New research by Roofing Megastore reveals UK homeowners are increasingly opting for more eco-friendly building materials.

The study analysed Google search data over the past two years for different building materials and construction methods to uncover which have seen the biggest increases in interest over time.

Synthetic slate roof tiles came out on top, receiving 252% more searches in 2020 than in 2019, growing almost 100% more than traditional, less sustainable concrete roof tiles. Other green materials that are increasingly popular include energy saving windows, eco-friendly insulation, cedar shingles, and rammed earth.

This eco-friendly shift comes alongside the government’s £134 million pledge to "build back better", as well as moves by some of the industry’s biggest names.

Sustainability-focused not-for-profit Changing Streams has recently partnered with Arup, aiming to work alongside their experts and identify where plastic waste can be reduced in construction. Global construction and consultancy firm Mace has also pledged to reduce single-use plastics in its “Time to Act” campaign.

Top 15 Sustainable Building Materials Increasing Most in Popularity in 2020

1.           Synthetic Slate Roof Tiles             252.48%

2.           Energy Saving Windows                244.58%

3.           Rammed Earth Building                 195.98%

4.           Eco Friendly Insulation                  179.05%

5.           Cedar Shingles                              176.33%

6.           Ashcrete                                         168.97%

7.           Slate Roof Tiles                              165.24%

8.           Green Roof Systems                      161.78%

9.           Sheep’s Wool Insulation                 153.57%

10.         Wood Fibre Insulation                    142.46%

11.         Timbercrete                                     135.58%

12.         Hemp Insulation                              132.98%

13.         Recycled Plastic Insulation             126.86%

14.         Bamboo Reinforced Concrete         116.36%

15.         Precast Concrete                             114.35%

The first clear category identified in this data is sustainable alternatives to traditional concrete, such as rammed earth construction.

Concrete has long been favoured for its strength and low price point, however, its harmful effects on the environment cannot be denied. In fact, if global concrete production were considered a country, it would count for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, coming third to the US and China. So, it’s no surprise that as sustainability becomes an ever-growing factor in our minds, people are beginning to seek viable alternatives.

Greener forms of insulation also feature heavily on this list, as homeowners are on the lookout for less harmful ways to keep properties warm. Traditional materials such as synthetic glass mineral wool offer high levels of performance but require large amounts of energy to produce and must be handled with care whilst wearing PPE. Natural materials such as hemp or sheep’s wool, however, require very little energy to create and can be installed easily without equipment.

Gian-Carlo Grossi, Managing Director at Roofing Megastore, commented: “As COVID-19 brought our physical health to the forefront, we also had a chance to consider the health of the world around us. Last year showed homeowners turning clearly towards more sustainable alternatives for their projects, as we all seek to create a healthier, more sustainable built environment moving into 2021 and beyond.”

Roofing Megastore analysed total search volume across 2019 and 2020 to assess the growth in popularity of over 300 of the most popular building material and construction search terms.