It takes about 22 mature trees to create enough wood frame the average house – that’s about 16,380 board feet. Add things like hardwood floors, siding, roofing, and cabinets, and you’re adding another 22 to 24 trees.

Trees are a renewable resource, and some wood used in building homes can be recycled. Much of the wood that’s used in homebuilding, however, is treated with chemicals to make it resistant to natural enemies like termites and even weather. Technology has given us many options, but most aren’t that friendly to the environment. Here are a few that are, and they might surprise you.


Scientists have determined that the reason why so many Chinese structures have stood the test of time is because of rice. As far back as 1,500 years ago, Chinese builders began mixing sticky rice soup with standard mortar.

This composite mortar is stronger and more resistant to water. Structures built with this mortar have been able to withstand powerful earthquakes. The secret ingredient in rice is a polysaccharide and complex carbohydrate called amylopectin. It’s so effective that Chinese restoration specialists continue to use it to restore ancient buildings.


It’s related, but it’s not the same thing as cannabis. Hemp is now legal to grow as an industrial crop, and that might be a benefit for those who are looking for environmentally sensible building materials.

Hemp is ready to be harvested in just four to six months, and an acre of the crop can absorb four times as much carbon dioxide during that time as an acre of forest. We might want to keep those trees for something other than homebuilding.

A growing number of builders are turning to what’s known as hempcrete. Hemp fiber does amazing things with Portland cement. Mixed together it’s only about 15 percent as dense as concrete. Blocks of it will actually float in water. Even so, it has superior strength.

The high percentage of trapped air gives hempcrete high insulation qualities. It’s also resistant to mold and is fire-resistant.

Meanwhile, inside the home engineered wood made of hemp is 20 percent denser than oak. It would take an oak tree 60 years to mature. The hemp is ready in less than half a year.

The World’s Most Recycled Material

We’re proud of the fact that the main material of our buildings is steel, which is the most recycled material on the planet – recycled more than all other materials combined. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, when you buy steel, you are always buying a recycled material.

Learn more about how we “go green” with sustainable and energy-efficient options.

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