What are the costs of building a house with sustainable materials?

It all depends on what you want & how far you want to go.

It could be one of the cheapest buildings:

That is if you:
  • Built it yourself - your labour.
  • Look for used / secondhand / salvaged material.
  • Consider adobe building.
  • Ideally use material for the adobe from the property.
  • Consider oriantation in the design, Solar heat gain, Shading etc.
  • Utilize the chimney effect for cooling the house.

It could be one of the most expensive buildings:

That is if you:
  1. Hire an expensive / overpriced contractor.
  2. Purchase the 'marketed sustainable' expensive material without proper research. Avoid marketing tricks.
  3. Bricks / blocks / steel although marketed by some companies as sustainible (yes some are) are not necessary the best value for money.
  4. Do you really require Low E glass for your building & climate or double glazed etc. Again do not fall for a marketing trap.
  5. Confirm that solar geysers(if you chose it) works for your climate (@Solar irradiance) verses the payback over the years of use. There might be some other better options for your climate & hot water demand.
  6. Reasearch the best value for money insulation or you will end up spending a lot more than you want to.


Now as you can see from the above - there is no real answer to this question as there are to many variables.

Hope this helps

The definition of sustainable materials is vague. The Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is obviously the best approach to have an objective judgment about it.

However, a sustainable building is not only about sustainable materials. It's an integrated approach well defined by sustainability methods covering the different lifecycle stage of buildings (see BREEAM  or LEED | U.S. Green Building Council ).

From my experience, the cost of a sustainable building is about 5%-10% more expansive than a normal building. This overhead should not be a barrier because certified sustainable buildings have a best market value (ranging from 10% to 15%).  Another advantage is that, over a period of 20 years, the financial payback typically exceeds the additional cost of greening by a factor of 4-6 times (see Costs and benefits of green buildings).

Hope this helps.

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