Building with Cork


There is a growing move to use sustainable materials in building design and construction. Cork has emerged as a durable and environmentally friendly alternative to wood. Cork’s remarkable qualities can be used for many different purposes. It is light, durable, elastic, waterproof, fire retardant and has great insulation properties. Furthermore, cork is 100% reusable.

Natural cork originates from of the bark of the cork oak tree, which is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, southwest Europe and northern Africa and has been used by humanity for over 5,000 years. Harvesting cork is generally considered to be sustainable because it doesn’t require cutting down the tree, only stripping the bark, allowing the tree to continue to live and grow. Portugal produces approximately half of the cork harvested annually worldwide. In China, Egypt, Babylon, and Persia from about 3000 BC, cork was used for sealing containers, fishing equipment, and domestic applications. In ancient Greece, cork was used in footwear. Nowadays, most people know cork for its use as stoppers in wine bottles, but there is growing popularity in cork being used as a building material.

Because of its many beneficial qualities, cork is incredibly useful as a building material. It is used most in flooring, but it can also be used in countertops, insulation, acoustic wall coverings and exterior surfaces, including roofs and siding. Cork is soft, easy to cut and lightweight, which makes it very easy for builders and contractors to use. It is also highly water-resistant and does not degrade or rot, making it one of the best seals available. Another benefit to using cork is that it is a great thermal insulator and natural fire retardant. Cork neither spreads flame or releases toxic gasses during combustion which makes it an excellent fire retardant especially for buildings where people work or congregate.

Because of its insulation and soundproofing qualities, cork works as a phenomenal flooring option. Cork flooring tiles are often used in different densities, thicknesses, and finishes and are naturally non-slip and resist humidity. As a countertop material, cork is hypoallergenic, durable, easy to install, and cost-effective making it a great alternative to conventional countertop options. As a building cladding, cork has very high insulation values and contributes significantly to the energy efficiency and sustainability of the building.

At JL Architects, we are always seeking ways to make our designs more sustainable and environmentally friendly. We would love to help you on your next project; contact us today!
-Amy Estrella