Then - and now
Building materials have been used throughout human history, and
archaeology demonstrates that they were also used to some extent in
the prehistoric period.
The earliest humans may have lived in caves, but eventually they
learned on to use natural substances they found around them to build
simple dwellings. Mud and clay were among the first building
materials used. The adhesive quality of clay made it easy to work
with and form into shapes. Straw , hay, sticks or other organic
fibers were used to help in holding the mud together. Dung was added
to this mixture to form adobe. Sometimes the earth was compacted or
“rammed” together to form walls, dikes and other structures.
Logs, sticks, thatch, brush and wood were also used for early
construction purposes. Near the Arctic, the Inuit used ice to build
igloo homes. And uncut rocks and large stones were often used. There
are many ancient examples of “cyclopean” architecture consisting of
large uncut rocks piled together or stuck together with some form of
adhesive. Megalithic structures consisting of massive unfinished
stones are found throughout the world.
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More recently, human civilization has devised more advanced
composite building materials like concrete and cement. Concrete is
generally made of sand or gravel mixed with cement and water. When
the mixture dries, it becomes hard like stone. While the mixture is
still moist it can easily be poured into moulds and thus formed into
different shapes. Because concrete is not very flexible, it is often
reinforced with steel or other metal.
New technology has also made building with metal more practical than
in previous human history. Most high rise buildings and skyscrapers
are built with steel or other metal frames. While steel
traditionally was the favored metal for such construction, new
alloys are now sometimes preferred as they are less susceptible to
Plastics are another widely used modern building material. Formed of
polymers, plastics are easily molded while in the liquid state.
Compared to metal and many other materials, plastic is very light in
weight and relatively low in cost. Plastic is often used to make
pipes and to decorate the interior of buildings.
Many modern buildings use glass, not only for windows, but often as
the primary exterior building material. Glass skyscrapers and other
structures have become quite popular due to their aesthetic appeal.
Glass buildings require a frame to hold sections of glass, because
the material is not sturdy enough by itself. One of the advantages
of glass is that it can allow individuals to see what is happening
in other rooms. Transparent glass also allows outside light to shine
into the building.
Technology continues to create new building materials with
exceptional properties. For example, Sea-cretion is a construction
material made from minerals found in seawater. Composite materials
are made by combining different types of building materials
Most modern aircraft are built of advanced composite materials.
These materials combine organic and inorganic components. One
material acts as a type of “adhesive” that binds the other
components together. The “hard” components are usually glass, carbon
or boron fiber. Composites are known for combining light weight with
strength and durability. Cement composites bind together wood or
similar materials like paper, fiberglass and natural fibers in a
cement paste. These composites can be placed into molds to create
pre-shaped building components.
Interestingly with the increasing interest in green technology, many
builders are moving back to older building materials in an effort to
increase sustainability. Thus, one can now find modern homes or
other structures built of mud and straw, or other archaic materials,
in green living communities.
created by Mavvis Builders Merchants, Sutton Coldfield W Midlands,
your local merchant for reclaimed bricks, stone and aggregates. Tel
0121 448 9016
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