Innovation in building materials is an unceasing reality of our construction industry – largely dominated by invincible technology and knowledge. Our comforts and desire to achieve new heights continuously thrives us to explore deeper and further – new or existing. Innovation is not always about creating new technologies or materials but evolving what we already have, evolving the given and experimenting with it. In architecture, it could either be using waste materials artistically, using the basic construction materials in a more cultivated manner following the rule of sustainability or using them in a more designated or expressive way.

10 ways how the architects have innovatively used the materials in their buildings-

Innovative construction materials used around the world
Innovation in materials-Bio-furniture ©LetsBuild

1. Cross Laminated Timber | Innovation in materials

CLT is a sustainable and resilient form of engineered wood which does not require burning of any fossil fuels during its construction. It is made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together and layers lay perpendicular to each other making it more tensile and greater compressive strength. Originated in Europe, CLT is now worldly used, plays to be an excellent building material due to faster production, great quality and flexibility in design. The initial costs of the material are higher but when taken an account on the complete building costs, it saves up. Due to its natural-looking aesthetics and strength, designers and builders are now coming up with building CLT based skyscrapers. One of the eye-catchy examples of CLT used in a building is:-

Project Information:

Name of the project: the Smile
Architect: Alison Brooks Architect
Location: London
Building Type: Pavilion

A 34-meter-long and 3-meter upside down which is doubly cantilevered – Straddled architecture, public art and pavilion at Chelsea College of Art Parade ground that showcases the potential use of CLT.

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Wander Wood Pavilion Image Courtesy- David Correa
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MinimodCatacuba Image Courtesy- Leonardo Finnoti
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The Smile; © Allison Brooks Architects
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CLT in The Smile; ©Dezeen
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Night view of The Smile; ©Dezeen

2. Rammed Earth

The rammed earth construction mainly based in Ghana is a locally available material used in a construction system in which earth is compressed into wooden boxes. The abundant clay is then placed in layers of 15cm height and compacted with tools to achieve the resiliency and durability. This material has been highly observed as an aesthetic material in Sub-Saharan continent along with its ecological and economic benefits in constructing housing for 1.7 million homes. Hive Earth has been working on this project in the rural areas of Ghana and one of the examples is as follows: –

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Rammed Earth Patterns; © Hive Earth
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Rammed Earth Wall; © Hive Earth
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Innovation in materials-Rammed Earth Housing; © Hive Earth
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Rammed Earth; © Hive Earth
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Rammed Earth; ©Dezeen

These walls are made with a combination of earth, sand, clay and 5% cement (or lime) and due to this; several waves and patterns are formed on the walls which gives an everlasting mesmerising impression. Although all these colours are natural due to the earth available and hence they reduce the dependence on paints and other sealants that off-gas making the interiors cooler and cleaner in hot and humid climate of Ghana.

3. Pigmented Concrete

Concrete is an achromatic symbol of strength that triggers harsh and roughness with human feelings when exposed. However, when appropriate pigmented admixtures added to cement, gravel, sand and water can result in coloured concrete mixtures. Other than aesthetics, it adds a sense of perspective and contrast with surroundings while reducing the dependence on paints and sealants.

Project Information:

Name of the project: Casa Terra
Architect: BernardesArquitetura
Location: Itaipava, Brazil
Building Type: Residential

The reddish-brown texture of this house profoundly complements with the surrounding hills and the lush landscape. The walls are emulsified with pigmented concrete of iron oxide.

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Contrast with Surroundings; ©BernardesArquitectura
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Innovation in materials-Casa Terra Exterior; ©BernardesArquitectura
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Casa Terra; ©- BernardesArquitectura
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Casa Boaçava Leonardo Finotti; © Una Arquitetos

4. The Cabkoma Strand Rod

It is a thermoplastic carbon fibre composite used in the exteriors of the building solely for resiliency purpose and protecting the structures from earthquakes mainly in Japan. It is the lightest seismic reinforcement, delicate and hence extremely strong adding aesthetics to the structure.

Project Information:

Name of the project: Komatsu Seiren’s Head Office
Architect: Kengo Kuma
Location: Japan
Building Type: Office

Easily transportable, sustainable and extremely strong building material creates tension and compression while supporting the structure. It transfers all the lateral loads hence protecting the building against any tremors. It is 5 times lighter than classic metal rods contributing to even a lighter structure.

The Cabkoma Strand Rod- Sheet1
Fibres, Image Courtesy-Shinkenchiku
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Komatsu Seiren’s head office, Image Courtesy- Takumi Ota
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Innovation in materials-Komatsu Seiren’s head office exteriors, Image Courtesy- Takumi Ota
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Fiber Strands, Image Courtesy- Takumi Ota

5. Light Emitting Cement | Innovation in materials

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Light Generating Cement; ©Vibe
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Innovation in materials-Light Generating Cement; ©phys
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Light Generating Cement; ©LetsBuild

An interesting yet notable invention where the cement absorbs the sunlight in the day and emits it in the night time. This technique allows the materials crystallisation properties to break up and allow the light to pass through making it opaque. This highly energy efficient material rules over the architecture industry and is expected to be used in – bathrooms, swimming pools, facades, roads, parking areas and kitchens. It could also be used in road signs because of the light emitting properties. This material is composed of silica, river sand, industrial waste, alkali and water.

6. Cigarette Butt Bricks

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Cigarette Butt Bricks; ©ODS
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Innovation in materials-Butts to Brick; ©Inhabitat
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Cigarette Butt Bricks; ©TreeHugger

There are about 1 billion smokers in the world. Do you imagine how much waste is produced in the world with just those cigarette butts alone? On sidewalks, around the buildings and almost everywhere! RMIT has come up with a solution to offset the waste and use it efficiently in the manufacturing of bricks. About 1% of the butts must be used in the production that would result in more sustainable, lighter and energy efficient building material. The result is an even fair product which increases the insulation properties of the material and solving the problems of the future.

7. Hollow Clay Bricks

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Clay Bricks as heat reducer ©Pinterest
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Innovation in materials-Clay Bricks side view ©Pinterest
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Clay Bricks ©Pinterest

Can we use the traditional materials in an innovative way that solves our problems and helps the users of the building in controlling the heat entering in a building? The clay bricks are the solution to that. The unusual shape of this brick helps majorly in blocking the sun and letting the building breathe through its hollow cores in letting the air pass. This structure helps in noise intrusion from the exteriors in the building in contributing to the thermal comfort of the building users. The 3D properties give an aesthetic look to the facade and can be used in forming several shapes and patterns on the wall exteriors.

8. Transparent Wood

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Transparent wood; ©The Constructor
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Transparent Wood; ©Futures Platform
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Transparent wood; ©Pinterest

We all love the wood finish on the floors, as a structural material and on our ceilings. This material being one of the oldest is on its way to get a makeover when researchers are experimenting with making it transparent. Being a great alternative to glass and plastic, transparent wood is environmental-friendly and energy efficient. In the production process, the lignin is replaced with polymers to make it transparent.

9. Modular Bamboo

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Future of bamboo high-rise; © Architecture Digest
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Modular Bamboo; © Pinterest
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Innovation in materials-Modular Bamboo; © Dezeen
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Modular Bamboo; © Architecture Digest

Modular Bamboo fits for the most versatile building construction material. Being light weight, availability in abundance and stronger than steel, this material can take any shape in construction and also act as a major earthquake resistant structure in various parts of the world. Bamboo can grow upto 4 feet in a couple of hours and is majorly used in low-cost housing in Philippines, Indonesia and other low-lying islands.

10. Aluminium Foam | Innovation in materials

These panels are formed through air injection in molten aluminium and at a certain temperature, when air bubbles stabilize forming foam panels which create intriguing patterns and layers for opacity, texture, transparency and brightness. As per its manufacturing process, the foam panels can be formed with varied densities, shapes and visibility.

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Aluminium Foam; ©TLCD Architecture
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CaixaForum Seville; Image Courtesy- Jesus Granade
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Innovation in materials-CaixaForum Interiors; Image Courtesy- Jesus Granade

These sound absorbing panels create patterns within the interiors and plays a major role in shades and shadows. Aluminium foam used on the facade shows the totalitarian and infiniteness of the structure and adding the identity to its structure. Its manufacturing defines the material into three types- small, mid and large aluminium cell. Giving the “froth” look, this material classifies the future of metal facade with breathing pores.


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.