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Going Green: New Research Shows Big Shift Towards Sustainable Building in 2021

As 2020 gave all of us a chance to reflect on our own health and wellbeing, many homeowners also took the opportunity to improve their properties, and made a clear choice to go green.

Sustainability has been an ever-growing theme in all of our lives, so it's no surprise that the building materials we choose for our projects follow suit. This shift away from traditional options and towards more environmentally-friendly materials was greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. As the nation's builders downed tools in response to the first lockdown, it was up to homeowners to take full responsibility for sourcing materials themselves.

So if you're looking for some eco-friendly inspiration, we analysed the last two years of Google search data to find out which sustainable building materials, construction styles, and more were seeing the greatest growth in interest over time.

Synthetic Slate Comes Out On Top

Synthetic slate roof tiles came out on top, receiving 252% more searches in 2020 than 2019, growing almost 100% more than traditional, less sustainable concrete roof tiles. Crafted from a mix of recycled limestone and plastic, these sustainable roof tiles are incredibly popular amongst homeowners for their light weight, longevity, and simple installation. Other green choices sharing this growth include energy saving windows, eco-friendly insulation, cedar shingles, and rammed earth.

britmet liteslate roof with roof window

Top 15 Sustainable Building Materials Increasing Most in Popularity in 2020

Rank

Building Material

Popularity

1

Synthetic Slate Roof Tiles

252.48%

2

Energy Saving Windows

244.58%

3

Rammed Earth Building

195.98%

4

Eco Friendly Insulation

179.05%

5

Cedar Shingles

176.33%

6

Ashcrete

168.97%

7

Slate Roof Tiles

165.24%

8

Green Roof Systems

161.78%

9

Sheep's Wool Insulation

153.57%

10

Wood Fibre Insulation

142.46%

11

Timbercrete

135.58%

12

Hemp Insulation

132.98%

13

Recycled Plastic Insulation

126.86%

14

Bamboo Reinforced Concrete

116.36%

15

Precast Concrete

114.35%

 

The connection between homeowners taking purchasing materials into their own hands in 2020, and making more sustainable choices for their homes is clear.

Eco-Friendly Concrete Alternatives

The first clear category identified in this data is sustainable alternatives to traditional concrete, such as rammed earth construction. Concrete has long been favoured for its strength and low price point, however, its harmful effects on the environment cannot be denied. In fact, if global concrete production were considered a country, it would count for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, coming third to the US and China. So, it’s no surprise that as sustainability becomes an ever-growing factor in our minds, we’re beginning to seek viable alternatives.

 

sheeps wool insulation being applied by a tradesman

Natural Insulation

Secondly, greener forms of insulation also feature heavily on this list, as homeowners are on the lookout for less harmful ways to keep properties warm. Traditional materials such as synthetic glass mineral wool offer high levels of performance but require large amounts of energy to produce and must be handled with care whilst wearing PPE. Natural materials such as hemp or sheep’s wool however require very little energy to create and can be installed easily without equipment.

A Wake Up Call for Property Developers

As our research above shows, British homeowners have truly kicked the move towards greener solutions into gear. This trend is only going to build momentum, which means property developers and builders will have to catch up quickly if they want to get ahead of the consumer's desire for sustainable living. These attitudes towards the environment were echoed in a UN Development Programme poll taken last year, where 81% of Britons agreed there was a global climate emergency.

 

hand holding grass cut out of home in front of countryside background

We dove deeper into Google data, and uncovered an even greater shift in attitude when it came to construction in general:

Top 10 Construction Styles Increasing Most in Popularity in 2020

 

Rank

Construction Style

Popularity

1

Regenerative Building Design

600.00%

2

Regenerative Architecture

212.24%

3

Eco Friendly Architecture

158.72%

4

Eco Friendly Construction

154.29%

5

Zero Carbon Building

142.29%

6

Eco Friendly House Construction

141.67%

7

Sustainable Property Development

134.48%

8

Eco Houses

133.68%

9

Passive Housing

112.94%

10

Sustainable Construction

112.57%

 

Once again, this data shows a very clear trend of greater interest in sustainable construction moving into the future, which will only continue. Most strikingly in this table, we see that searches for "Regenerative Building Design" have grown a whopping 600%, as Britons seek to learn more about the way the built environment can be used to reverse damage done to the eco-system, and even have a net-positive impact.

Gian-Carlo Grossi, Managing Director at Roofing Megastore commented on the findings: “As COVID-19 brought our physical health to the forefront, we also had a chance to consider the health of the world around us. Last year showed homeowners turning clearly towards more sustainable alternatives for their projects, as we all seek to create a healthier, more sustainable built environment moving into the 2020s and beyond.”

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Methodology:

Roofing Megastore analysed total search volume across 2019 and 2020 to assess the growth in popularity of over 300 of the most popular building material and construction search terms.