Building Materials

Building Materials

Building material is any material which is used for construction purposes

Types of building materials


Uses - Moldings, window frames

Advantages - Strong, lightweight, can be recycled

Disadvantages - Production is very energy-intensive and polluting.

Earth-wise tips - Avoid, or use recycled aluminum.

Brick (clay)

Uses - Walls, paths, driveways

Advantages - Versatile, good thermal mass

Disadvantages - Production is energy-intensive and uses non-renewable resources.

Earth-wise tips - Look for recycled bricks.


Uses - Floors, walls, supports

Advantages - High thermal mass, strong, durable, economical, resists termites and earthquakes

Disadvantages - Production involves quarrying and creates greenhouse emissions; poor insulator, needs reinforcing.

Earth-wise tips - Use autoclave aerated concrete (AAC), which is lightweight, energy-efficient and non-toxic, or concrete made with recycled aggregate.

Fibre cement sheeting

Uses - Cladding

Advantages - Low embodied energy, light, inexpensive, good thermal properties, can be rendered

Disadvantages - Not as strong as some other options; associated with cheap housing and asbestos (no longer used).

Earth-wise tips - Try lime wash as a surface treatment: it’s suitable and environmentally benign.


Uses - Windows, doors, skylights; bricks

Advantages - Stable, long-lasting, efficient, recyclable

Disadvantages - Production is energy-intensive, uses non- renewable minerals.

Earth-wise tips - Seek out recycled windows; buy energy-efficient new glass.


Uses - Walls, floors

Advantages - Source material can be found on site, long-lasting, biodegradable, high thermal mass; pest- and fire-resistant

Disadvantages - Making bricks is labour-intensive; requires soil with high clay content; poor insulator.

Earth-wise tips - Bricks can be purchased ready-made.


Uses - Lining walls

Advantages - Potentially recyclable, breathes, largely natural

Disadvantages - Some plasterboards contain toxic chemicals and glass fibres.

Earth-wise tips - Look for recycled plasterboard and non- synthetic boards with natural fixatives.


Uses - Window frames, water pipes, gutters, floor and wall coverings

Advantages - Light, durable, resistant to damp, water and pests

Disadvantages - Made from non-renewable resources; production is energy-intensive and polluting; may off-gas.

Earth-wise tips - Look for renewable alternatives; avoid PVC – opt for PVC-free polypropylene or polybutylene instead.


Uses - Frames, supports

Advantages - Strong, economical, durable, recyclable

Disadvantages - Production is energy-intensive and highly polluting; coatings are often polluting.

Earth-wise tips - Buy recycled steel or opt for renewable timber.

Stone and composite stone

Uses - Walls, floors, supports

Advantages - Abundant, durable, high thermal mass, economical if available on site; no toxic emissions

Disadvantages - Non-renewable; extraction and transportation can be energy-intensive.

Earth-wise tips - Use salvaged stone or products made with waste stone from local sources.

Straw bale

Uses - Walls

Advantages - Cheap, renewable, good insulator

Disadvantages - Is bulkier than other materials; requires specialised construction.

Earth-wise tips - Avoid chemical pest treatments and use eco-friendly render.


Uses - Floors, walls, supports and roof frames

Advantages - Strong, easy to work with, versatile, potentially renewable, biodegradable

Disadvantages - Some timber is non-renewable; often treated with toxic chemicals.

Earth-wise tips - Use recycled wood or timber from sustainable sources, with no chemical treatments.