When it comes to innovation and modernisation, the construction industry, in many respects, leads the way in adopting new technologies. The pressure is on for all sectors to adopt modern techniques, and this is nowhere more applicable than in the building industry’s drive to make structures more efficient.

At the forefront of this mission is the substitution of traditional bricks and mortar for alternative materials, such as fabric structures and natural materials which offset carbon output while offering effective insulation. In this post, we’ve provided a concise explanation of the uses and benefits of these alternative structures.

What alternatives are being used?

These days, there aren’t a lot of materials that can’t be used to construct a structure.

For example, areas at risk of earthquakes are recognising the suitability of bamboo as a building material. Cheap, environmentally friendly and resistant to shock, as a construction material bamboo was previously only seen in Asia and South America; however, it’s becoming an increasingly popular building material in other areas of the world. Take a look at this coconut-shaped bamboo dome built without a single nail.

It’s also not uncommon to see structures made from hay. Just take a look at The Daily Green, which showcases ten examples of homes built from straw.  A home built from hay bundles may seem like the stuff of fairy tales, but in an industry that’s striving for efficiency and low environmental impact, straw is becoming the material of choice.

The benefits…

Lots of alternative building materials are cheaper that their traditional counterparts; for example, papercrete, a sturdy brick offering effective insulation made by combining waste paper with concrete, costs around £0.30 per square metre.

What’s more, naturally grown materials like bamboo, timber and hay have no carbon footprint, whilst the thermal insulation offered by the latter reduces energy consumption of the finished structure.

The uses…

These materials are by no means limited to use in the home construction industry. Fabric structures, available from companies such as UK-based Rubb, are created for a wide variety of purposes, including the likes of aviation, military, storage and sport.

Fabric structures, typically made from flame-resistant materials like PVC coated polyester, are lightweight and can be relocated depending on the nature of their use. What’s more, buildings of this manner are much easier to customise, again dependant on their purpose and use.

While it will take a considerable shift in the industry for all buildings to be made from these alternative materials, the efficiency and environmental benefits of such examples indicate that they are a strong contender in the future of construction.