Present-day designs consume large quantities of physical resources such as materials, energy and money in their construction, maintenance and use. And at many a times economics and environmental aspects of a building tend to conflict with each other, as one is exchanged for the other, often not leaning towards the environmental aspects. As architects, we need to be able to design ecosystems to be healthier and lessen the pollution impact on the earth. We are capable of making the biggest impacts on the environment, be it good or bad. Proceeding swiftly but cautiously into the the future, we as architects have to make the conscious decision and the conspicuous effort to work together to serve the planet as a whole. Aesthetically, functionally and more than all else, sustainably. Whether it’s in our work spaces, our homes or our projects, the time and situation calls for the need to adapt environmentalism as a lifestyle. As Alvar Aalto infamously said “Architecture is not merely national but has local ties in that it is rooted in the earth”. There are plenty of steps, procedures and techniques that go into making a structure a ‘green building,’ but the primary ingredient that creates the foundation for it all is to create and design out of materials that are green. In architecture school, and through various other sources we are mostly aware of the stars of the green building world – bamboo, rammed earth, wood – but are these, and the combinations of these it?Certainly not. And so let’s talk about the new, innovative green materials in the market today, that should become as much a part of your conversation as bamboo.FungiYes, you read that right! Mycelium, a fungi, is the root network of mushrooms, a fast growing matrix that can act as a natural glue. Not only does Mycelium’s dense network binds substrates, like sawdust or other plant-based waste products, into a structurally active material composite, it is also capable of disintegrating to compost after use. Grown locally, efficient and organic, Mycelium is the material to watch out for. That said, the only flaw in the argument lies in the materials low strength, a detriment that can be overcome using structural geometry. As tried and tested successfully by architect Dirk Hebel and engineer Philippe Block, Asif Rahman of Beetles 3.3 (B3.3), Italian architect Giombattista Arredia and Lebanese architect Mohamad Yassin, and various others, I encourage you to give this a test run yourself!CorkBillions of corks are made every year, but only a percentage of the harvest is used. Unbeknown to many, cork is something of a dark horse when it comes to the environment—a model of a sustainable industry and building material. By its very nature, cork is both recyclable and renewable, as it is the only tree that regenerates its bark, while harvesting that bark causes the tree no harm. Cork is waterproof, resistant to abrasion, and acts as a fire retardant and an acoustic insulator. It also has desirable aesthetic qualities, giving buildings mottled earthy tones and natural patterning. Not only that but an increase in demand for cork would benefit the environment, as the industry would need to plant more trees that encourage these habitats to grow and consume more carbon dioxide. Win win, right?Check out Surman Westons Cork Study (a study made out of cork) and ?Redshank by Lisa Shell Architects with Marcus Taylor for inspiration.EcorDeveloped in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, is made from 100 percent recycled material. It’s made from fiber-based waste — office paper, cardboard, recycled denim and other fabrics, hemp, jute, sugar cane bagasse, corn husks, wood dust and trimmings, among others — and can be engineered into a variety of shapes for different applications. The company describes it as a sustainable alternative to wood, composites, aluminum and plastic. The product itself is also 100 percent recyclable. Every single company we encounter has a waste stream and that waste stream is unique to them. And every company has a need for building materials, for their own use or making into products such as furniture or something else. Whether it’s in their building or products, we can now design a unique fiber alloy around their needs. SourceGrapheneLighter than a feather, more conductive than copper, graphene is made up of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice pattern. It forms a nearly transparent sheet about one atom thick, and is 200 times stronger than steel, yet six times lighter. Almost two-dimensional instead of three-dimensional, graphene interacts with light and other materials in unique ways. carbon nanotubes have some incredibly handy uses in construction. So does a similar material called a carbon nanofiber. Carbon nanotubes are just layers of graphene wrapped into perfect cylinders. Carbon nanofibers are also made from layers of graphene, this time arranged into the shapes of stacked cones, cups, or plates.These materials can be combined with traditional bulk building materials to improve or add new properties to the bulk materials. Possible applications include replacing steel cables on suspension and cable-stayed bridges with much stronger carbon nanotubes. Researchers won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for developing graphene. With good cause, as evident! SourceSelf-healing concreteNothing lasts forever. But in case of architecture, it just gets too expensive, in terms of both time and resources to maintain a structure. But stepping into the future, that’s about to change. Hendrik Jonkers, a microbiologist at Delft University and a finalist at the recent 10th annual European Inventor Awards, has a plan to increase the lifespan of concrete. His innovation, which embeds self-activating limestone-producing bacteria into building material, is designed to decrease the amount of new concrete produced and lower maintenance and repair costs. Bacteria (Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii) are mixed and distributed evenly throughout the concrete, but can lie dormant for up to 200 years as long as there is food in the form of particles. It is only with the arrival of concrete’s nemesis itself – rainwater or atmospheric moisture seeping into cracks – that the bacteria starts to produce the limestone that eventually repairs the cracks. Read more about it here.The future does look healthier, won’t you agree? Let us know of your thoughts on these materials. Which would you want to try out next? Know of any more astonishing materials? Tell us about them, so as a community of well-versed professionals, we can all help create a greener tomorrow.