Construction materials are materials used for building and construction purposes, these include simple house building materials such as wood, cement, metals, bricks, concrete, clay, stones, etc.
There are a lot of naturally occurring substances, like clay, sand, wood, even bamboo, leaves, and twigs that have been and are still used for construction. Other than that, nowadays a lot of synthetic materials are also used depending upon the need.
A lot of these materials are divided according to different types and aspects of building. Such as the construction of houses or buildings and apartments. Or as carpentry, plumbing, roofing, and insulation work.
When it comes to construction of buildings, the materials used are different from your traditional houses and have to withstand more tough conditions, such as more weight, wind, etc. Structural engineers, who specialize in designing the skeleton for buildings and different manmade structures, use materials that are different and more durable. The most common ones used are Reinforced concrete, steel, wood, and masonry. Most of these materials have different properties like density, strength, durability, and cost that makes it ideal for different use cases.
Before starting any of the real work. Most of the materials for different parts of the building process are decided based on their different properties for maximum strength and durability for the least cost. For example, a three-story residential building can be made using wood framing. But for taller multi-story structures. You’d probably need to use a combination of reinforced concrete, steel, and bricks.
Choosing the right construction materials and the structural system is one of the most important decisions made at the beginning of any project and effects directly on the cost and success of a project. The job of a structural engineer is to propose different design alternatives and investigating the availability of certain construction materials and the cost of labor for all the proposed alternatives.
Here are some construction materials and a detailed breakdown.
Concrete is a composite material made by mixing aggregate with some form of a binder, mostly cement paste. This type of cement is referred to as Cement concrete. The most common type of cement concrete is Portland cement concrete, which is made out of… you guessed it, Portland cement.
Concrete is made from mixing aggregates such as sand and crushed stone, cement, and water. Concrete is very strong in terms of handling compression stress, but at the same time is brittle and doesn’t have much tensile strength. When building structures, concrete is combined with steel reinforced bars. This type of reinforced concrete is much stronger and more suitable for a lot of different structures such as buildings, bridges tunnels, etc.
There are two methods of building with concrete. Cast-in-place concrete and precast concrete.
Concrete can be mixed on-site or can be delivered in special concrete mixer trucks to the site and then it is poured in the formworks. The cast-in-place method is the most widely used as it is easier, cheaper and the freshly made concrete can take any shape or form depending on the formwork but takes time to harden be become more stone-like. Concrete usually takes about 7 days to cure. During this time, concrete needs special care and attention in the form of hosing it down with water frequently throughout the day and shielding it from sunlight. Not paying attention can cause cracks or reduction in capacity.
To avoid the time delay and care required for concrete curing, precast concrete is used. Manageable size units of concrete units are built and cured at an environmentally controlled facility and are shipped to the construction site. As everything is done in a controlled facility, different ratios of the mix can be achieved depending upon the properties required and the facilities maintain strict quality control, making precast concrete expensive but at the same time a more durable and better option.
Steel is one of the strongest building materials out there. Its ability to withstand both tension and compression is unmatched and has a great strength-to-mass ratio compared to other building materials. Which is why it’s ideal for building a structural framework for tall buildings and industrial facilities. It is available in a lot of different standard shapes, such as I beams, c-channels, and angles. And these shapes can be welded or bolted together in special orientations to make a structure capable of withstanding enormous forces and deformations.
The only issue with steel is that it is relatively expensive. And using only steel to make the structural framework won’t be that cost-effective. This is where you might need the expertise of a structural engineer to decide what size and shape of steel to be used for that particular building. Relatively smaller sized Reinforced steel can be used with concrete to make it more economic with keeping it durable and strong.
Concrete and steel are great options but at the same time they do have some short-comings, first of all, they are expensive. Secondly, they are not that great when it comes to insulation and need special insulation in colder areas. Increasing the cost even more. If a building is not that tall and doesn’t have many stories. Using a wooden frame would not only save you a lot of money but the building will be more insulated in winters. Wood is very easy to machine and is lightweight. Which reduces the cost of labor significantly. Making it an ideal material for small offices and residential buildings.
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Masonry construction is when individual slabs or blocks are bound together by the help of some sort of binder, mostly mortar, to build structures. Commonly used materials are concrete blocks and cinder blocks, bricks, etc. Concrete blocks replaced cinder blocks as they are way strong and durable.
Masonry construction is quite common in hot tropical places for small offices and residential buildings as well as taller multi-story buildings, with the use of steel to reinforce the structure. The reason being that masonry materials have a high thermal mass. Absorbing the heat during the day, and keeping the structure cold and then releasing the heat at night. Keeping the structure cool.