More than ever before, the world's increasing need for new infrastructure demands the construction of efficient, sustainable and durable buildings, requiring minimal climate-changing gas-generation in their production. Maintenance-free ``greener'' building materials made from blended cements have advantages over ordinary Portland cements, as they are cheaper, generate less carbon dioxide and are more durable. The key for the improved performance of blends (which substitute fine amorphous silicates for cement) is related to their resistance to water penetration. The mechanism of this water resistance is of great environmental and economical impact but is not yet understood due to the complexity of the cement's hydration reactions. Using neutron spectroscopy, we studied a blend where cement was replaced by ash from sugar cane residuals originating from agricultural waste. Our findings demonstrate that the development of a distinctive hydrogen bond network at the nano-scale is the key to the performance of these greener materials.