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In the United States, it’s common to think building materials are fairly standard everywhere you go. Materials like brick, lumber, sheetrock, and concrete can be found in almost every construction project. However, what construction workers use aren’t always what you may expect—especially when you travel the world.
These ten construction materials will catch you by surprise
Rice is a major staple throughout the world, but most people don’t realize that it’s a major building staple—specifically in China. Sticky rice can be ground into a thick mortar paste that’s used as both a joiner and a form of concrete. It’s used in modern buildings, as well as in ancient structures like the Great Wall of China. Sticky rice mortar is still used today as a building restorative and construction material.
If you have been to a salt cave spa, you already know that rock salt has been used as a building material for centuries. It’s safe to use, fairly fireproof, and has a gorgeous look when sculpted. Salt tends to be used primarily in desert communities as a wall or sculpture material, though it’s found a new home in spa construction. Namaste.
Beer & Wine Bottles
Part of the recycling movement is learning how to repurpose old glass bottles into an elegant building material. This phenomenon started off as just bottle lamps and bottle chandeliers, but in recent years has taken on a life of its own. Beer bottles are currently being used as a discounted building material for walls, rooftops, and even insulation in various parts of the world. It looks like we can now answer the age-old question of “How many bottles of beer are on the wall?”
Corn—specifically corn cobs—has been used as an insulation material in America since the early 1700s. Though this particular use of the construction material eventually became obsolete, corn still remains a material in other situations … and we’re not just talking mazes.
Recently, architects in France created an entire home made from corn in a bid to showcase eco-friendly materials. With hope, this construction material may come into style once more.
Norway recently made its own bid to become more eco-friendly. So, in recent years, Norwegian companies started converting newspaper into “wood” through the addition of a solvent. The newspaper + solvent is then rolled into extremely tight logs and cut into boards.
NewspaperWood isn’t as papery as you may expect. The solvents added to the newspaper make it both flame-retardant and waterproof. Needless to say, this is a potential building material that will remain in demand for years to come. One might say it’s here to “seize the day!”
Not all construction materials will be used for permanent fixtures. Ice has been one of the more well-known building materials for novelty structures like ice bars and Elsa’s castle. Traditionally, ice was used to create igloos that would last for the greater part of winters in extremely cold climates.
Several projects, including the famous Ice Hotel in Quebec, are updated annually so they stick around. Because of how cool this is, places like the Ice Hotel (and projects like it) are in the top construction projects to watch for art fans.
One of the newer (and stranger) construction materials to hit the market is made from real blood. Jack Munroe, a British architecture student, created these bricks as a way to cut down on the need for higher-priced items. The bricks are highly adhesive, thanks to the unusually high protein count naturally found in blood. This building material may provide a solution to recycling slaughterhouse waste.
Researchers from Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are also working to shore up concrete mixes with organic compounds made from shrimp shells. When these particles are mixed into a typical concrete compound, the final structure has been shown to be 40% stronger than traditional concrete alone.
You probably know hemp is a common fabric for bags and clothing, but did you also know it’s used as an additive in concrete? Sure is. Hemp’s naturally high tensile strength helps make concrete even stronger than ever. The technical term for this construction material is “hempcrete.”
Hempcrete is an exceptionally strong material, which means it may revolutionize building safety. Due to legality issues with the growth and use of hemp, this material has yet to become a mainstream material.
Reclaimed Vehicle Structures
Technically, upcycling vehicle parts into construction materials isn’t an unusual use case, since it’s been a practice since shipwrecks were remade into buildings. However, this building material genre gained more popularity among architects and governments due to climate change risk. Everything from crashed planes to full boats have been reused as a building shell or structure. This trend of recycling old vehicles continues to remain popular, particularly among sustainability-focused architects.
Perhaps one of the most uplifting ways that people have helped avoid putting plastic in dumps is to turn it into a reliable construction material. In many parts of Africa and Asia, plastic bottles are now used as a form of insulation. The air inside the bottles can help keep heat and cold outside, depending on what you need. Many companies are now looking into creating specialized insulation and wall material from recycled bottles.
Anything can be a construction material with enough imagination
Construction materials are no longer simply brick and mortar, even in the United States. As technology continues to progress, the number of items that will be requested for construction projects will continue to expand … and this can pose a serious problem for construction estimators.
Luckily, 1build offers a unique construction estimating software that keeps track of over 10,000 different construction materials in our live cost data library. When suppliers update their numbers, so do we, so you get accurate material, equipment, and labor rates in your neighborhood. Find out how 1build can work for you by giving us a try—free!—for 14 days. Learn more today.