Building-material sustainability boils down to the environmental burden of production, placement and maintenance, Sarah Buckley writes. Buckley explores sustainable materials and other sustainability factors, along with the top three materials and their costs and characteristics.



What does sustainable mean?

There is no universally agreed definition of sustainability. In fact, there are many different viewpoints on this concept and on how it can be achieved.

Etymologically, the word sustainability comes from sustainable + ity. And sustainable is, for instance, a composition of sustain + able. So if we start from the beginning, to <sustain> means “give support to”, “to hold up”, “to bear” or to “keep up”.

What is sustainability, then? Sustainable is an adjective for something that is able to be sustained, i.e, something that is “bearable” and “capable of being continued at a certain level”. In the end, sustainability can perhaps be seen as the process(es) by which something is kept at a certain level.Nonetheless, nowadays, because of the environmental and social problems society is facing, sustainability is commonly used in a specific way.

Therefore, sustainability can be defined as the processes and actions through which humankind avoids the depletion of natural resources (which is influenced by the way societies are organised) to keep an ecological balance so that society’s quality of life doesn’t decrease.