Go Green, Healthy and Durable with Lime-Based Finishing Materials

The recent trend in business has been to look to the future, however, logic and reason concerning the construction materials industry seems to have flipped this idea on its head. One can’t help but marvel at the architectural structures of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman empires. The ability of these structures to endure thousands of years of wear-and-tear compels one to delve into the foundation of their success.

Lime was the chosen building material for each of these empires due to its durability, breathability, and resistance to insect infestations and moisture; now it is chosen for those same characteristics in addition to its beauty, eco friendly nature, and qualities that prevent Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

SBS is a term used to describe buildings in which occupants experience acute health effects and discomfort after spending time in a particular room or building. These effects are often caused by inadequate ventilation, biological contaminants like mold, and chemical contaminants like cleaning agents and chemically infused building materials. Architectural finishes that are cement-, acrylic-, or gypsum-based are not mold resistant, contain unhealthy chemicals, require repairs relatively shortly after application, and are not adequately breathable. This being so, these materials can contribute to SBS. Authentic lime-based materials, on the other hand, are highly breathable and porous, which leads to increased ventilation; are eco friendly and contain no harmful chemicals, are mold and insect resistant, and self-heal small fissures within the material to increase material durability and longevity.

A changing of the guard is under way as many construction developers are leaving their cement, acrylic, and gypsum-based materials in favor of lime based building materials. Once applied, lime-based materials offer unrivaled durability and are more cost effective in the short and long run. Lime-based materials are equally as affordable during the initial application and drastically reduce repair costs in the long run with its self-healing qualities. Where cement-based materials will develop individual large cracks when subjected to small structural movements, lime-based materials will develop many fine cracks that will self-fuse when water evaporates within the crack. This is a very beneficial quality when building on non-stable foundations because while the structure will distort with age, it will not fail.

In addition to durability, lime is healthy for inhabitants and the environment. Cement, acrylic, and gypsum-based materials contain a variety of chemicals that can be harmful to inhabitant health. These materials have low permeability and, in-turn, trap stagnant and unhealthy air inside of the structure. Lime-based materials, however, are highly permeable and allow fresh air to flow in and out of the structure. Unlike other materials, lime harms neither the inhabitant nor the environment because it is 100 percent natural and free of toxic additives and admixtures.

The recent trend in business has been driven by innovation, however, the building industry is beginning to question this trend and the pickup in the green construction industry seems to be an indicator that the construction industry has come back to its senses. While there is no doubt that innovation has produced materials that are inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing in the short run, there are many disadvantages that affect more than simply the structure. Health and shelter are the fundamental purposes for these structures; therefore, they should be built with materials that ensure inhabitant health and structural durability. Lime has been proven to satisfy these needs for more than 6,000 years and the recent concern for environmental and inhabitant health has brought it back into the limelight.

Brian Coia is president of bioLime Inc. BioLime surpasses the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED protocol with its line of architectural finishing products. He can be reached at www.biolime.com.