15th Nov 2023 -

Sustainability has become an important consideration in architectural design. Using environmentally-friendly materials is a productive way to reduce the ecological impact of your projects. One material that is gaining popularity for its sustainability benefits is fibreboard sheets. Made from recycled wood fibres and free of harmful chemicals, fibreboard offers an eco-friendly alternative. 

For this feature, we examine how wood fibreboard sheets are revolutionising sustainable construction. We look at the composition and production process of fibreboard, as well as discuss how its durability and versatility make it an ideal choice for green builders.

By highlighting the advantages of fibreboard, we outline how it enables you to make design choices that are better for both the environment and project budgets.

How is fibreboard sustainable?

Fibreboard's recycled content, low footprint production, and versatility make it an excellent choice for sustainable design. However, medium-density fibreboard (MDF), high-density fibreboard (HDF) and low-density fibreboard (LDF) each uphold varying sustainability attributes. 


  • Recycled wood fibres and sawdust - MDF uses wood scraps, sawdust, and waste fibres from other wood processing operations as its main raw material. This diverts what would otherwise be waste to landfills.
  • Low emissions and energy use - MDF production utilises synthetic resins and waxes as binders within a steam-heated press. This requires less energy than more intensive manufacturing of materials like concrete or steel. MDF has low VOC emissions.
  • Versatility and cost-efficiency - With good strength, workability, and stability, MDF is extremely versatile for floor, furniture and cabinetry jobs. As an engineered wood product, it is less costly than solid wood.
  • Not moisture resistant unless treated - Untreated MDF tends to swell and lose structural integrity with excessive moisture. It requires sealing, lamination or other protection in damp environments.


  • Recycled fibres and sustainable woods - In addition to post-industrial wood fibres, HDF board incorporates wood from responsible forestry practices. The mix results in a highly dense, strong panel.
  • Very dense material - With increased density comes greater panel stability and strength. This allows down-gauging of thickness for material efficiency. More surface area can be covered with the same amount of total wood fibre.
  • Excellent stability - Alongside proper maintenance, density provides durability that can achieve a life span of 50 years or more. This is particularly true in applications like exterior cladding, which reduces the need for replacement.
  • Water resistant and durable - Unlike MDF, the density of HDF makes it highly resistant to water and moisture. This is for both interior and exterior applications.
  • Harder to work with and cut vs MDF - The high density and hardness of HDF, such as flexcell board, require more robust tools to accurately shape and cut.


  • Uses waste wood - LDF, also known as particle board, adds agricultural fibres from cereal crops, hemp, flax and other sources to wood scraps to create an ultra-light panel.
  • Very low density and weight - Typical density ranges from 250-450 kg/m3, compared to 600-800 for MDF and over 800 for HDF. 
  • Low energy consumption in production - The blend of wood and agricultural fibres binds under low heat and pressure. Less energy is used in manufacturing compared to other composites.
  • Biodegradable with no toxic chemicals - LDF uses 100% bio-based resins allowing it to fully biodegrade. This also means it does not contain formaldehyde or VOCs.
  • Unsuitable for load-bearing applications - The extremely low density reduces strength capabilities for projects such as ceiling, roofing or flooring structures. Corrugated fibreboard, a type of LDF, is primarily used to create packaging. 
  • Limited durability compared to MDF/HDF - Lower resin content improves eco-friendliness. However, LDF is more susceptible to moisture and impact damage. The lifespan is typically under 15 years.

Is fibreboard more sustainable than solid wood?

Both fibreboard sheets and solid wood have sustainability attributes. However, the choice between them depends on various factors. This includes the specific application, environmental goals, and sourcing practices. Below are the key sustainability differences between the materials.

1. Raw material sourcing

Fibreboard: Often made from recycled wood fibres, agricultural residues, or fast-growing wood species. This can reduce the demand for raw timber and promote sustainable forestry practices.
Solid wood: The sustainability of solid wood depends on the source. Responsibly harvested and certified wood from well-managed forests can be sustainable. However, the depletion of old-growth forests for solid wood can have environmental consequences.

2. Durability and longevity

Fibreboard: Although durable, fibreboard may not be as naturally resistant to wear and tear as some hardwoods. However, finishes and treatments can enhance its durability.
Solid wood: Solid wood is inherently durable and can withstand heavy use. It often has a longer lifespan. Well-maintained solid wood furniture or structures can last for generations.

3. Resource efficiency

Fibreboard: Manufacturing processes for fibreboard often use a significant proportion of wood fibres that might otherwise be considered waste, contributing to resource efficiency.
Solid wood: Solid wood requires larger sections of timber. There may be more waste during the milling process. However, the durability of solid wood can offset the need for frequent replacements.

4. Carbon footprint

Fibreboard: Depending on the manufacturing process, fibreboard can have a lower carbon footprint than solid wood. This is especially true if it includes recycled content and uses low-emission adhesives.
Solid wood: The carbon footprint of solid wood can vary. If sourced sustainably and used efficiently, it can be a carbon-neutral or low-carbon material. 

5. Indoor air quality

Fibreboard: Some types of fibreboard may emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), impacting indoor air quality. Nonetheless, there are low-emission options available.
Solid wood: Solid wood such as C16-treated timber and C24-treated timber generally has low VOC emissions. It is considered a healthier option for indoor environments.

6. Energy consumption

Fibreboard: The energy required to manufacture fibreboard can be lower than that for solid wood. It is particularly lower if it involves recycling processes and the use of advanced technologies.
Solid wood: The energy footprint of solid wood can be higher, especially in processing and transportation. Sustainable forestry and energy-efficient milling practices can mitigate this.

7. Renewability

Fibreboard: The use of recycled content and fast-growing wood sources enhances the renewable aspect of fibreboard. Overall, this contributes to a more circular economy.
Solid wood: Sustainably managed forests ensure a renewable source of solid wood. Certification systems like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) highlight responsibly harvested wood.

8. End-of-life considerations

Fibreboard: Depending on the specific type and additives, fibreboard may pose challenges for recycling. However, some types can be repurposed or used in energy recovery.
Solid wood: Solid wood is generally recyclable and biodegradable, providing a more straightforward end-of-life cycle. Reclaimed wood further extends its sustainability.

How to utilise fibreboard for eco-friendly designs

Fibreboard sheets emerge as a sustainable choice for eco-friendly designs through their recycled content, resource efficiency, low emissions and adaptability. Here are some examples of how fibreboard can contribute to eco-friendly and sustainable architecture. 

Insulating exterior walls

You can use high-performance wood fibreboard insulation and sheathing to create an efficient building envelope. Using the high R-value insulation allowed the thickness to be reduced compared to less efficient materials, resulting in material savings.

Durable and moisture-resistant fibreboard sheathing increased the exterior wall longevity compared to alternatives. The sheathing delivered exceptional structural bracing and air sealing while using only a fraction of the embedded energy of aluminium or plywood.

Acoustic wall treatments

Perforated MDF fibreboard panels can be installed on walls to help absorb noise. The natural sound-dampening properties of fibreboard avoid the possible health impacts of fibreglass alternatives. Unfinished MDF panel edges can be left exposed throughout the space instead of using VOC-emitting paint or laminate coatings.

This specification contributes to a project’s indoor air quality requirements. Gypsum fibreboard can also be used to line walls due to its soundproofing qualities. 

Decorative interior wall covering

HDF fiberboard panels can create decorative textured feature walls. Precision computer numerical control (CNC) routers could be used to engrave sustainable patterns into the HDF. These patterns can simulate conventional wood millwork without excessive natural resource use.

An ultra-low VOC water-based sealant can be factory-applied to the panels for moisture and scratch resistance that exceeds paint or chemical coatings. The result is a durable and visually warm finish surpassing the ecological impact of stone, brick or concrete.

Rooftop garden planters

Lightweight and biodegradable LDF fibreboard can create an elevated garden planter box. The biodegradable properties mean the LDF could eventually break down and serve as a soil nutrient. Compared to pressure-treated timber, LDF weighs 90% less, significantly reducing structural loading.

The porous fibreboard can also increase water absorption, which helps to manage runoff through the green roof system.

Curved architectural elements

Flowing curved exterior shading elements can be constructed from MDF fibreboard panels. CNC milling allows the complex doubly curved forms to be efficiently carved from MDF with minimal waste. Compared to bending metal or casting concrete, the fiberboard shading elements are less energy and carbon-intensive.

This highlights an innovative use of common material for a unique architectural application.

What is the future of fibreboard in eco-friendly architecture?

While sustainable construction gains momentum, fibreboard continues to play an increasing role in eco-friendly building projects. Here are some ways that fibreboard will likely advance as a green architectural material. 

  • Improved recycled content: Manufacturers will continue boosting recycled wood content in fibreboards to reduce waste. Some fibreboards already utilise 100% recycled fibres. You should expect this to become more commonplace.
  • Bio-based resins: Conventional resins will transition to bio-resins derived from plants. This reduces embodied carbon versus petroleum-based. Soy and hemp are potential sources of low-impact binders.
  • Natural fibre composites: Hybrid fibreboards will incorporate other agricultural fibres like straw, cotton, and bamboo for added sustainability. These composite materials lower environmental impacts. Natural fibres are used to create green board underlay, a type of wood fibre underlay popular for laminate flooring. 
  • Carbon sequestration applications: With their wood content, some fibreboards may be leveraged as a means of carbon storage in buildings as part of net-zero goals. Preservation of fibreboards represents carbon avoidance.
  • Biodegradability: Manufacturers will engineer fibreboards that biodegrade at the end-of-life stage instead of languishing in landfills.

As architects and designers aim for carbon neutrality and reduced footprints, fibreboard materials will play an integral role. From manufacturing to disposal, the future of fibreboard is pointing toward an increasingly eco-friendly, renewable building material. 

Elevate your sustainable fibreboard projects today

Our extensive range of sustainable fibreboard materials is designed to minimise environmental impact. Each type is crafted from recycled wood fibres and sourced sustainably. Also, our fibreboard sheets of all size options promise durability without compromise.

Whether you are working on fibreboard underlay flooring, roofing with bitumen board, or interior wall panelling, our environmentally conscious fibreboard materials offer a winning combination of performance and eco-friendly attributes.

At Building Materials Nationwide, we are committed to supporting you in your pursuit of sustainable construction practices. Open a trade account with us today and unlock a world of benefits tailored to your eco-friendly projects.

As a valued trade customer, you will gain access to our premium range of sustainable fibreboard materials. All products are carefully curated to meet the unique demands of your ventures. Enjoy competitive pricing, timely UK delivery options and personalised support from our expert team.

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