Durable Siding Options: Side By Side

Durable Siding Options: Side By Side

Making sustainable siding choices requires looking at many factors: the embodied energy of the product, impact on water and other resources required during manufacturing, local or regional availability, types of finishes used and recycling potential.
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Multimedia from this Release

Green Builder magazine Managing Editor, Juliet Grable

Whether acrylic , lime or cement based, stucco finishes offer durability along with pleasing aesthetics. This home was clad with Sto Corp products. www.stocorp.com

Bark Siding Shingles from Bark House are square cut; Pioneer shingles (pictured here) come with a rough bottom edge, for a more traditional, rustic look. www.barkhouse.com

Progressive Foam offers expanded polystyrene (eps) exterior insulation for several types of siding, including vinyl, fiber cement and steel.

Green Builder Media

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ethical and Sustainable Living

CONTENT: Article

NOT TOO LONG AGO, Not too long ago, if you were building a house in this country, there were only three major cladding options—brick, stucco or wood—and the choice was largely determined by your region. After World War II, aluminum siding took center stage, and in the 1980s, vinyl began its ascendancy. Today, the field has expanded. And while vinyl is still king, fiber cement is making inroads, and other cladding options are experiencing a resurgence. Wood, which inspires so many of the alternatives, makes up but a small fraction of the cladding of new homes. 

In general, most of the major siding types—including fiber cement, brick, stucco and wood—are long lasting, although durability does depend on proper installation and maintenance, as well as original quality. Making sustainable choices requires looking at other factors, too: the embodied energy of the product, impact on water and other resources required during manufacturing, local or regional availability, types of finishes used and recycling potential. There is no clear-cut best option, as each has its merits and drawbacks. As life cycle assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) become more widely available, making sustainable choices will become a less onerous task. Until then, here are some of our recommendations.

Masonry: A Solid Choice
Brick has many advantages: it’s durable, long lasting and doesn’t need painting. Made from clay and sand (and small amounts of other materials, such as lime), brick is non-toxic, fireproof, impact resistant and 100 percent recyclable. It also produces very little waste during manufacturing. Though brick itself can’t boast a high R-value, it does provide thermal mass, and the one-inch air space between brick and framing provides both insulation value and soundproofing. Brick is still a popular choice, especially in the South, although today both brick and stone are primarily used as veneer rather than as a structural material, which cuts down on material usage.

Despite its many benefits, the manufacturing of brick requires high energy inputs to maintain the extreme temperatures necessary for kiln firing, along with large amounts of water. Cement-based mortar also has high embodied energy. On the other hand, masonry’s long lifespan—100 years is the conservative estimate—helps mitigate the high initial energy cost. There are also many brick manufacturing plants across the U.S., which minimizes the energy cost of transporting raw and finished materials.

According to the Brick Industry Association, manufacturing brick requires 70 percent less energy than it did in 1970, and manufacturers are seeking alternatives to fossil fuels to power their facilities. For example, two of Boral’s manufacturing plants, including its largest, LEED-certified facility in Terre Haute, Indiana, use methane from nearby landfills to fuel them. In addition, some of the company’s plants incorporate waste wood fibers into the wet brick mixture, which are then burned off in the firing process, resulting in a lighter brick with “enhanced insulating properties.” Boral has also taken measures to recycle water, and has reduced water use in its North American facilities by 50 percent (per ton of product produced) since 2009. The company’s many masonry products are Cradle to Cradle Silver certified.