When the construction and building industry joins forces with technology, you can be sure that amazing developments will follow. Within the last decade, there have been several new building materials emerge from research labs; many of these are already in production and being utilized in real-world building projects. Here is a list of five of the most exciting, innovative building materials for the 21st Century:
The plant Posidonia oceanica, known as Neptune Grass,is a prolific seawood that grows in the Mediterranean sea. It grows in huge colonies, some as big as five miles across, and is only found in the Mediterranean. Neptune grass has an unusual tendency for its dead slender leaves to break-off from the main plant and form large, tightly-compacted balls. These "Neptune balls" will eventually wash ashore and are found scattered in abundance across Mediterranean coastlines.
What makes Neptune balls such an extraordinary material is due to a unique combination of properties: it is practically fire-proof, stable, rot resistant, and is a superb insulator without the need to add any other substances. Harvesting is simple--just pick it up from the shoreline--and process it by removing foreign material and converting the balls into strands. These strands are then packaged and sold as insulating material that can be used in construction.
You probably have eaten coconut at some point in your life, but did you know that the wood from a coconut tree is an emerging building material? Coconut trees are ringless, and that provides for a wood that is consistently grained. Once considered a waste byproduct of coconut fruit farming, builders learned the wood has tremendous value for construction, especially in areas of the world where other timber resources are too expensive or scarce.
Coconut wood consists of a high-density, hard outer shell and a softer, low-density inner core; each type of wood offers its own applications for building. The hard wood is useful for construction of load-bearing structures, while the softer wood is suitable for trim and paneling.
Humankind has used the soil of the earth as a basic building material for thousands of ears, but recent developments have opened doors to higher-level construction applications. Rammed earth is highly-compacted soil that has various additives and binders such as clay, lime or sand. The key to making rammed earth a commercially-viable material is the use of machine tampers that can greatly increase the speed of compaction and make the end product much stronger.
Rammed earth is an ideal building material for residential applications; its excellent insulating and thermal regulation properties lessen the need for heating and air conditioning, and it is a remarkably durable product that resists damage for decades. Rammed earth is a low-cost product, and its natural, renewable properties make it a truly "green" option.
Three-dimensional printing, also called 3D printing, has revolutionized a number of industries in the last ten years, but it is now emerging as a new force in concrete fabrication. Concrete printing is the creation of products using a three-dimensional printer operating at giant scales. Printed concrete enables complex structures and components to be built in a relatively short period of time; previously, the construction of elaborate molds was required before concrete could be poured into various shapes.
Printed concrete will enable contractors and builders to fabricate building components on-site within a short period of time and without the need to transport these products from factories. This technology will lower construction costs and make complicated fabrication a relatively simple process by reducing manpower needs and lessening the need for mold-building.
Believe it or not, one of the newest building materials is fungal in origin; mycelium is the unseen part of mushrooms that lies buried beneath the surface. Mycelium as a building product can be commercially produced in just a matter of days by mixing fungi with agricultural waste products; the mixture is then placed in a mold, and the ensuing mycelium quickly grows into the shape of its container. These mycelium are then harvested, dried and coated with a lacquer for protection.
Mycelium bricks or blocks are nearly as hard as concrete but much lighter. They can be joined together with mortar or attached together by other means. Mycelium is an inert material that costs almost nothing to create from the waste material of farming and ranching, and it is a long-lasting, durable material.
If you are interested in any of these materials, go to websites of building suppliers to see what they have to offer.