Building material is material used for construction. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, rocks, sand, wood, and 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 total cost of building materials
In history, there are trends in building materials from being natural to becoming more man-made and composite; biodegradable to imperishable; indigenous (local) to being transported globally; repairable to disposable; chosen for increased levels of fire-safety, and improved seismic resistance. These trends tend to increase the initial and long term economic, ecological, energy, and social costs of building materials.
Initial economic cost of building materials is the purchase price. This is often what governs decision making about what materials to use. Sometimes people take into consideration the energy savings or durability of the materials and see the value of paying a higher initial cost in return for a lower lifetime cost. For example, an asphalt shingle roof costs less than a metal roof to install, but the metal roof will last longer so the lifetime cost is less per year. Some materials may require more care than others, maintaining costs specific to some materials may also influence the final decision. Risks when considering lifetime cost of a material is if the building is damaged such as by fire or wind, or if the material is not as durable as advertised. The cost of materials should be taken into consideration to bear the risk to buy combustive materials to enlarge the lifetime. It is said that, “if it must be done, it must be done well”.
Pollution costs can be macro and micro. The macro, environmental pollution of extraction industries building materials rely on such as mining, petroleum, and logging produce environmental damage at their source and in transportation of the raw materials, manufacturing, transportation of the products, retailing, and installation. An example of the micro aspect of pollution is the off-gassing of the building materials in the building or indoor air pollution. Red List building materials are materials found to be harmful. Also the carbon footprint, the total set of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the life of the material. A life-cycle analysis also includes the reuse, recycling, or disposal of construction waste. Two concepts in building which account for the ecological economics of building materials are green building and sustainable development.
the Initial energy costs include the amount of energy consumed to produce, deliver and install the material. The long term energy cost is the economic, ecological, and social costs of continuing to produce and deliver energy to the building for its use, maintenance, and eventual removal. The initial embodied energy of a structure is the energy consumed to extract, manufacture, deliver, install, the materials. The lifetime embodied energy continues to grow with the use, maintenance, and reuse/recycling/disposal of the building materials themselves and how the materials and design help minimize the life-time energy consumption of the structure.
Social costs are injury and health of the people producing and transporting the materials and potential health problems of the building occupants if there are problems with the building biology. Globalization has had significant impacts on people both in terms of jobs, skills, and self-sufficiency are lost when manufacturing facilities are closed and the cultural aspects of where new facilities are opened. Aspects of fair trade and labor rights are social costs of global building material manufacturing.
In the market place, the term “building products” often refers to ready-made particles or sections made from various materials, that are fitted in architectural hardware and decorative hardware parts of a building. The list of building products excludes the building materials used to construct the building architecture and supporting fixtures, like windows, doors, cabinets, millwork components, etc. Building products, rather, support and make building materials work in a modular fashion.
“Building products” may also refer to items used to put such hardware together, such as caulking, glues, paint, and anything else bought for the purpose of constructing a building.
Living building materials
A relatively new category of building materials, living building materials are materials that are either composed of, or created by a living organism; or materials that behave in a manner that’s reminiscent of such. Potential use cases include self-healing materials, and materials that replicate (reproduce) rather than be manufactured.