The construction industry has undergone a series of building material innovations over the past few centuries. From durable concrete used in ancient structures, to the production of steel for modern bridges and skyscrapers, these materials shaped the way we build today. It also influenced some of the greatest architectural feats known to man. While some materials have simply evolved over time, such as concrete and marble, there are newer, innovative materials being developed on the horizon.
The drive behind these innovations is the challenges the construction industry is facing. From disasters like fire, increasing costs to address environmental concerns, and inefficiency, the industry struggles to keep up with demand while maintaining its output. Building products consume up to 50% of our natural resources which often leads to added costs, delayed construction times, and wasted materials.
To address some of these challenges, many innovative firms are developing a generation of new building materials. These materials are being engineered to be stronger, smarter, sleeker, and self-sustaining while being easier on the environment. To keep a competitive edge, construction companies need to stay up to date on these material innovations. Those buildings crafted with the most modern materials will be more equipped to solve ongoing challenges, reduce their carbon footprint, and make an impact on the industry.
While it can take decades for scientific breakthroughs to make their way to a job site, a newer generation of building materials is on the horizon and ready to appear. Here are eighteen materials that are currently sparking an interest in the construction industry, and many may change the way we build.
1) Self-healing concrete has water-activated bacteria that produce calcite to reduce cracks. It reduces infrastructure maintenance requirements and cuts greenhouse gas emissions. It has a 200-year life span.
2) 3D Graphene is 3D printed carbon that is 5% of steel’s density buts up to two hundred times its strength. It is used for lightweight materials for vehicles and has the potential to support skyscrapers up to 98,000+ feet. It is a lightweight porous foam that is ten times as strong as steel.
3) Aerographite is an atom-made material that could grow stronger when compressed. Its potential uses are for aviation materials, satellites, and purification systems. Aerographite is the world’s lightest building material and is seventy-five times lighter than Styrofoam.
4) Laminated timber is prefabricated timber with higher water resistance and strength than regular wood. This wood of the future is lightweight and super strong. It has the potential to support skyscrapers and reduce 150 tons of carbon per story.
5) Modular bamboo is a low-cost and fast-growing material that can extend into different shapes and structures. It is used to construct earthquake-resistant buildings, create new architectural forms, and reinforce steel bars. Modular bamboo is super sturdy and eco-friendly.
6) Transparent aluminum is a ceramic alloy that is 85% harder than sapphire and resistant to corrosion, radiation, and oxidation. Uses include windows and domes for undersea and space vehicles.
7) Translucent wood is a color stripped wood with better insulation, strength, and biodegradability. It is used for solar panels, window glass replacements, natural indoor lighting, and contemporary structures. This modern wood wonder has 90% transparency.
8) Light-generating concrete is nonflammable concrete embedded with minuscule glass balls to reflect light. It is used for signage systems, artistic buildings, lighting underground spaces, and marking dangerous areas. It is a light-generating concrete that illuminates at night.
9) Microbial cellulose is a mixture of bacteria and yeast and microorganisms able to form layered structures. This material has the potential use for signage and contemporary building facades.
10)Spider silk provides 340 times more durability than steel and contains resonance properties. Synthetic spider silk variants could be used for acoustic building tiles and laboratories. Spider silk is stronger than steel and composed of 98% water.
11)Aluminum foam is 100% recycled foam made by injecting air with molten metal. Its high strength to weight ratio can be used for more durable building cladding and decorative qualities. It is a cellular metal structure that is lightweight with gas-filled pores.
12)Nanocrystal Crystalline particles that allow natural light to pass through while blocking heat. It is used for smart, dynamic windows that allow the user to control the amount of light and reduce HVAC costs.
13)Wool brick is 37% stronger than earth brick it is fused with wool and seaweed polymer. It is used to reduce greenhouse gases from firing traditional bricks and increasing building cold climate resistance.
14)Pollution absorbing brick is a double-layered insulated brick able to filter 30% of fine pollutants and 100% of coarse pollutants. It is used to release filtered air and self-sustaining ventilation for green buildings.
15)Hydroceramics are membranes made up of ceramic fabric, and hydrogels that can absorb up to four hundred times their volume in water. Hydro ceramic cools building temperatures and saves up to 28% in AC electricity costs resulting in futuristic self-cooling walls.
16)Biochar is a waste product material with high insulation qualities produced when tree debris is burned in pyrolysis kilns. Biochar provides thermal regulation and creates more sustainable, self-reliant buildings. Charcoal is used to increase soil productivity.
17)Bioreactors are algae-infused building panels that can undergo synthesis to create energy. They provide thermal regulation to create more sustainable, self-reliant buildings.
18)Invisible solar cells push nonvisible wavelengths of light to solar cells embedded at the edges. It has the potential to create energy from any building component, including windows and doors.
Judging from the aforementioned list, it is clear that the future of buildings is always evolving. From materials that generate their own energy to those that provide greater structural protection, we are creating new and more efficient ways to build. While many of these innovations have not yet been realized on full-scale buildings, they may be making their way into your projects within the next few decades. Until that day, staying on trend will keep you enlightened as we keep our environment safe. We at Scarano Architect, PLLC are always on the cutting edge of architectural innovation. Visit our website to see some of our projects.