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Sustainable Building Materials

Apse have been at the cutting edge of developing practical building solutions which integrate modern standards of performance, with quality and ethically sourced materials of construction. No two buildings are alike, but there are some patterns of compatible materials which can be used to generate a variety of different building forms.

Straw Bale

Many straw bale buildings are actually timber framed buildings with a straw bale fill to the panels. Load-bearing straw bale walls tend to be limited to smaller buildings. Whilst many people explore straw bales as an option, it is important to note that there can be restrictions when using them, and issues such as damp, settlement, fire performance and rodents, require careful detailing.

There are some interesting alternatives being developed.


Timber is a tried and tested building material which can be very environmentally friendly if harvested under appropriate supervision.

In our opinion, there is little reason now for any tropical hardwoods to be used in UK buildings. European species may be a little more expensive, but the cheaper cost of rainforest wood is almost always at the expense of the work-force or the environment.

Earth and Clay

Earth and clay are experiencing something of a renaissance, and there are also buildings in the UK which are hundreds of years old that are constructed from cob, or some similar earth based material. The thick walls provide a high degree of thermal mass, but relatively low levels of insulation.

Apse have developed, over a number of years structural mixes of lightweight clay and straw. These combine the advantages of earth construction with some of the insulating properties of straw. The material can be used to construct thick walls, such as those at the Field Centre at Ruskin Mill, and can also be used as a lining for the thick stone walls found in many of Britain's old farmhouses.

Steel and Glass

There is a place for modern materials, and for a modern aesthetic. Both the steel industry and glass manufacturers have moved with the times, and steel windows are now available with good thermal performance, and glass is improving at a rapid rate. Of course, both are highly manufactured products, with high embodied energy. Still, used carefully and for the right reasons, they can form a striking part of a green building.


Enhanced Standard Construction

Many buildings are not required to stand out from the crowd, for example a domestic extension or urban infill, yet still achieve better than average performance in terms of materials sourcing and energy performance. Many clients do not want their buildings to look 'eco'.

It is also sometimes desirable to develop buildings which can be built with traditional labour force skills. A few years ago we worked with Persimmon Homes to produce a housing development that would perform 10% above Building Regulations standards for energy efficiency, using their existing labour pool, and at minimal extra cost.

Enhanced Standard Construction is a system in development by Apse which seeks to achieve near zero carbon construction, whilst using a palette of materials and components familiar to everyday builders.


Recycled Building Materials

Vast quantities of waste are produced by our modern industrialised society. these can be roughly divided into manufacturing waste and post consumer waste. Using the waste products from manufacturing is just common sense, and has been around for a long time, such as lightweight blocks from pulverised fuel ash. Post consumer waste is a much more difficult area, as materials need sorting, cleaning and processing. There have been some steps forwards, including:

  • insulation from recycled drinking bottles or newspapers
  • membranes from recycled car tyres
  • worktops containing recycled glass

    insulation guide


    Every building should be as highly insulated as possible.

    Download our guide for an overview of the main green materials.

    download guide to roofimg materials

    Roofing Materials

    There are a huge diversity of roofing materials. Download part 1 of our introductory guide.