5 Sustainable Building Materials

Designers have been experimenting with materials throughout history, be it Lauri Baker with his modest bricks or Frank Gehry with his dramatic metals. Every day a new material is being invented and new ways of looking at old materials are found. The growing concern for sustainable building design has led new-age designers to study and experiment with materials extensively, some managing to make the material their branding.
  1. 1. Natural Clay
  2. Finely-grained natural rock or soil is known as natural clay, a material that has been in constant use in construction owing to its high plasticity, easy availability, and low cost. Clay is mostly used in the tiling of roofs and as a plaster, render paint, and flooring. It is known for its thermal insulation, robustness, durability, and fire resistance and as the primary ingredient in adobe, cordwood, rammed earth, etc.

2. Rammed Earth

Using compacted layers of aggregate, gravel, sand, silt, and a small amount of clay compressed within a formwork rammed earth is one of the oldest methods in construction by means of easily available material, i.e., earth. Rammed earth can be used to form walls, floors, and foundations, lending qualities such as load-bearing capacity, high thermal mass, low embodied energy, and almost complete reusability post demolition. It requires skilled labor to achieve the formwork but provides for architects to build using material on the site itself.

10 Sustainable Materials Every Architect Must Know -Rammed Earth - Sheet1


3. Bamboo

An evergreen perennial plant is known for its strength, hardness, and rate of growth; bamboo is one of the most popular sustainable building materials. It has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel, making it ideal for a variety of architectural use. Its versatility in construction from flooring to structure is only surpassed by its widespread use across the globe. From the temporary construction of bridges or scaffolding, bamboo has transitioned into a more permanent building material in recent times.


4. Recycled plastic

Recovered scraps of waste plastic reprocessed into different materials and products give new life to one of the biggest polluters of the world like recycled plastic. In construction, recycled plastic can be found in polymeric timbers, polycarbonate panels, polymeric tiling, and alternative building blocks like EcoBricks or RePlasts, machine-compressed single-use plastic blocks. Currently, recycled plastic products are only used in small-scale construction but new architectural solutions are being developed.


5. Recycled Timber

Wood is often thought of as sustainable, but industrialization has been harsh on worldwide forests. Thus, some of the best creative minds are focusing their designs on how to reuse recycled wood as much as possible. Not only that reusing old wood from disused structures help in preventing further deforestation, but such recycled wood comes with hundreds of years of stories.