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Top 10 Natural Building Materials for Sustainable Construction

TheListLady lives in New York City, where she writes about food, healthy living, education, and travel.

Bamboo can be used in different building applications.

Bamboo can be used in different building applications.

Eco-Friendly Construction

Choosing natural building materials helps reduce the use of man-made materials. Additionally, it minimizes the use of products that require a great deal of energy during manufacture and transport.

The focus is on simple construction methods that do no further damage to the environment, consume fossil fuel, and are not sustainable.

The 10 Best Natural Building Materials

  1. Adobe: Adobe continues to be one of the oldest building materials that remains in use to the present day. Adobe is made up of dirt mixed with water, and sometimes other fibers as well, to add additional strength. It is then sun-dried into the desired shape—which is most often like bricks—that are then stacked with a mud mortar in order to form a wall.
  2. Straw Bale: Straw bale building has become almost mainstream in the Southwestern parts of the United States. Straw is a renewable resource with excellent insulation properties that has the added benefit of being fire-resistant. Straw bale is also used as infill for timber frame building and also in a load-bearing capacity to carry the weight of the roof.
  3. Cob: Cob is a sustainable material that can be traced back to ancient times and is a multi-faceted green building material. Cob structures are made with clay or sand, local earth, and added fibers like straw. It is all then made into a stiff mud that is formed into cobs. The materials are then mixed together and applied over a concrete or stone foundation.
  4. Wood: Wood continues to be one of the most commonly used building materials. However, for natural building purposes, the wood should be renewable and sustainably harvested. Wood is also used for frames, trim, and flooring.
  5. Cord wood: Cord wood is similar to what is considered firewood. Using cord wood is resource-efficient because this type of wood may not have any other value.
  6. Bamboo: This sustainable material is fast growing and strong for its weight, and it is used in many building applications. This includes a concrete replacement for rebars and as pins for straw bale building.
  7. Masonry: Masonry is also an ancient building material and includes brick and stone. Brick and stone are used for foundations, floors, walls, walkways, and landscaping.
  8. Earth Bags: These are also referred to as sandbags. Long used by the military, they provide a strong protective barrier, especially against flooding. The success of using earth bags in this capacity has made them useful in a variety of building applications. This includes the building of massive, substantial walls that resist severe weather, as well as bombs and bullets.
  9. Earth: Earth is used to construct different types of homes. A rammed earth technique, used since ancient times, is made up mostly of clay and sand material, then tamped or compressed into place, usually creating a flat vertical surface. The poured earth construction technique uses Portland cement as a binder and is then mixed and formed like concrete. The poured earth technique uses ordinary soil that is required to meet certain specifications.
  10. Reclaimed Materials: These help reduce building waste. Modern-day construction causes massive amounts of waste during the building process. Building waste reclaimed includes salvaged wood, doors, windows, piping, insulation, and chunks of concrete. By using the reclaimed waste in the building process, it serves as a means of reducing the environmental impact on society.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 TheListLady


biruktawit abrham on May 16, 2018:

really good suggestion in this book. for that i am living in great Ethiopia we use to adopt this technology for better living standard,and thanks.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on January 21, 2017:

I like the suggestions in this list. We in Arizona build with adobe and rammed earth. I have also seen rammed rock walls, where rocks are put on top of cement in layers and rammed into forms. Bale homes seem intriguing. Great hub.

TheListLady (author) from New York City on April 27, 2013:

Hi vibesites! When I was in China there was scaffolding and it was all bamboo - wow! Thanks for writing!

vibesites from United States on April 24, 2013:

I always love bamboo. It's beautiful and strong. In fact it's even used in scaffolding.

TheListLady (author) from New York City on February 04, 2012:

Thanks so much for the comments. I don't know how I missed this hub (?).

Ingenira on October 27, 2011:

Good list of natural building materials. I like the wood materials, bamboo and rocks look good too !

Voted up and tweeted !

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on August 31, 2011:

Great hub, it sure adds to your home and surroundings when you use natural materials. I really like the looks of bamboo and stone. Thanks for sharing.

Veronica Allen from Georgia on August 01, 2011:

While visiting our local bamboo farm here in Savannah, Georgia, I was amazed at how resilient and how versatile bamboo is. What an amazing plant! - Earth Bags!? - Who knew!? Another amazing hub.

Gym Mirrors on August 01, 2011:

thank you for share 10 natural building materials!

i love them

CountryCityWoman from From New York City to North Carolina on July 19, 2011:

Great list and great info. I've learned quite a bit and thanks a lot.

Rated up for sure.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on July 06, 2011:

Great info - and great links too. Thanks a million and rated way up!