The materials we build with have changed a great deal over the years. They have become stronger, lighter, more durable and cheaper to make; factors which have led to a resurgence in many building-related industries such as the manufacture of homes.

Traditional materials such as wood, bricks and steel are still widely used but, due to a growing demand for environmentally-sound building practices, these materials must now either come from a sustainable source or justify their use in terms of energy efficiency and environmental impact.

Building materials have five stages in their life-cycle:

  1. Mining / harvesting
  2. Manufacture
  3. Construction
  4. Use, and
  5. Demolition

The environmental impact of most materials is heaviest in the first two stages.

The influence of environmental impact on new building materials

Developers of new building materials are now very conscious of their environmental implications, which is why recycled materials are becoming more and more widely used.

Materials that would otherwise be burnt or end up in land-fill are being turned into insulation, or reduced to pellets for use in making other materials such as cement.

For example, in Argentina, scientists created ‘ecological bricks’, which are made out of recycled candy wrappers and plastic drink bottles mixed with cement. With half the weight and half the cost of traditional bricks, they still have comparable insulation properties and are just as strong, durable and water and fire-resistant.

Composite materials are also playing more of a role in today’s buildings. These lightweight and durable materials are made by combining organic and inorganic components, with one component providing the adhesive quality that binds the whole together. They can be moulded into a variety of pre-shaped building components.

Researchers often look to nature for inspiration. In the UK, a ceramic polymer was created by combining calcite crystals (chalk) with polystyrene particles. The material was created after studying the composition of sea shells. It is more energy-absorbing and durable than chalk, and led to a new range of building materials.

Self-healing cement is another building material innovation from this century. When cracks appear in cement, a previously embedded capsule ruptures and a sodium silicate healing agent is released. This reacts with the cement and forms a gel which repairs the cracks. Similar methods are being trialled with metals to repair cracks and corrosion.

Other examples of innovative new building materials include:

  • Foam insulation pumped into roofs and walls
  • Liquid granite (same load bearing capacity as cement, but with only one third the cement)
  • Vinyl window frames
  • Fibre-reinforced bendable concrete (500 times more resistant to cracking)
  • Richlite benchtops (recycled paper treated with resin and baked into solid sheets)
  • Translucent concrete (cement mixed with glass-fibre strands).

Modern building materials are becoming more lightweight, cost-effective, durable, energy-efficient and resistant to extreme weather and termites.

And while the overall trend in modern building materials is towards environmental sustainability, the new innovations also offer new opportunities in design. As materials evolve, so will the look and feel of Australian living spaces.

Planning your ideal home build and materials

Here at Kitome we believe that the quality of the materials for your new home build are essential to achieve your dream home. That’s why we take into account any innovative or new building materials that enter the market when we review and refresh our custom home designs.

This means that Kitome can not only create the home of your dreams – we can do it in a more innovative and environmentally-friendly way.

Are you looking to have an environmentally friendly home that is designed to best suit your needs and green goals? Kitome offers a variety of design options that are 100% customisable, so contact our friendly team today to discuss your dream home.

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