Knowing Green Building materials is an important step in designing a green building to be more efficient and energy saver. Green Building Materials list is presented below.

1. Aluminum:

Aluminum, derived from bauxite ore, requires a large amount of raw material to produce a small amount of final product. Up to six pounds of ore may be required to yield one pound of aluminum. Aluminum manufacturing is a large consumer of electricity, which in turn comes from burning fossil fuels.

The refined bauxite is mixed with caustic soda and heated in a kiln, to create aluminum oxide. This white powder, in turn, must undergo an electrolytic reaction, where direct electrical current is used to separate out the oxides and smelt the material into aluminum.

The material must be heated to almost 3000°F for this process to occur. The processing of bauxite into aluminum results in large quantities of waste (called “mud”) that contain traces of heavy metals and other hazardous substances.

A byproduct of the smelting process (called “potliner”) contains fluoride and chlorine and must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Aluminum can be used in a variety of ways. Aluminum can be used as canopies, windows, doors, blinds and so on.

2. Rock:

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Rock structures have existed for as long as history can recall. It is the longest lasting building material available, and is usually readily available. There are many types of rock throughout the world all with differing attributes that make them better or worse for particular uses.

Rock is a very dense material so it gives a lot of protection too, its main draw-back as a material is its weight and awkwardness. Its energy density is also considered a big draw-back, as stone is hard to keep warm without using large amounts of heating resources.

Mostly stone buildings can be seen in most major cities, some civilizations built entirely with stone such as the Pyramids in Egypt, the Aztec Pyramid and the remains of the Inca civilization.

3. Thatch:

Thatch is one of the oldest of building materials known, grass is a good insulator and easily harvested. Many African tribes have lived in homes made completely of grasses year round. In Europe, thatch roofs on homes were once prevalent but the material fell out of favour as industrialization and improved transport increased the availability of other materials.

Today, though, the practice is undergoing a revival. In the Netherlands, for instance, many of new builds too have thatched roofs with special ridge tiles on top.

4. Brush:

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Brush structures are built entirely from plant parts and are generally found in tropical and sub-tropical areas, such as rainforests, where very large leaves can be used in the building. Native Americans often built brush structures for resting and living in, too. These are built mostly with branches, twigs and leaves, and bark, similar to a beaver’s lodge. These were variously named wickiups, lean-tos, and so forth.

5. Ice:

Ice was used by the Inuit for igloos, but has also been used for ice hotels as a tourist attraction in northern areas that might not otherwise see many winter tourists.

6. Mud and clay:

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The amount of each material used leads to different styles of buildings. The deciding factor is usually connected with the quality of the soil being used. Larger amounts of clay usually mean using the cob/adobe style, while low clay soil is usually associated with sod building.

The other main ingredients include more or less sand/gravel and straw grasses. Soil and especially clay is good thermal mass; it is very good at keeping temperatures at a constant level. Homes built with earth tend to be naturally cool in the summer heat and warm in cold weather.

Clay holds heat or cold, releasing it over a period of time like stone. Earthen walls change temperature slowly, so artificially raising or lowering the temperature can use more resources than in say a wood built house, but the heat/coolness stays longer.

Peoples building with mostly dirt and clay, such as cob, sod, and adobe, resulted in homes that have been built for centuries in western and northern Europe as well as the rest of the world, and continue to be built, though on a smaller scale.

7. Fabric:

The tent used to be the home of choice among nomadic groups the world over. Two well known types include the conical teepee and the circular yurt. It has been revived as a major construction technique with the development of tensile architecture and synthetic fabrics. Modern buildings can be made of flexible material such as fabric membranes, and supported by a system of steel cables.

8. Ceramics:

Ceramics used to be just a specialized form of clay-pottery firing in kilns, but it has evolved into more technical areas though kiln firing is still usually a major step in its creation. Ceramics tend to be more water resistant and heat resistant than other types of pottery, due to its high firing temperature.

Ceramics often are used to make such things as tiles, fixtures, etc. Ceramics are mostly used as fixtures, ceramic floors, walls, counter-tops, even ceilings. Many countries use ceramic roofing tiles to cover many buildings. Other uses of ceramics include international space programs, which have used ceramic tiles to cover the undersides of space craft such as the space shuttle program, high temperature engines, and dental implants and synthetic bones.

9. Foam:

More recently synthetic polystyrene or polyurethane foam has been used on a limited scale. It is light weight, easily shaped and an excellent insulator. It is usually used as part of a structural insulated panel where the foam is sandwiched between wood and cement.

10. Limestone:

Limestone is perhaps the most prevalent building material obtained through mining. It is used as a cladding material and plays an important role in the production of a wide range of building products. Concrete and plaster are obvious examples of products that rely on limestone; less obvious is the use of limestone in steel and glass production.

An abundant natural resource, limestone is found throughout the world. Most limestone is crushed at the quarry, then converted to lime, by burning, at another location. The burning of limestone creates sulfide emissions, a major contributor to acid rain.

Limestone (primarily calcium carbonate) is converted to quicklime (calcium oxide) through prolonged exposure to high heat. This removes water and carbon from the stone and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The quicklime is then crushed and screened.

Before it can be used in plaster or cement, it must be mixed with water and then dried. The hydrated lime then becomes an ingredient in concrete, plaster, and mortar.

11. Petrochemicals:

The building industry is highly dependent on materials derived from petroleum and natural gas. These are used in a wide range of products including plastics, adhesives for plywood and particleboard, laminated countertops, insulation, carpeting, and paints.

Drilling for oil and gas is both hazardous and expensive. Heavy machinery is required, and contamination of the groundwater and soil is common.

12. Plastic:

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The term plastics covers a range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic condensation or polymerization products that can be molded or extruded into objects or films or fibers. Their name is derived from the fact that in their semi-liquid state they are malleable, or have the property of plasticity.

Plastics vary immensely in heat tolerance, hardness, and resiliency. Combined with this adaptability, the general uniformity of composition and lightness of plastics ensures their use in almost all industrial applications today.

13. Glass:

Glass making is considered an art form as well as an industrial process or material. Clear windows have been used since the invention of glass to cover small openings in a building. They provided humans with the ability to both let light into rooms while at the same time keeping inclement weather outside.

Glass is generally made from mixtures of sand and silicates, in a very hot fire stove called a kiln and is very brittle. Very often additives are added to the mixture when making to produce glass with shades of colors or various characteristics (such as bullet proof glass, or light emittance).

The use of glass in architectural buildings has become very popular in the modern culture. Glass “curtain walls” can be used to cover the entire facade of a building, or it can be used to span over a wide roof structure in a “space frame”.

These uses though require some sort of frame to hold sections of glass together, as glass by its self is too brittle and would require an overly large kiln to be used to span such large areas by itself.

14. Rammed earth:


Rammed earth is similar to adobe or cob construction, because its main component is soil, clay and sand. Very little water is used during construction, so almost 3 m high walls can be built in a day. Most of the Great Wall of China is either rammed earth or has a large component of rammed earth as its base. Traditionally, rammed earth buildings are common in arid regions where wood is in scarce supply.

15. Steel:

Steel requires the mining of iron ore, coal, limestone, magnesium, and other trace elements. To produce steel, iron must first be refined from raw ore. The iron ore, together with limestone and coke (heat-distilled coal) are loaded into a blast furnace.

Hot air and flames are used to melt the materials into pig iron, with the impurities (slag) floating to the top of the molten metal. Steel is produced by controlling the amount of carbon in iron through further smelting. Limestone and magnesium are added to remove oxygen and make the steel stronger. A maximum carbon content of 2% is desired.

Other metals are also commonly added at this stage, to produce various steel alloys. These metals include magnesium, chromium, and nickel, which are relatively rare and difficult to extract from the earth’s crust. The molten steel is either molded directly into usable shapes or milled.

16. Metal:

Metal is used as structural framework for larger buildings such as skyscrapers, or as an external surface covering. There are many types of metals used for building. Steel is a metal alloy whose major component is iron, and is the usual choice for metal structural building materials. It is strong, flexible, and if refined well and/or treated lasts a long time.

Corrosion is metal’s prime enemy when it comes to longevity. The lower density and better corrosion resistance of aluminum alloys and tin sometimes overcome their greater cost. Brass was more common in the past, but is usually restricted to specific uses or specialty items today.

Metal figures quite prominently in prefabricated structures such as the Quonset hut, and can be seen used in most cosmopolitan cities. It requires a great deal of human labor to produce metal, especially in the large amounts needed for the building industries. Other metals used include titanium, chrome, gold, silver.

Titanium can be used for structural purposes, but it is much more expensive than steel. Chrome, gold, and silver are used as decoration, because these materials are expensive and lack structural qualities such as tensile strength or hardness.

17. Fly ash:

Fly ash offers environmental advantages, it also improve the performance and quality of concrete. Fly ash affects the plastic properties of concrete by concrete by improving workability, reducing water demand, reducing segregation and bleeding, and lowering heat of hydration.

Fly ash increases strength, reduces permeability, reduces corrosion of reinforcing steel, increases sulphate resistance, and reduces alkali-aggregate reaction. Provide higher strength, fly ash continues to combine with free lime, increasing compressive strength over time.

18. Wood:

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Wood is a product of trees, and sometimes other fibrous plants, used for construction purposes when cut or pressed into lumber and timber, such as boards, planks and similar materials. It is a generic building material and is used in building just about any type of structure in most climates.

Wood can be very flexible under loads, keeping strength while bending, and is incredibly strong when compressed vertically. There are many differing qualities to the different types of wood, even among same tree species. This means specific species are better for various uses than others. And growing conditions are important for deciding quality.

Historically, wood for building large structures was used in its unprocessed form as logs. The trees were just cut to the needed length, sometimes stripped of bark, and then notched or lashed into place. In earlier times, and in some parts of the world, many country homes or communities had a personal wood-lot from which the family or community would grow and harvest trees to build with. These lots would be tended to like a garden.

19. ECO surfaces:

Tire rubber recycled into indoor/outdoor flooring and surfacing. They are:

  • Slip resistant,
  • Weather resistance,
  • Meets indoor air quality emissions standards.
  • Can be purchased as tiles, interlocking pavers and sheets and in many colors.

20. Faswell:

Mineral-treated woodchips bonded with cement into interlocking wall forms. Mortar less blocks are filled with cement when in place.

Comparatively this material is:

  • Lightweight,
  • Having low density,
  • Thermal and sound insulating,
  • Non-combustible,
  • Fire resistant,
  • Pest resistant,
  • Highly insulating,
  • Weather resistant.

21. Durisol:

Wood shavings bonded with cement, compressed and molded into wall, roof, floor and facing panel forms. Used instead of concrete forms. Mortar less blocks are filled with cement when in place.

Comparatively this material is: lightweight, having low density, thermal and sound insulating, non-combustible, fire resistant, pest resistant, highly insulating and weather resistant.

22. Fly ash-Stone Powder-Cement Bricks:

Fly ash-Stone Powder-Cement Bricksare manufactured by mixing weighed amount of fly ash, cement and size stone powder in a mixer and moulded in bricks making machine.Fly Ash can be used in the range of 40-70%. The other ingredients are lime, gypsum (/cement), sand, stone dust/chips etc. Minimum compressive strength (28 days) of 70 kg/cm2 can easily be achieved and this can go upto 250 Kg/cm2 (in autoclaved type).

Advantage of these bricks over burnt clay bricks:

  • Lower requirement of mortar in construction
  • Plastering over brick can be avoided
  • Controlled dimensions, edges, smooth and fine finish and can be in different colours using pigments
  • Cost effective, energy-efficient and environment friendly (as avoids the use of fertile clay)

23. Cast-in-situ fly ash walls:

  • Using high fly ash cast-in-situ walls can be built.
  • By using this system we can achieve
  • 20 pre cent economy,
  • Quicker construction,
  • Good finish on both the sides of the wall(which eliminates plastering),
  • More carpet area.
  • Similar walls can be cast using Fal-G cement.

24. Land Fill and Landscape:

Fly ash can be used as land fill by city authorities. It can also be used for crating mounts topped with soil growing grass in landscaping.

25. Calcium Silicate Bricks:

  • This is variety of the commonly sand-lime bricks using fly ash in place of quartz sand.
  • The process involves low or high pressure compaction followed by:

(a) Low pressure steam curing; or

(b) Autoclaving under elevated hydrothermal conditions.

  • The bricks produced with high pressure technology are much superior

26. Fly ash-Lime-Gypsum Product named ’Fal-G’:

A process of blending fly ash, lime and calcined gypsum for making a useful product, named Fal-G has been developed. Fly ash lime mix is mixed in predetermined properties with calcined gypsum which produces Fal-G having strong binding proportions and can be used as cement. It can be mixed with sand and/or aggregate to produce building blocks of any desired strength.

27. Sintered Light Weight Aggregate:

Sintered Light Weight Aggregate substitutes stone chips in concrete reducing dead weight. It can also be used for various purposes such as structural light weight concrete building units for use as load and non load bearing elements. It has got good potential in where fly ash is locally available and stone aggregates are costly.

28. Cellular Light Weight Concrete:

Cellular light Weight concrete (CLC) can be manufactured by a process involving the mixing of fly ash, cement. These blocks are especially useful in high rise construction reducing the dead weight of the structure blocks. M/s. DLF universal ltd., N.

Delhi are using these blocks in their construction projects since two years. Cellular Light Weight Concrete (CLC) blocks are substitute to bricks and conventional concrete blocks in building with density varying from 800 kg/m3 to 1800 kg/m3.Using CLC walling and roofing panels can also be produced.

Foaming agent and the foam generator, if used for production of CLC with over 25% fly ash content invites concession on import duty by Govt. of India.

29. Autoclaved Aerated Concrete:

Autoclaved aerated concrete can be manufactured by a process involving mixing of fly ash, quick lime or cement and gypsum in a high speed mixer to form thin slurry. These are considered excellent products for walling blocks and prefab floor slabs.

30. Stabilized Mud Fly Ash Bricks:

Compacted mud fly ash blocks stabilized with lime, cement or other chemicals can be easily made. The problem of getting dry fly ash at the site makes adoption of this technology some what difficult.

31. Clay Fly Ash Bricks:

Twenty to fifty per cent fly ash depending upon the quality of the soil can be mixed with it to produce burnt clay fly ash bricks by conventional or mechanized processes.

Advantages of clay fly ash bricks:

  • Fuel requirement is considerably reduced as fly ash contains some percentage of unburnt carbon.
  • Better thermal insulation.
  • Cost effective and environment friendly.

32. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs):

Fast becoming staples of the green building industry are pre-assembled structural insulated panels, or SIPs, which replace conventional framing and offer greater energy efficiency, reduced lumber usage, and quicker construction. SIPs are polystyrene foam sandwiched between oriented strands boards that provide structural framing, insulation, and exterior sheathing in one piece.

They can be used as floors, walls, and roofs and provide much greater energy efficiency than insulation in stud walls with an R-value improvement of 15%-40%.

33. Cork:

Cork is a great insulating material. It keeps warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The energy efficiency aids in cutting energy bills in the winter. It is much more energy efficient than either Armstrong laminate flooring or discount wood flooring. Cork is also good for sound insulation.

34. Cellulose Insulation:

Cellulose insulation is natural insulation material. It is made from recycled newspaper and other recycled paper products. The recycled content is at least 75% or more. This material is better as a sound insulation for reducing the noise in home. The coverage is more uniform and better at muffling sounds from outside the home or the next room. e.g. Kitchen noises being heard in the bed room.

35. Terrazzo:

One of the most popular terrazzo surfaces is made from recycled glass and cast concrete. The glass use is both post consumer as well as post industrial. The final product contains 80% -95% post consumer recycled content and at such relies on the material being produced and consumed in the first place. Terrazzo is as durable as granite and less porous than marble which makes for long lasting and beautiful green.

36. Green paint:

Paints may have a negative impact on the indoor air quality of a building because they may contain chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC) other toxic components that evaporate into the air and are harmful to the health of occupants.

VOC react with sunlight and nitrogen oxide to form ground level ozone, a chemical that has detrimental effects on human health. These problems can be eliminated by using low VOC paints healthy occupants are more productive and have few illness related absenteeism.

37. Bamboo:

Bamboo is one of the most amazingly versatile and sustainable building materials available. It grows remarkably fast and in a wide range of climates. It is exceedingly strong for its weight and can be used both structurally and as a finish material.

There is a long vernacular tradition to the use of bamboo in structures in many parts of the world, especially in more tropical climates, where it grows into larger diameter canes One tricky aspect to the use of bamboo is in the joinery; since its strength comes from its integral structure, it cannot be joined with many of the traditional techniques used with wood.

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38. Adobe:

Adobe is one of the oldest building materials in use. It is basically just dirt that has been moistened with water, sometimes with chopped straw or other fibers added for strength, and then allowed to dry in the desired shape. Commonly adobe is shaped into uniform blocks that can be stacked like bricks to form walls, but it can also be simply piled up over time to create a structure.

The best adobe soil will have between 15% and 30% clay in it to bind the material together, with the rest being mostly sand or larger aggregate. Too much clay will shrink and crack excessively; too little will allow fragmentation.

Sometimes adobe is stabilized with a small amount of cement or asphalt emulsion added to keep it intact where it will be subject to excessive weather. Adobe blocks can be formed either by pouring it into molds and allowing it to dry or it can pressed into blocks with a hydraulic or leverage press.

Adobe can also be used for floors that have resilience and beauty, colored with a thin slip of clay and polished with natural oil. Adobe is a good thermal mass material, holding heat and cool well. It does not insulate very well, so walls made of adobe need some means of providing insulation to maintain comfort in the building.


39. Cob:

Cob is a very old method of building with earth and straw or other fibers. It is quite similar to adobe in that the basic mix of clay and sand is the same, but it usually has a higher percentage of long straw fibers mixed in. Instead of creating uniform blocks to build with, cob is normally applied by hand in large gobs (or cobs) which can be tossed from one person to another during the building process.

The traditional way of mixing the clay/sand/straw is with the bare feet; for this reason, it is fairly labor intensive. Because of all the straw, cob can be slightly more insulating than adobe, but it still would not make a very comfortable house in a climate of extreme temperatures.

The wonderful thing about cob construction is that it can be a wildly freeform, sculptural affair. Cob was a common building material in England in the nineteenth century, and many of those buildings are still standing.

Cob walls are externally durable, lasting for centuries and create no pollution or disposal problems. Clay, sand and straw is mixed by foot on a trap or with a cement mixer for faster results. Clay acts as the glue, sand hardens the structure and the straw works like rebar to give the walls strength.

40. Cordwood:

Cordwood construction utilizes short, round pieces of wood, similar to what would normally be considered firewood. For this reason this method of building can be very resource efficient, since it makes use of wood that might not have much other value. Cordwood building can also create a wall that has both properties of insulation and thermal mass.. Like strawbale walls, many building authorities require a post and beam or similar supporting structure and then using cordwood as an infill, even though the cordwood method creates a very strong wall that could support a considerable load. This method produces a look that is both rustic and beautiful.

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41. Earthbag:

Building with earthbags (sometimes called sandbags) is both old and new. Sandbags have long been used, particularly by the military for creating strong, protective barriers, or for flood control. The same reasons that make them useful for these applications carry over to creating housing: the walls are massive and substantial, they resist all kinds of severe weather (or even bullets and bombs), and they can be erected simply and quickly with readily available components.

Burlap bags were traditionally used for this purpose, and they work fine until they eventually rot. Newer polypropylene bags have superior strength and durability, as long as they are kept away from too much sunlight. For permanent housing the bags should be covered with some kind of plaster for protection.

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42. Lightweight Concrete:

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43. PaperCrete:

44. Poured earth:

Poured earth is similar to ordinary concrete, in that it is mixed and formed like concrete and uses portland cement as a binder. The main difference is that instead of the sand/gravel used as an aggregate in concrete, poured earth uses ordinary soil (although this soil needs to meet certain specifications) and generally uses less portland cement.

Poured earth could be considered a “moderate strength concrete.” Little to no maintenance is required of poured earth walls, since they have a high resistance to the deteriorating effects of water and sun. When natural or synthetic fly ash and lime is added to the poured earth mixture, the amount of Portland cement required can be reduced by up to 50%.

Magnesium oxide can also be used to help further reduce the use of Portland cement. Since poured earth is similar to concrete, local suppliers can provide the product which can then be pumped using traditional concrete pump trucks. Standard concrete forms can be used in preparation for the pour.

It is possible to incorporate rigid insulation within a poured earth wall, so that there is a thermal break between the exterior and the interior, thus allowing the interior portion of the wall to serve as appropriate thermal mass for the building. Generally, poured earth walls increase the overall cost of construction by 10% – 20%, mainly because of the custom nature of the process. When more homes are built, then the economy of scale should make this method competitive with traditional building.

45. Straw bale:

Straw is a renewable resource that acts as excellent insulation and is fairly easy to build with. Care must be taken to assure that the straw is kept dry, or it will eventually rot. For this reason it is generally best to allow a straw bale wall to remain breathable; any moisture barrier will invite condensation to collect and undermine the structure.

Other possible concerns with straw bale walls are infestation of rodents or insects, so the skin on the straw should resist these critters. There are two major categories of building with straw bales: load-bearing and non-load bearing. A post and beam framework that supports the basic structure of the building, with the bales of straw used as infill, is the most common non-load bearing approach.

This is also the only way that many building authorities will allow. While there are many load- bearing straw bale buildings that are standing just fine, care must be taken to consider the possible settling of the straw bales as the weight of the roof, etc. compresses them. Erecting bale walls can go amazingly quickly, and does not take a lot of skill, but then the rest of the creation of the building is similar to any other wood framed house.

In fact straw bale houses typically only save about 15% of the wood used in a conventionally framed house. The cost of finishing a straw bale house can often exceed that of standard construction, because of the specialized work that goes into plastering both sides of the walls. The result is often worth it though, because of the superior insulation and wall depth that is achieved.

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Gopal Mishra

Gopal Mishra

Gopal Mishra is a Civil Engineer from NIT Calicut and has more than 9 years of experience in Civil Engineering and Construction. He is the founder of The Constructor.