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8.1 Sustainable Materials

The purchase of sustainable materials, both organic and inorganic, is complex and can initially sound daunting. This section will take you through the main issues and direct you to further information if required.

The best sustainable sites

The best way to look at a site is as a functioning system. The most sustainable system reduces inputs and maximizes internal recycling of materials and resources.

Clearly the resourcing of materials from within a site is limited and there are very few that can resource all construction materials internally. It is important to try and find a way to minimize the use of new materials, not only for the projects own sustainability but it also helps with funding applications if you can show that you have looked at the project from an ecological viewpoint.


For reference, if you are looking at the project build from an ecological viewpoint, the materials that will be needed on a site can generally be divided into hard and soft:

Hard – construction materials including, brick, stone, timber.

Soft – trees, shrubs, seed and associated growing and maintenance materials.

In most cases contractors can advise on the best materials to use but more information can be found on the Materials page.

Ecologically future proof your project

A great deal of information is now available on the purchase of sustainable materials and on the many issues that need to be taken into consideration – (see links below). This section is deliberately short but contains links to all the information needed if this is the approach you wish to take. These sections are about trying to ensure that you have a project that has ongoing lifespan and is sustainable for as long as is applicable. Adherence now to ecological sustainability guidelines will ensure that you already have the protocols in place to effectively future proof the project.

Think how we recycle in our everyday lives and try and apply these principles to the project.

Go to the next section - Sustaining the landscape

Useful links 

More on recycled materials

Sustainability and construction

Life cycle assessment

The BRE's 'Green guide to specification'