Thursday, August 23, 2012

                                                    Building materials

 Building material is any material which is used for a construction purpose. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, sand, wood and rocks, even twigs and leaves have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more and some less synthetic. The manufacture of building materials is an established industry in many countries and the use of these materials is typically segmented into specific specialty trades, such as carpentry, plumbing, roofing and insulation work. They provide the make-up of habitats and structures including homes

Brick (clay)

Uses - Walls, paths, driveways
Advantages - Versatile, good thermal mass

Disadvantages - Production is energy-intensive and uses non-renewable resources.
Earth-wise tips - Look for recycled bricks.


Uses - Floors, walls, supports
Advantages - High thermal mass, strong, durable, economical, resists termites and earthquakes
Disadvantages - Production involves quarrying and creates greenhouse emissions; poor insulator, needs reinforcing.
Earth-wise tips - Use autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), which is lightweight, energy-efficient and non-toxic, or concrete made with recycled aggregate.

In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. Cement used in construction is characterized as hydraulic or non-hydraulic. Hydraulic cements (e.g., Portland cement)
 harden because of hydration, chemical reactions that occur independently of the mixture's water content; they can harden even underwater or when constantly exposed to wet weather. The chemical reaction that results when the anhydrous cement powder is mixed with water produces hydrates that are not water-soluble. Non-hydraulic cements (e.g., lime and gypsum plaster) must be kept dry in order to retain their strength.
Cement is made by heating limestone (calcium carbonate) with small quantities of other materials (such as clay) to 1450 °C in a kiln, in a process known as calcination, whereby a molecule of carbon dioxide is liberated from the calcium carbonate to form calcium oxide, or quicklime, which is then blended with the other materials that have been included in the mix. The resulting hard substance, called 'clinker', is then ground with a small amount of gypsum into a powder to make 'Ordinary Portland Cement', the most commonly used type of cement (often referred to as OPC).
Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) is manufactured in the form of different grades, the most common in India being Grade-53, Grade-43, and Grade-33. Ordinary Portland Cement-Grade 43 is largely used for residential, commercial, and other building construction purposes. It has a compressive strength of 560 kg per square cm.

Ordinary Portland Cement-Grade 53 is known for its rich quality and is highly durable. Hence it is used for constructing bigger structures like building foundations, bridges, tall buildings, and structures designed to withstand heavy pressure.
Portland cement is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar and most non-speciality grout. The most common use for Portland cement is in the production of concrete. Portland cement may be grey or white.
The most important use of cement is the production of mortar and concrete—the bonding of natural or artificial aggregates to form a strong building material that is durable in the face of normal environmental effects.
Concrete should not be confused with cement, because the term cement refers to the material used to bind the aggregate materials of concrete. Concrete is a combination of a cement and aggregate.

    Uses - Frames, supports
Advantages - Strong, economical, durable, recyclable
Disadvantages - Production is energy-intensive and highly polluting; coatings are often polluting.
Earth-wise tips - Buy recycled steel or opt for renewable timber.


Metal is used as structural framework for larger buildings such as skyscrapers, or as an external surface covering. There are many types of metals used for building. Steel is a metal alloy whose major component is iron, and is the usual choice for metal structural building materials. It is strong, flexible, and if refined well and/or treated lasts a long time. Corrosion is metal's prime enemy when it comes to longevity.

The lower density and better corrosion resistance of aluminium alloys and tin sometimes overcome their greater cost. Brass was more common in the past, but is usually restricted to specific uses or specialty items today.
Metal figures quite prominently in prefabricated structures such as the semicylindrical hut, and can be seen used in most cosmopolitan cities. It requires a great deal of human labor to produce metal, especially in the large amounts needed for the building industries.

Other metals used include titanium, chrome, gold, silver. Titanium can be used for structural purposes, but it is much more expensive than steel. Chrome, gold, and silver are used as decoration, because these materials are expensive and lack structural qualities such as tensile strength or hardness.

Stone and composite stone

Uses - Walls, floors, supports
Advantages - Abundant, durable, high thermal mass, economical if available on site; no toxic emissions

Disadvantages - Non-renewable; extraction and transportation can be energy-intensive.
Earth-wise tips - Use salvaged stone or products made with waste stone from local sources.


Uses  - Floors, walls, supports and roof frames
Advantages - Strong, easy to work with, 

versatile, potentially renewable, biodegradable
Disadvantages - Some timber is non-renewable; often treated with toxic chemicals.

Earth-wise tips - Use recycled wood or timber from sustainable sources, with no chemical treatments.


Glassmaking is considered an art form as well as an industrial process or material.Clear windows have been used since the invention of glass to cover small openings in a building.

 They provided humans with the ability to both let light into rooms while at the same time keeping inclement weather outside. Glass is generally made from mixtures of sand and silicates, in a very hot fire stove called a kiln and is very brittle. Very often additives are added to the mixture when making to produce glass with shades of colors or various characteristics (such as bulletproof glass, or light emittance).

The use of glass in architectural buildings has become very popular in the modern culture. Glass "curtain walls" can be used to cover the entire facade of a building, or it can be used to span over a wide roof structure in a "space frame". These uses though require some sort of frame to hold sections of glass together, as glass by itself is too brittle and would require an overly large kiln to be used to span such large areas by itself. 


 Plastic pipes penetrating a concrete floor, roofs and walls of a building for electrical wiring, water and sewerage purposes.

The term plastics covers a range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic condensation or polymerization products that can be molded or extruded into objects or films or fibers. Their name is derived from the fact that in their semi-liquid state they are malleable, or have the property of plasticity.

 Plastics vary immensely in heat tolerance, hardness, and resiliency. Combined with this adaptability, the general uniformity of composition and lightness of plastics ensures their use in almost all industrial applications today

Completed individual row houses