Isn’t it fascinating how buildings around the globe in all the countries and continents express themselves in a divergent yet unified way? Just like we human beings, the buildings breathe as well and can be distinguished with their own identities functionally and with the materials, they wrap themselves with. Buildings that serve the same function can eventually look distinct due to the playing with exterior materials and contrasts. The observer always gets in touch with the exterior skin of a building be it the glass facade with aluminum revolving doors or a stone finish with a wooden double heightened door with stainless steel door handles. The perspective is – subjective.

Here is a collection of 10 building materials that not only architects but everyone reading the article should familiarize themselves with. They are commonly used and can be noted from a tiny builder house to a multi-use skyscraper from Tokyo to Mumbai to Cape Town to London to San Francisco.

1. Steel

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Image Sources: Steel as structure material ©AZoM

Steel is considered to be one of the strongest and hence used as a primary structural material for skyscrapers and large buildings. They are used as reinforcement bars when setting up concrete to provide extensional strength to the structure. Lately, steel can also be observed as an aesthetical facade material as well as decorative roof material in some of the regions. Some buildings that set an example are-

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Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry; ©My Modern Met
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Stata Center by Frank Gehry; ©Dezeen
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Steel as a roof material in The Louvre, Abu Dhabi ©Pinterest

2. Concrete

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Image Sources: Concrete as building material ©The Constructor

The most widely used material and one of the most common structural materials. Concrete has a number of attires and functions. Concrete production has one of the highest carbon footprints which later pollutes the environment. But because of the latest technology and our scientist’s continuous struggle to explore the new, concrete has emerged into a more sustainable and aesthetical element. It is used as a structural material in the form of bond beams and CMU blocks and a facade finish as well. Also, concrete can be highly observed in public spaces and furniture.

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Concrete used in Hoyt Tower in Brooklyn; ©Pinterest
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Maxxi Museum with Concrete facade; ©Architect’s Journal
Concrete furniture; ©Homecrux

3. Glass 

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Image Source: Glass as structural material; ©Seele

The king of contemporary architecture- glass is widely used in the present era to create light-weight transparent buildings that are see-through and provide daylighting. A more advanced technological electrochromic glass is now experimented with which reduces the transmissivity by 90% or more resulting in lesser glare and higher energy savings. Apart from building facade material, it also contributes to interior partitions, furniture, and wall openings.

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Dancing House, Prague; ©Construction Global
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The Louvre; ©Hypebeast
Glass facade by OMA, Rotterdam; ©Dezeen

4. Brick

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Image Sources: Brick as finish material; ©Lowe’s

Brick is a very common and known building material found in various sizes, materials, and shapes. Apart from being the widely used structure material, some aesthetical bricks can be used as a facade material for the building finishes. Lately, certain patterns have been created with the walls as partitions or boundaries casting shadow patterns. Bricks can be used in an English bond style or Flemish, Herringbones, or basketweave.

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Brick facades; ©Curbed
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Dutch Houses; ©Entouriste
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Contemporary brick building; ©CNN

5. Wood

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Image Sources: Wood as structure material ©Core77

Wood is considerably one of the oldest materials in the construction industry which has proved to be one of the most sustainable technologies. Scientists and researchers have been successful in exploring more sustainable and high-tech options in wood-like translucent wood and Cross Laminated Timber. There have been mass timber constructions in the high rise and larger building sectors.

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First tall wood building in The US ©Architect Magazine
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Traditional timber buildings ©Pinterest
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CLT as a building pavilion material ©Vox

6. Stone

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Image Sources: Stone ©Pinterest

One of the most diverse materials, known for its grandeur and heavy appearance is widely found in natural ways or treated in artificial ways. Natural forms are mostly limestone and naturally occurring rock stones whereas artificial ones mainly include Onyx, Cement stone, etc. Stones are used in facades while flooring, countertops, and public spaces. Stone can be found in various textures, colors, and patterns. Adding authenticity to the structures and luxury in certain ways, we can observe some old government and institutional building structures in stone in various parts of the world.

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Earliest Stone Structures; ©Wikimedia Commons
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Colosseum in natural stone; ©Natural Stone
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Stone village in Croatia; ©Trover
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Taj Mahal covered in Marble; ©Pinterest
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Stone cladded house; ©Pinterest

7. Plastic

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Image Sources: Plastic as a building material ©The Constructor

Oh yes, this material has been widely used to form facade structures, furniture, and industrial materials. We produce a lot of plastic, hence why not recycle it? It is used in 3D printing which is the future of our buildings. A massive approach to use the plastic bottle on the building facade in Taiwan has been unveiled which gives a broad perspective to the upcoming sustainable technologies in the industry.

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Plastic bottle building; ©TreeHugger
Plastic prototype mobile structure; ©Architectural Digest

 

8. Bamboo

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Image Sources: Bamboo as a structure material ©Architectural Digest

Known for its strength, sustainability, and flexibility, this material is widely used on the basis of geographical location. Where locally available, it is the must use the material. The buildings take less time to build and bamboo can be grown at a much faster rate than as usual. It doesn’t require many technologies and equipment and serves as an eco-efficient building material for our construction industry.

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Bamboo used in pavilions ©Divisare
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Bamboo structures ©Steemit

9. Fabrics

Fabric structure ©Alaska Structures
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Fabric structure ©Asicoverbuldings

Mostly used in tensile structures, fabrics provide a wide array of options for temporary structures, tents, inflatable chairs, and many more. Mostly used in arid areas, they provide shade and shelter under waterproof material.

10. Straw

Straw as building material ©Building Awareness
Straw-bale School ©Detail Magazine

One of the most natural building materials used traditionally as thatch is widely used in rural areas and areas with local availability. It is light-weight, eco-efficient, and inexpensive material. It also gives a medium to let the buildings breathe keeping the interiors well ventilated and proper air circulation. Variances in dry bulb temperatures can be observed with about 5-6 degrees Celsius.

Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

Nishtha is a 23 years old Architecture Graduate from India currently working with an award-winning Architecture company based in Florida, USA. She is involved in various departments including Design, Management and Writing for their projects. Her participation in International Conferences and Summer Abroad Programs while exploring around the world, let her inner thoughts flow in having a Vision of helping others through architecture and that is how she wants to leave a mark wherever she goes.

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