associated waste.

Graphene: The game-changer

Alongside efforts to improve the utilisation of recycled and reclaimed content in existing materials, scientists are developing entirely new material categories that combine exceptional performance with minimal environmental impact. Graphene is one of these materials. It’s a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon which boasts remarkable strength, flexibility, and electrical conductivity. While still in its early stages of development, graphene has the potential to revolutionise building materials, leading to lighter, stronger, and more energy-efficient structures.

The future of green building is brimming with possibility. Bio-inspired design, a focus on the circular economy, and cutting-edge materials are paving the way for a more sustainable built environment for Australia. This isn't just good for the planet – it's the foundation for a future filled with stunning, innovative structures that work in harmony with nature.

The 2024 Sustainability Awards jury is looking for innovative and functional designs that prioritise sustainability and community, while also delivering an outstanding visual appeal.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to showcase your project and contribute to a better future. Enter today.