Architects around the world are constantly searching for sustainable solutions for building materials. Even though tradition is commonly viewed as the antonym of modernity, traditional building materials are still used today. Architects have taken up the challenging responsibility of designing environmentally sustainable buildings. Materials form the foundation of architecture. It is important to consider the materials that make up a building. Over the years, the history of building materials has gone through a massive change followed by multiple trials and errors.
SURFACES REPORTER (SR) shares some examples and points on the revival/use of traditional building materials in modern times.
1. Plaster and Gypsum: One of the most common architectural elements is the interior partition of the wall. The gypsum wall board gained a lot of popularity during the mid-20th century in North America. The interior of the walls was previously made by using wet plaster on lath or metal mesh. GWB is a mixture of gypsum along with other additives which are pressed between layers of paper. It is easier to install, cheaper and easily available in the market. Along with the GWB, plaster is still used to shape the curves and corners for some high-end details.
2. Terra Cotta Block and Concrete Masonry Units: Traditionally hollow clay tile blocks were used for framing in the buildings. Both structural and non-structural framing work is done using these blocks known as Terracotta blocks. These were mainly popular in parts of Europe. On the other hand, in North America the Terracotta blocks were replaced by hollow and less appealing Concrete Masonry Units (CMU). It gained a lot of popularity in the mid-20th century. The need for transition seems to have taken place due to the unavailability of materials. Even now, Terracotta blocks are popular for its features like light weight, thin profile and fire resistance.
3. Concrete and brick in modern architecture: Concrete is a compound that can be easily molded into a desired form. The material has led to the development of more modern materials like self-healing concrete, translucent concrete, bendable concrete and durable concrete. Bricks have been used for a long time and it is still used in modern times as a combination to create some masterpieces. With innovative thinking and craftsmanship, this rigid material has been used in multiple buildings as a sustainable material.
4. Copper piping and Cross-Linked Polyethylene: Due to the high cost of copper, the popularity of copper pipes have died down. A good replacement that is gaining a lot of popularity in modern times is the cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). It is manufactured as a flexible tube which can be used in place of the traditional rigid copper pipes. These can be used to supply both hot or cold pressurized water. It comes with multiple advantages like easy to install and maintain, lightweight, no thermal conductivity which helps to conserve energy. It also eliminates the problem of 'water hammer'. Water hammer is one of the most common household noises that comes from rigid pipes when the water pressure forces the pipe to jump suddenly.
5. Ancient rammed earth and Contemporary rammed earth: With the discovery of bricks, the rammed earth construction lost its popularity. It is however making a comeback in the modern construction techniques because of its sustainable properties. Rammed Earth is usually taken from the site itself which is why it involves zero transportation costs. Modern construction tools help to form a more compacted and effective version of a building unlike the traditional construction. Rammed Earth is beneficial because of its natural insulative properties. The only drawback of using this building material is the involvement of a labor-intensive process.
6. Wood and natural stone in modern architecture: Since the evolution of mankind, natural stone has been used in multiple ways. Apart from the heaviness and bulkiness of the material, it is very popular in modern architecture. Wood has always acted as the only renewable building material which brings warmth and joy in modern living. Because of its high tensile strength, sound absorption features and heat resistant features, wood has always been a popular building material since ancient times.
When it comes to traditional building materials, the aforementioned materials have found new purpose in the modern era. The materials are used in multiple ways that benefit the style of modernity.