8th Jul 2024 -

Cement board offers a range of environmental benefits that align with the demand for eco-friendly building construction. As the industry seeks to reduce its carbon footprint and embrace sustainability, cement board emerges as a promising alternative.

This article explores the eco-friendly benefits of cement boards, examining how they contribute to greener building practices. We delve into its durability and recyclability, as well as consider factors such as production. 

8 Sustainability Benefits of Cement Board

Cement boards offer key advantages that make them an appealing option for sustainable construction. These benefits span various aspects of the material's lifecycle. 

1. Reduced carbon footprint

They typically use less cement per square foot compared to traditional concrete products. Adding supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) like fly ash or slag may reduce the carbon footprint compared to Portland cement. 

2. Energy efficiency

Cement boards offer better insulation and they have a thermal conductivity of 0.2-0.5 watts per metre-Kelvin (W/mK). This is compared to concrete thermal conductivity of around 1.0-1.8 W/mK. It leads to energy savings, particularly for buildings using fibre cement cladding. The thermal mass of cement boards also contributes to temperature regulation. 

3. Water conservation

The production of cement boards requires less water compared to traditional concrete products. Also, their water resistance (with water absorption rates as low as 8-12%) means less water damage and fewer replacements.

4. Waste reduction

Cement boards use an estimated 20-30% recycled content. This diverts waste from landfills. At the end of their lifecycle, they can be recycled into aggregate. 

5. Indoor air quality

Cement boards produce low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), less than 0.5 milligrams per square metre per hour (mg/m²/hr). As a comparison, vinyl can emit up to 20-30 mg/m²/hr of VOCs. 

This low emission rate contributes to healthier indoor environments. It also helps in achieving certifications like Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM). 

6. Durability and longevity

With a lifespan of around 50 years when properly installed, cement boards greatly outlast many alternative materials. For example, they may last 2-3 times longer than standard gypsum boards in similar applications. 

Its longevity limits the need for replacements and the associated environmental impacts of manufacturing and disposal. Over a 100-year building lifespan, this means avoiding 2 complete replacements of wall or ceiling materials.

7. Fire resistance

Generally, cement boards have a fire rating of 1-2 hours. This inherent fire resistance potentially reduces the use of chemical fire retardants compared to wood-based or plastic products. In fire tests, cement boards often maintain structural integrity at temperatures exceeding 1000°C (1832°F) for over an hour.

8. Mould resistance

The alkaline nature of cement boards creates an environment difficult for mould growth. It minimises the use of chemical mould inhibitors like zinc compounds compared to sheet materials or plasterboard. In high-humidity environments, this may extend cement board lifespan compared to materials prone to mould growth. 

Discover our selection of high-quality cement boards for sustainable construction. 

What is the Eco-Friendly Profile of Cement Board Types?

Each cement board type offers unique sustainability and eco-friendly characteristics. The following table compares 6 common types of cement board. This comparison helps you select the most appropriate option for your project.

Type of Cement BoardSustainability Properties
Regular Cement BoardOffers long-lasting durability, reducing replacements. Its fire resistance eliminates the need for additional chemical treatments. The board emits low levels of VOCs, contributing to better indoor air quality. Can be recycled as aggregate.
Fibre Cement BoardCement fibre board uses recycled materials in its composition. Fibre reinforcement enhances durability, extending the lifespan. Its versatility allows for multiple applications.
Lightweight Cement BoardUses less raw material per square foot of coverage. The reduced weight leads to easier and less energy-intensive installation. Typically offers better insulation properties compared to standard cement boards.
High-Performance Cement BoardBoast an extended lifespan. Provides improved weather resistance which lessens the need for additional protective coatings. Enhanced strength allows for a thinner 6mm cement board, using less overall material.
Tile Backer BoardAlso referred to as cement backer board. Its high moisture resistance reduces mould growth and the need for chemical treatments. Offers exceptional longevity in wet areas, reducing replacement frequency. Tile backer boards are often compatible with eco-friendly adhesives and contribute to better temperature regulation.
Cement Particle BoardUses recycled wood or agricultural waste in its production. Produce low levels of formaldehyde for improved indoor air quality. Their dimensional stability reduces the need for replacements because of warping. Cement particle board provides good thermal mass properties.

How to Enhance Cement Board Sustainability

While cement boards already offer excellent environmental benefits, there is potential to further enhance their sustainability profile. Below, we explore techniques that can be implemented across the lifecycle of cement boards. 

Bonding and finishing

Use low-VOC adhesives, mortars and grouts when installing cement boards. Apply eco-friendly sealants and finishes to enhance durability and reduce long-term maintenance needs. Consider breathable finishes that allow the cement board to maintain its natural moisture-regulating properties.

Energy efficiency enhancement

Maximise the insulative properties of cement boards by ensuring proper installation with no thermal bridges. In renovation projects, consider adding an insulative layer behind cement boards to improve overall energy efficiency.

Longevity and maintenance

Properly seal joints and edges to prevent water ingress and extend the lifespan of the installation. Develop a maintenance plan that includes regular inspections and prompt repairs to small issues, preventing larger problems and premature replacement.

End-of-life planning

When removing old cement boards, separate them from other construction waste for proper recycling. Contact local recycling facilities or manufacturers about repurposing schemes. In demolition projects, consider careful deconstruction to salvage cement boards for reuse where possible.

How Do You Cut Cement Board to Minimise Waste?

Efficiently cutting cement boards is crucial for minimising waste and reducing environmental impact. While traditional cutting methods result in significant dust and material loss, advanced techniques address these issues. Here, we discover a range of innovative approaches to cutting cement boards.

1. Precise measurement and planning

Before cutting, create a detailed layout plan. Use computer-aided design (CAD) software or specialised tile layout programmes to optimise board usage. Digital pre-planning may help reduce waste compared to on-the-spot decisions.

2. Score-and-snap method

For straight cuts, use a carbide-tipped scoring tool to create a deep score line on 1 side of the board. Apply pressure to snap the board along the line. This method produces minimal dust and waste. For thicker boards, score both sides before snapping.

3. Circular saw with dust collection

Use a circular saw with a diamond-tipped blade and a vacuum attachment. This setup may capture up to 90% of the dust produced. Set the blade depth to just barely cut through the board to minimise dust and extend blade life.

4. Wet cutting

Use a wet saw with a continuous-rim diamond blade. The water suppresses dust and also extends blade life. Some advanced wet saws have built-in water recycling systems to reduce water waste. 

5. Oscillating multi-tool

For small cuts, especially around fixtures or in tight spaces, use an oscillating multi-tool with a carbide-grit blade. This tool produces minimal dust and allows for precise cuts with less waste than larger tools.

6. CNC cutting

With large-scale projects, consider computer numerical control (CNC) cutting. It can achieve cutting accuracy within 0.1mm, greatly reducing waste from errors. 

7. Handheld track saw

Use a track saw for long, straight cuts. This ensures perfectly straight cuts, reducing errors and waste. Some models have dust collection ports that capture up to 95% of the dust produced.

What is the Future of Cement Board?

As the industry continues to prioritise sustainability, cement board manufacturers are likely to push the boundaries of eco-friendly construction. Based on current trends and emerging technologies, various developments are predicted in the coming years.

Carbon-negative boards

  • CO2-absorbing admixtures and photosynthetic microorganisms
  • Novel curing processes for rapid carbonation
  • Potential to absorb more CO2 than emitted during production

Bio-based materials

  • Algae-derived binders replace up to 70% of traditional cement
  • Agricultural waste (rice husks, bamboo fibres) as standard ingredients

Smart functionality

  • Self-healing properties using microencapsulated agents
  • Embedded sensors for structural health and environmental monitoring
  • Energy-generating surfaces (thin-film solar cells)

Advanced recycling

  • 100% recyclable formulations
  • Industry-wide reprocessing schemes

Environmental interaction

  • Water management features for moisture control
  • Bio-interactive surfaces supporting biodiversity

Nanoengineered performance

  • Increased strength-to-weight ratios
  • Adaptive thermal and acoustic properties
  • Self-cleaning exterior cement board surfaces

Explore Top Cement Boards for Sustainable Construction

At Building Materials Nationwide, we offer a range of cement board materials ideal for sustainable construction projects. Our cement boards are moisture resistant and fire resistant, making them excellent choices for applications like cement board cladding. These versatile panels are composed of cement, reinforcing fibres and aggregates, providing superior strength and longevity. 

We invite trade customers to open trade accounts with access to exclusive benefits and streamlined purchasing. By establishing a trade account, you enjoy competitive pricing on over 45,000 products and personalised account management. Our team is available to assist with product selection and logistics planning to ensure your projects run smoothly. To open a trade account, sign up now or contact us for a chat.

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