Materials are a crucial element for architecture. Architecture has evolved alongside building materials. The first-ever building materials man engaged with were mammoth ribs, hide, barks and leaves. These were used to make simple tent-like structures that were for basic needs of protection. With the advancement in tools, the man soon learned how to build in stone and wood. Brick started getting used as a common building block with the invention of fire. With fire, brick could now be baked to make it stronger than before. The process of the building became faster and building footprints became larger. Soon with the invention of reinforced concrete, he could build even bigger with larger spans. With the industrial revolution, steel was introduced. Buildings started getting built higher than ever and lighter than ever. Hence, we see that with the advancement in building materials there has been a constant advancement in architecture. Building materials help the building come to life. They also help fulfill the designer’s vision and make the spaces habitable and functional.

In recent years, with the advancement in technology, there have been oceans of new materials that have flooded the markets. That said, only a few of the many materials manage to be used commonly in the process of construction. The process of making entirely new material in the market involves huge amounts of energy which releases a lot of heat as a by-product. In the day and age in which we are dwelling, the world is facing a major crisis with climate change, increasing temperatures and abundance of waste which is being generated. In a case like this, what could be the scope of new materials in building construction?

With the huge amounts of waste and pollution that the construction industry generates, one way to go ahead with any new construction practice is by either recycling the waste materials or reusing them. This will play a key role in decreasing global demand for new raw materials in a world with finite resources. This will make a circular loop and the future cities make no distinction between supply and waste. It will also help reduce the pressure on landfills. Researchers across the globe are trying to tweak the existing materials by changing their compositions to meet with the present world conditions. Some of the materials which could be experimented within the year 2020 could be:

Plastic waste block

With an increase in the urban population, the demand for affordable housing is increasing. This means more construction material, and thus a larger carbon footprint. The plastic block is a material that gives a solution to affordability and reusing the waste plastic in one go.

These building blocks are designed to be easily stackable with a self-locking design, like blocks of Lego. The bricks are said to be 3 times more insulating than clay. To make the bricks fire-resistant and improve its compression strength, the molten plastic is mixed with an eco-friendly filler made from industrial waste. The designers say that the method of construction could reduce construction costs by almost 60 percent.

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Newspaper wood

Newspaper Wood is made by coating individual sheets of old newspaper with glue and then tightly rolling the glued sheets into logs. The glue used is solvent and plasticizers-free. The material can be treated like most other wood products by cutting, milling, sanding, and finishing with paint or varnish. When cut into planks, the layers of paper reveal wood grain-like patterns of ink. Sanding the material roughens up the fibers of the newspapers and provides a soft texture that can be left unfinished. The planks are limited in size to the width of an open newspaper so larger sizes are only available as veneers.

The strength of the material is based on the strength of the glue, which limits using Newspaper Wood as a structural component.

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Agro block

Though they are not as strong as burnt clay block, they could be used in combination with wooden and steel structural framework.

The lime-based slurry is prepared, and the chopped agro-waste is added to the slurry and mixed thoroughly by hand or mechanical mixer, to create a homogenous mixture. This mixture is poured into moulds and rammed with a wooden block to make a compact brick. These moulds are left to dry for a day or two, after which the sides of the moulds are removed, and the brick is allowed to dry for fifteen to twenty days.

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Mushroom walls

Designers have figured out a way to grow wall insulators and packing materials using mycelium, a bacteria found in rotting organisms like tree trunks and agricultural byproducts. If placed in a mold, these organic matters grow to the desired shape within a couple of days, and can then be stopped using a hot oven.

This is particularly useful because traditional insulating and packing materials tend to be non-biodegradable, or, in the case of asbestos, poisonous.

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Panels made of cloth

After removing the zippers, buttons and other solid bits, the leftover mix of cotton, polyester, nylon and other fabrics is passed through a fine-grained shredder. The resulting fleece is then treated with a chemical to help the different fiber components stick together and then is compressed under heat to form solid panels.

The panels have different textures and colors resembling wood, ceramic or stone — depending on their mix of components — making them suitable for use as floor tiles, wall panels or other interior finishes. Their strength could also make them suitable for load-bearing applications.

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Rasika Acharya, an architect by profession, wants to experience the world through a series of coincidences. She loves to write about moments in architecture and believes that writing is a potent tool through which one can pour life into the lifeless words.