Many of the first buildings in the UK were constructed with wattle and daub, a mixture of soil, dung, sand and straw. Most homes nowadays are made from brick, glass, steel, and concrete. This evolution in building materials was not achieved overnight, and is a testament to man’s ability to innovate.
The drive to experiment and create new materials continues, and we will likely see our buildings change with it over the course of our lifetimes. In this post, we take a look at some of the new materials we’re using to build with.
Although you might associate kevlar with bullet-proof vests, it actually has a number of applications as a building material. Made from a compacted mixture of glass and fibre, it’s lightweight and versatile. It’s currently used mostly as cladding or as part of roofing materials, but this might change in the future given its flexibility.
One of the few reasons architects aren’t using kevlar more often is because of it’s price, which is rather prohibitive.
Many keen cyclists have bicycles made from carbon fibre, which makes sense. It’s fantastically light and strong. Many architects are wondering why it’s not more available as a building material. The answer is that carbon fibre, like kevlar, is still a relatively new product and one which has not been used enough to allay fears over his brittleness.
Additionally, the price can be as much as ten times that of steel, which is more available and has been used in all manner of structures and applications.
One of the most exciting developments in the world of building materials is the invention of so-called ‘self-healing’ concrete. Using polymers activated by an electric current, this concrete can shift and adapt – essentially repairing itself when it gets damaged.
This obviously has an enormous number of potential applications, not least in infrastructure, where potholes and old bridges are an increasingly expensive financial headache for many countries.
Alongside the modern ‘future-proofed’ materials, there is also a growing push to move in the other direction. Some are advocating the use of materials found in their local area – much the same way builders might have done centuries ago. Writing for the Independent, @hannahfearn sheds some light on the issue:
“The trend for designing homes using natural local materials is a reaction to spiralling housing costs, according to the people who train “have-a-go” builders in historic construction techniques. The movement is even influencing major developers, who are investigating ways to use natural products to meet modern building standards. Charlotte Eve, the co-founder of Edwards and Eve Cob Building, says she and her partner have trained thousands of people to build…cob houses that are naturally energy efficient and have a low carbon footprint – for as little as £20,000.”
If you’re interested in learning more about building materials for a potential project, or you have an idea for building that you’d like to discuss, why not get in touch with a member of our team today?