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Building material is any material which is used for construction purposes. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, rocks, sand, and wood, even twigs and leaves, have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more and some less synthetic. The manufacture of building materials is an established industry in many countries and the use of these materials is typically segmented into specific specialty trades, such as carpentry, insulation, plumbing, and roofing work. They provide the make-up of habitats and structures including homes.


Brush structures are built entirely from plant parts and were used in primitive cultures such as Native Americans,[2] pygmy peoples in Africa[3] These are built mostly with branches, twigs and leaves, and bark, similar to a beaver’s lodge. These were variously named wikiups, lean-tos, and so forth.

An extension on the brush building idea is the wattle and daub process in which clay soils or dung, usually cow, are used to fill in and cover a woven brush structure. This gives the structure more thermal mass and strength. Wattle and daub is one of the oldest building techniques.[4] Many older timber frame buildings incorporate wattle and daub as non load bearing walls between the timber frames.

Ice and snow

Snow and occasionally ice,[5] were used by the Inuit peoples for igloos and snow is used to built a shelter called a quinzhee. Ice has also been used for ice hotels as a tourist attraction in northern climates.[6]

Mud and clay

Clay based buildings usually come in two distinct types. One being solid monolithic structural walls such as Rammed earth, sod, and cob. The other being walls built by stacking building blocks or bricks by forming the clay mixture into individual units which are then dried or fired, examples include compressed earth blocks and masonry brickwork.

Other uses of clay in building is combined with straws to create light clay insulation and plasters.


Bricks or compressed earth blocks are used for building more frequently in industrialized society since the building blocks can be manufactured off site in a centralized location at a brickworks and transported to multiple building locations. These blocks can also be monetized more easily and sold.

Structural bricks are almost always made using clay, often clay soil is the only ingredient used, but other ingredients can include sand, lime, concrete, stone and other binders. The formed or compressed block is then air dried, fired, or kiln dried. Kiln fired clay bricks are considered a ceramic material. Clay bricks can be solid or have hollow cavities to aid in drying and make them lighter and easier to transport.

The individual bricks are placed upon each other in rows using mortar, grout, and clay slips. Successive rows being used to build up walls, arches, and other structures..


Sand is used with cement, and sometimes lime, to make mortar for masonry work and plaster. Sand is also used as a part of the concrete mix. An important low-cost building material in countries with high sand content soils is the Sandcrete block, which is weaker but cheaper than fired clay bricks.


Rock structures have existed for as long as history can recall. It is the longest lasting building material available, and is usually readily available. There are many types of rock throughout the world, all with differing attributes that make them better or worse for particular uses. Rock is a very dense material so it gives a lot of protection too; its main drawback as a material is its weight and awkwardness. Its energy density is also considered a big drawback, as stone is hard to keep warm without using large amounts of heating resources.