20 Alternative Construction Materials, Techniques and Technologies

  1. R A M M E D  E A R T H

This age-old technique has existed since at least the Neolithic period and involves compressing damp earth to construct foundations, floors and walls.

 

  1. C O B

Similar to rammed earth but with straw included to act as a binder.

 

  1. ADOBE

Similar to rammed earth but where individual bricks are formed from the local soil.

 

  1. S T R A W-B A L E  C O N S T R U C T I O N

Although this method of constructing walls is ancient, it has seen a recent revival among passive environmentally friendly designs.

"using straw as a construction material is a new and ecologic way of vconstruction. In Germany it is getting more and more into fashion to build a house out ot straw. The picture shows the frame work, the compartments are filled with pressed straw. Inside  a 5 cm layer of clay plaster will be applied, the outside will be covered with wood panels. This way of construction is not only ecological, but creates a very comfortable living environment."
“using straw as a construction material is a new and ecologic way of vconstruction. In Germany it is getting more and more into fashion to build a house out ot straw. The picture shows the frame work, the compartments are filled with pressed straw. Inside a 5 cm layer of clay plaster will be applied, the outside will be covered with wood panels. This way of construction is not only ecological, but creates a very comfortable living environment.”
  1. B I O  C O N C R E T E 

A recent development by a microbiologist, this is like regular concrete but mixed with a type of bacteria which is capable of self-repairing cracks when activated by water.

 

  1. A S H C R E T E 

This is an alternative to concrete which involves using fly ash instead of cement.

 

  1. P A P E R C R E T E 

This material is created by combining re-pulped paper fibre with Portland cement and soil.

 

  1. B A M B O O 

This versatile and durable material can be used for almost every element of a building and is considered one of the most eco-friendly materials on the planet.

 

  1. E A R T H S H I P  H O M ES 

These are typically off-the-grid homes which are constructed entirely with recycled and/or natural materials.

One of the famous Taos Earthship homes under construction.  Showing the building materials of earth, soda cans, and column forms of the structure.
One of the famous Taos Earthship homes under construction. Showing the building materials of earth, soda cans, and column forms of the structure.
  1. S H I P P I N G  C O N T A I N E R  H O M E S 

Utilising a used shipping container to form the shell of your home has become more popular in recent years.

 

  1. 3-D  P R I N T I N G 

Recent innovations in technology have meant that printing houses is now a possibility.

Three dimensional printing machine
Three dimensional printing machine
  1. M Y C E L I U M 

Although yet not a tried and tested construction technique, this rootlike part of fungus has recently been used to manufacture furniture and could start being used as an organic building material.

 

  1. F E R R O C K 

This is a material which involves making use of steel dust, which is a by-product produced by the steel industry, to create a concrete-like building material.

 

  1. C R U M B  R U B B E R 

Recycled rubber produced from particles of used tires. Typically used for surfacing and roofing purposes.

 

  1.  D E S E R T  S A N D  C O N C R E T E 

As typical types of sand used in construction is dwindling, this type of concrete could become very popular if successful in development.

 

  1. I C E 

Only works in certain climates. Every year in Jukkasjarvi, a village in Sweden, they build an entire hotel of out ice which melts as the season changes.

Icehotel in Jukkaj?rvi, Kiruna, north of Sweden
Icehotel in Jukkaj?rvi, Kiruna, north of Sweden
  1. B O T T L E S 

Glass bottles have been known to have been used in wall construction, usually in conjunction with cob/rammed earth. There is a temple in Thailand made from more than 1 million beer bottles.

 

  1. S A L T 

Not the most widely used material in construction. The hotel Palacio de Sal Resort is a hotel constructed from salt on a Bolivian salt plain.

 

  1. P L A S P H AL T 

Typically used for road construction, this product is made up of grains of plastic waste which replaces sand and gravel in asphalt production.

 

  1. N E W S P A P E R  W O O D 

This is created simply by rolling up old newspapers and combining with glue. This can be used in many cases as an alternative to wood

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