Unusual Building Materials
When it comes to construction, almost anything goes! Below we list some of the strangest building materials around.
At times during your degree you’ll be asked to design or work with some very strange materials (a friend of mine got the pleasure of working with shopping trolleys), so take some comfort from these buildings and know that in the world of construction, anything goes!
Tyres (as used by New Mexico based architect Mike Reynolds) have recently come under the spotlight here in the UK after featuring on Grand Designs. As a construction material they have featured in the work of Reynolds since the 1970′s in his eco ‘Earthship’ homes and buildings where he used old tyres packed with dirt to build the walls of his buildings. The concept is that the tyres act as a solar thermal store, reducing the need for heating and cooling within the building. The structures take advantage of many other odd materials, usually ones that were found or in need of recycling to create super green buildings.
When considering materials that would be affected by the threats of water or fire, a recycled paper material would be high on the list, but through research and experimentation these issues were overcome. The cardboard is used as a structural element within the building to support the wooden frame, as well as insulation within the roof and walls and the external panels.
The success of the Westborough Primary school here in the UK comes from its ability to deliver a novel building design and construction, containing 90% recycled materials. The structure is used as part of an after hours art club building, and is considered a permanent structure. It was completed in 2001.
Much like cardboard, straw isn’t the first material that comes to mind when your considering building your own home, but again, with the right treatment and in the right conditions it can be just as useable as masonry. By its very nature, a straw bale home has thick walls, very thick walls, but also due to the bales shape and size construction progresses quickly. This method of construction has benefitted from advancements in composite materials to allow it to be implemented in all types of climate all over the world, but historically straw bales have been in use for hundreds of years in Africa.
This is a very strange material, and one that will not appeal to everyone. Unlike the other materials mentioned above, the glass bottles become a very visible structural element. The green credentials of a building made of glass bottles can be very high, although in its most basic form it can suffer from high levels of thermal loss, but this can be improved by filling the bottles with a dark liquid, enabling them to act as a thermal mass. A typical mortar mix is 3:1 mason sand to a fly ash cement mix.
This method of wall construction also features heavily in the Earthship movement.
So next time your lecturer/client asks if you can design a building made of cheese, take a deep breathe, it might not be the oddest request you receive during your career!