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10 Significant Materials Used In Architecture to Craft

Materials are an essential factor affecting the design process in Architecture. Materials used for a building will adequately support its entire lifetime.

Every material has different properties and techniques to be used to craft as a functional material. Techniques such as cutting, melting, pulverization, dividing, breaking, heating, manipulating, etc., vary from material to material and are feasible for some of them and may not be workable for other materials. Material behavior also depends on their aging and the way external forces act on them.

The criteria for selecting the materials used in Architecture are:

Functional, economical, and aesthetic properties:

  • Strength
  • Elasticity
  • Stiffness
  • Dimensional stability of a material
  • Resistance of a material to water
  • Thermal conductivity
  • Transmission, reflection and absorption of visible light
  • Withstanding to fire
  • Color, texture, and scale of a material.
  • Environmental consequences
  • Life-cycle Assessment

Raw Materials to Construction:

The four main stages involved in the construction of buildings are:

  • Acquisition of Raw Materials
  • Processing, Manufacturing, and Packaging
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Construction, Use and maintenance

The most common and major types of building materials used in Architecture are :

  • Concrete
  • Steel Reinforcement
  • Masonry
    • Brick
    • Stone
    • Concrete Masonry
  • Steel
  • Nonferrous Metals
    • Aluminum, copper, and lead
  • Wood
  • Lumber
  • Wood Panel Products
  • Plastics
  • Glass


Concrete is made by mixing cement, water and aggregates in suitable proportions. It can be formed into any shape with a variety of surface finishes and textures. Concrete structures are fire-resistant and are relatively low in cost.

  • Cement – made by burning clay and limestone in a rotary kiln.
  • Water – Must be free of clay, salts, and any other organic matter.
  • Aggregates – such as sand and gravel

Water-cement ratio – Ratio of mixing water to cement in a unit volume of concrete mix. For most applications, water-cement ratio should range from 0.45 to 0.60.

2.Steel Reinforcement

Because concrete is relatively weak in tension, reinforcement consisting of steel bars, strands, or wires is required to absorb tensile, shearing, and sometimes the compressive stresses in a concrete member or


Masonry refers to installing natural rock, stone, brick, tile, and other modular unit compositions usually with mortar or a binding agent. It is one of the most significant materials used in Architecture.


  • Impervious
  • Ability to withstand decay, insect damage, and combustion from fire.
  • Relative ease of stacking and binding with mortar.
  • Steel reinforcing increases the strength of masonry while lessening its overall weight and mass.

Brick :

Bricks are made from a variety of clays and fired in kilns at different temperatures to produce different colors, textures, strengths, and glazes. Brick is durable, weather resistant, fireproof, and known for its high quality and permanence.

Brick is produced in many types – face brick, firebrick, glazed brick, pavers, etc., and many sizes. Nominal dimensions include the actual size of the brick plus the thickness of a mortar joint in wall or floor construction. These dimensions help to determine how many bricks are required for a particular panel size. For example, if a wall is 8 feet(2,438mm)in length and made with a brick that is 12 nominal inches (304mm),the wall will take eight bricks. Brick count can be calculated either horizontally or vertically for a wall.

Stone :

Stone is one of the oldest building materials. It has been used for centuries to construct any of the ancient buildings and other structures. It is usually a combination of minerals made up of various inorganic chemical substances, but some rocks, such as sandstone, are composed of only one mineral. Stone used for construction is classified as

  • Igneous
  • Sedimentary
  • Metamorphic

The qualities to be checked for stone as a construction material are

  • Strength
  • Hardness
  • Durability
  • Workability
  • Density
  • Appearance

Concrete Masonry Units

Concrete masonry units (CMU) are also made of concrete in hollow or solid blocks and bricks. These are usually less expensive and stronger than brick and can be lighter in weight, depending on the aggregate used. They are generally used for structural walls or as sub surfaces for brick facings.

There are different types of units depending on the locality and manufacturer. Some of them are stretcher blocks, Bullnose blocks, Corner blocks, Corner return blocks, Double corner blocks, Pilaster blocks, etc.

Image source Bigrentz.com


Steel refers to any of various iron-based alloys having a carbon content less than that of cast iron and more than that of wrought iron, and having qualities of strength, hardness, and elasticity varying according
to composition and heat treatment. Steel is used for light and heavy structural framing, as well as a wide range of building products such as windows, doors, hardware, and fastenings.

5.Nonferrous Metals

Nonferrous metals contain no iron. Aluminum, copper, and lead are nonferrous metals commonly used in building construction.

  • Aluminum is a ductile, malleable, silver-white metallic element that is used in forming many hard, light alloys. Aluminum is widely used in extruded and sheet forms for secondary building elements such as windows, doors, roofing, flashing, trim, and hardware.
  • Copper is a ductile, malleable metallic element that is widely used for electrical wiring, water piping, and in the manufacture of alloys, as bronze and brass.
  • Lead is a heavy, soft, malleable, bluish-gray metallic element used for flashing, sound isolation, and radiation shielding.


Wood is used as a major material for buildings and furniture from many centuries because of its vast availability in nature and the ease it can be worked out. It is an excellent insulator and also renewable material. It is a strong, durable and light in weight when compared to other materials used in Architecture.Wood offers natural beauty and warmth.

Only about 100 species are used commercially as building materials although thousands of different species exist. Wood is organic, renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable.

Sawmills cut tree logs into lumber as boards of various sizes. When both the width and thickness of lumber exceed five inches, these boards are called timber.

Materials used in Architecture
The Leigh Court ten-bay cruck-framed barn in Leigh, England, built ca. 1325; photo courtesy of English Heritage

Species – Hardwood and Softwood

Wood is classified into hardwood and softwoods.

Hardwoods come from broad-leafed or deciduous trees that loose their leaves in the winter, such as oak, maple and walnut. Hardwoods generally have a finer grain and are used in interior trim, paneling surfaces, furniture and flooring.

Softwoods come from evergreen or coniferous trees that keep their leaves or needles throughout the year. These include cedar, pine, and redwood varieties. Used for general construction.

Common wood species used in interiors are:

Birch, cherry, Oak, Maple, Walnut, Poplar, Pine, etc. A brief about each of them is given in the link below:



Lumber is cut into smaller pieces of certain grade and size and is graded depending upon the clear and usable Lumber.

Softwood is classified as

Yard Lumber – Softwood Lumber for general building purposes, such as boards, Dimensional Lumber, and Timbers.

  • Boards – Less than 2″ thick and 2″ or more wide
    • Graded for appearance rather than strength.
  • Dimension Lumber – From 2″ to 4″ thick and 2″ or more wide.
    • Graded for strength rather than appearance.
  • Timbers – 5″ or more
    • Graded for strength and serviceability.
  • Structural Lumber – Includes Dimension Lumber and Timbers
    • Graded on basis of strength and intended use.
  • Factory and shop Lumber – Sawn for manufacture of doors, windows, and millwork, etc.
    • Graded according to usable wood of specified size and quality.

8.Wood Panel Products as Materials used in Architecture

The following are majorly used wood panel products:

  • Plywood
    • Commonly used wood types and are durable is the Plywood. Manufactured from sheets/layers (3-10) of cross-laminated veneer bonded with moisture-resistant adhesives under high heat and pressure. The layers are placed alternatively at 90 degrees to each other. Plywood is used in many applications from shuttering to furniture.
  • Particleboard
    • Particleboard is made by bonding small pieces of wood under high heat and pressure. It is commonly used as core material for cabinets and decorative panels.
  • Oriented strand board
    • Oriented strand board (OSB) consists of thin layers of wood flakes and strips set in mats with glue and bonded/pressed together. The surface strands are aligned parallel to long axis of the panel. It is commonly used for sheathing and as sub-floor.
  • Waferboard
    • Similar to oriented strand board but the grain directions are random making the panel equal in strength and stiffness in all directions.


Plastics are chemical substances derived from common materials, such as coal, air, water, wood, and oil. They are produced synthetically and can be molded and hardened for a wide variety of uses. Plastics are generally resistant to corrosion and moisture and are lightweight, tough, and easily molded into complex shapes.

Because of their durability, low cost, and low maintenance, plastics are made to replicate natural building materials, such as wood. Plastics are used for insulation, vapor barriers, window and door frames, exterior siding, pluming pipes, countertops, tabletops, safety windows, floor coverings, furniture, and accessories.

Plastics fall into two categories of

  • Thermoplastics and
  • Thermoset plastics.


Thermoplastics soften when heated and harden when cooled. They can be reheated and molded over and over. Some examples of thermo-plastics are polyethylene(plastic bags),acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene(ABSs),vinyl’s, and polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs).Thermoplastics are easier to mold into complex shapes and exhibit higher impact strength than thermosets. Many thermoplastics are flammable, which must be taken into consideration when using them in areas subject to fire.

Thermoset plastics

Thermoset plastics cannot be reshaped by heating because once formed in the manufacturing process, they become rigid. Some common thermoset plastics are melamine’s, epoxies, phenolics, and polyesters. A number of thermoset plastics are difficult to recycle; however, they can be ground up and used as a filler in other material processes.


Glass is made up of number of materials such as sand, soda ash and limestone. It is formed by fusing of silicates, alkalis, lime and other materials at high temperatures. Minerals are added to obtain colors.

Glass can be manufactured in sheet form from 1/2″ to 2″ (2 to 50mm) thick used for various purposes. These panes are produced in three basic ways:

  • Sheet glass
  • Plate glass
  • Float glass

Sheet glass is produced by drawing out molten glass and subjecting both sides to heat. Resulting faces are not truly parallel since it in not further treated. This technique has been replaced by many methods.

Plate glass is ground and polished after being drawn from the molten state, producing more parallel surfaces.

Float glass (commonly known as window glass) has replaced sheet and float glass. It is made by floating molten glass over a molten metal such as tin, producing an even layer of glass that ends up polish on both sides.

View more for types of glass and their use in construction at https://thearchspace.com/types-of-glass/

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