Environmentally Friendly Porches and Decks
In order to be considered green, building materials have to be judged on a variety of criteria. They should not have detrimental effects on the health of people or the environment. They should come from renewable or sustainable sources, and their production should be energy-efficient. They should also be durable so that they don't need to be replaced often. As you're choosing materials for your porch-building project, you'll have numerous options, some of them greener than others.
The lumber used in the construction of porches and decks must be resistant to damage from rot and weather, and pressure-treated lumber is the most common solution to this requirement. Before 2004, lumber was treated with chromated copper arsenate, a toxic chemical, but alkaline copper quaternary and copper azole are currently the most common lumber treatments. Although these copper compounds are less toxic than CCA, they still may pose some health and environmental dangers. As an alternative to chemical treated lumber, woods with natural resistance to decay, such as redwood, cedar and ipé, are more environmentally friendly solutions as long as they are obtained from sustainable sources.
Plastic and plastic-composite materials have a few advantages over wood in outdoor applications. Unlike pressure-treated lumber, they are not toxic, and they are resistant to the biological decay that is a concern with wood. Plastic building materials can be made from recycled consumer items such as milk jugs and plastic bottles; they contain no wood-based ingredients and don't decay or support mold growth. Wood-plastic composite materials are made from ground wood pulp mixed with recycled plastic; although these materials are resistant to decay, they do contain some natural wood components and require some maintenance to prevent mold growth and deterioration.
Aluminum building materials are also immune to decay and damage from insects. Like plastic building products, aluminum decking can be made from recycled material, and it is strong and long-lasting. Aluminum is significantly more expensive than most other porch-building materials and is not widely used in residential applications.
Building material reclaimed from other building projects is a greener alternative to newly manufactured products. Sources for reclaimed and salvaged material include retail outlets and online recycling networks. If your construction schedule is flexible, it may work for you to simply be on the lookout in your own neighborhood for remodeling and demolition projects that could be a source of materials for your own porch-building project.