With the environmental impact of the built environment well known to most, housing managers are always looking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Scott Beattie from Fibo, explores why wall panels can offer a more sustainable option for bathroom and kitchen spaces
As we approach ever closer to the Net Zero 2050 target, many housing managers are becoming more environmentally conscious with the materials they use and their approach to refurbishment projects. Research shows that the built environment generates nearly 40% of global Carbon Dioxide emissions, with building and infrastructure materials and construction accounting for 13% of this per year. With this in mind, reducing these emissions and finding more sustainable methods of construction are key.
Through the specification of more sustainable materials in properties, together we can build the greener homes of the future. For example, when looking at bathrooms – one of the busiest and most popular rooms to refurbish in any home – opting to use a waterproof wall panel system rather than traditional tiles can provide numerous environmental benefits.
Typically manufactured with a multi-layered plywood core – an inherently sustainable and renewable material – wall panels made from PEFC-certified wood can help to reduce a project’s carbon footprint. Ensuring that any timber products used are PEFC-certified is a great way of ensuring that it comes from a sustainably managed forest source.
Ease of installation
Wall panels are famously easy to install, offering an installation that is up to five times quicker than tiles. As well as being great on-site, this also brings with it more environmental benefits, such as a reduction in waste, with wall panels able to be fitted directly on top of existing tiles (as well as plasterboard or timber stud work). This eliminates the need to strip old tiling off bathroom walls or time-consuming wall preparation work, something which can contribute to Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Not only this but, with no specialist tools or wet trades required to fit wall panels, any additional materials used in the installation process are further reduced.
That said, it is important to look beyond the initial installation too. Once a product or system is installed, you need to have the reassurance that it will last and won’t need replacing further down the line. A key way of achieving this is by installing long-lasting and strong building materials that require little maintenance or upkeep. Wall panels yet again can help with this.
Extremely durable, with minimal upkeep required to keep them looking brand-new, you can also forget about the worry of cracks or chips, unlike their tile counterparts. Due to the absence of real grout due to the grout line being routered in, wall panels are far easier to clean than regular tiling. This makes them perfect for social housing, where there can be a quick turnaround needed between one tenant vacating the property and the new tenant moving in.
Some wall panels even come with a 25-year guarantee, providing they are installed correctly in line with the installation instructions, offering the assurance that they will stand the test of time.
Of course, it’s no good having a product that fits sustainability requirements if it doesn’t look visually appealing – it’s important to balance sustainability with durability and aesthetics if we are to truly deliver the housing of the future.
Previously, wall panels may have been seen as a cheap or dull option, but this is no longer the case. Thanks to the latest market developments, wall panels come in a wide variety of beautiful and contemporary designs. This even includes tile-effect panels for those who aren’t quite ready to move wholly away from the tile aesthetic. There are a range of product designs on the market, offering plenty of choice no matter what your budget.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that wall panels are the smarter and greener choice, and in some instances can reduce carbon footprint by as much as 37% when compared to tiles. If manufactured with high-quality plywood timber materials in ISO 14001 accredited environments, they offer excellent durability and cost-saving benefits.
If you make careful and informed choices when looking at building materials for housing developments and refurbishments, it’s possible to ensure you are doing your bit for the environment, while still creating beautiful living spaces for residents.
Scott Beattie is managing director at Fibo