Building Material Used in Construction

This is provides a comprehensive overview of the essential building materials that are crucial to consider during the design and construction of buildings.

In construction, a wide range of construction materials is utilized, including Concrete, Steel, Wood, and Masonry. Each material possesses unique properties, such as weight, strength, durability, and cost, which render it suitable for specific applications. When selecting materials for construction, considerations such as cost and their ability to withstand loads and stresses acting on the structure are taken into account. As a structural engineer, I collaborate with clients to determine the most appropriate materials for each project, taking into consideration factors such as the size and purpose of the building.

The building materials industry is mature and standardized, ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of high-quality materials for our structures. To maintain the quality of structural-grade building materials, rigorous quality control procedures are implemented, including thorough inspection and testing in accordance with national standards and scientific testing methods.

One of the important responsibilities of a structural engineer is to create project specifications that outline the required building materials and the corresponding standards and provisions for compliance. This step is crucial in ensuring the quality and characteristics of the materials used in the project.

Building materials can be broadly categorized into two types: natural materials, such as stone and wood, and man-made materials, such as concrete and steel. Typically, both categories require specific preparation or treatment before they can be utilized in structural applications. Here is a list of the materials that I frequently utilize in my engineering consulting projects.

Building Material

1: Steel as Building Materials

Like concrete, steel is a commonly used building material in construction. Steel used for construction purposes can be classified according to its intended use.

  • Reinforcements Steel or Rebar
  • Structural Steel

Reinforcement Steel as Building Materials

Except for mass concrete, reinforcement is added to bear the maximum load during the ultimate limit stage and safeguard the structure from serviceability demands.

Reinforcement, also known as rebar, is a crucial construction material used in structures to withstand tensile stress. Concrete, another essential construction material, is weak in tension, with its tensile capacity or allowable tensile stress being approximately 10% of its compressive strength. In areas where tensile stresses occur, reinforcement is employed to bear the load. Additionally, reinforcement is utilized to enhance the structural capacity of the concrete, an important construction material.

Reinforcement can be divided into two primary categories: mild steel and tor steel. Tor steel has evolved into rib steel, also known as TMT (Thermo-Mechanical Treatment) bars, which offer higher tensile strength and yield strength. Currently, there are reinforcements available with a yield strength ranging from 500-650 N/mm2. The TMT steel bars are a modern advancement in reinforcement, achieved through Thermo-Mechanical Treatment. Hence, these bars are commonly referred to as TMT steel bars. As a result of these developments, rebar stands out as a vital building material.

Structural Steel

Structural steels serve a wider purpose beyond being building materials, as they are extensively utilized in the construction of various structures like bridges and towers. They are commonly employed to construct either specific sections or the entire building. For instance, in a reinforced concrete structure, the roof may be constructed using structural steel supports such as trusses. Furthermore, an entire building can be constructed using structural steel.

Different types of structural steel are available, including universal beams (I beams), columns (H columns), Rectangular Hollow Sections (RHS), Circular Hollow Sections (CHS), angle sections, and more. The application of structural steel as building materials depends on the nature and requirements of the structure being constructed.

Building Material

2: Concrete as Building Material

Concrete is an incredibly versatile and widely used construction material that serves as a fundamental building block in the construction industry. It finds extensive applications in various types of structures, ranging from residential buildings to massive infrastructure projects. Whether it is used as a standalone material or in combination with structural steel, concrete plays a vital role in forming the foundation of a building.

The composition of concrete typically consists of cement, aggregate (including fine aggregate like sand and coarse aggregates), and water. To enhance specific properties or address particular construction requirements, various admixtures can be added to the concrete mixture. These admixtures, such as retarders, water reducers, and superplasticizers, help modify the behavior of the concrete, including its setting time and workability.

Selecting the appropriate grade of concrete is crucial in determining its strength and durability, and this depends on the specific requirements of the project. The grade of concrete reflects its characteristic strength, and it is achieved by carefully proportioning the cement, aggregate, and water in the mixture.

Before pouring the fresh concrete, several important steps related to construction material need to be taken. This includes checking the setting out of the structure, preparing the formwork to shape the concrete, ensuring proper reinforcement placement, and ensuring cleanliness of the construction area. These precautions become even more critical when dealing with larger-scale concreting projects.

As the thickness of concrete, a construction material, increases, the heat generated during the hydration process also rises significantly. It is crucial to take appropriate precautions to prevent the occurrence of concrete cracking caused by this heat and its subsequent effects. Additionally, special attention must be given to the formation of delayed ettringite, which can occur due to abnormal temperature rises. Typically, the temperature during the hydration process should be limited to 70°C to ensure optimal concrete performance and avoid potential issues.

To ensure the durability of the construction material, concrete, it is essential to prevent rapid drying of the concrete once it is poured. This is because rapid drying directly impacts the overall strength and longevity of the concrete. Curing of the concrete is carried out to create a robust outer layer and prevent the occurrence of cracks. Concrete testing is conducted both before and after pouring to ensure that the desired workability and strength of the concrete, a crucial construction material, are achieved as expected.

  • The workability of concrete at the site before pouring is assessed through the concrete slump test.
  • The concrete cube or cylinder tests are conducted to verify if the concrete possesses the specified characteristic strength mentioned in the mix design.
Building Material

3: Masonry

Masonry construction involves the assembly of individual units using mortar as a binding agent. Concrete block is the most frequently utilized material in designing masonry structures, often reinforced with vertical steel when necessary. Masonry exhibits excellent strength in resisting compression loads and stresses, making it ideal for constructing load-bearing walls. Additional materials used in masonry construction include brick, stone, and glass block. Masonry is highly durable and provides fire resistance, but it can be sensitive to the quality of mortar and workmanship.

In my office, we have observed a growing trend in utilizing masonry as load-bearing walls for multi-story building designs. The structural system typically involves concrete floors supported by a combination of masonry and reinforced concrete walls, which varies based on the number of floors and the load requirements. Masonry walls with windows or openings require horizontal beams or lintels to distribute the weight of the wall above across the opening. While masonry may not offer the same flexibility for large wall openings as concrete or steel framing does, it can be a cost-effective choice when the framing and opening sizes are reasonable, and the wall segments are of sufficient length.

Multi-story buildings can be constructed by stacking load-bearing masonry walls on top of each other. The load borne by the first-floor wall comprises the combined weight of all the floors above it. Consequently, the bottom wall needs to possess greater strength compared to the upper walls. To achieve this, the voids in the bottom masonry walls can be reinforced with steel bars and filled with concrete grout. Strengthening the masonry walls involves incorporating more steel bars and spacing them closer together in the grouted cores. In situations where a load-bearing masonry wall is interrupted by openings like parkade drive aisles, large transfer beams made of concrete or steel are necessary to support the wall above the opening.

While there is much more to explore regarding construction materials, I hope this overview has provided you with a solid understanding of the major materials and their respective applications. If you have any questions about any of these materials, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Building Material

4: Wood

Wood, with its extensive history as a construction material, has been utilized for thousands of years, and when adequately cared for, it can endure for centuries. It is a readily accessible and economically viable natural resource, possessing lightweight characteristics and excellent machinability. Additionally, wood offers commendable insulation against cold temperatures, rendering it highly suitable for the construction of residential buildings and homes.

Wood used in construction undergoes machine-planing and sawing to meet specific dimensional requirements. Commonly available dimensional lumber includes sections such as 2″x4″ and 2″x6″, which are frequently employed in wall and floor construction. Interestingly, a 2″x4″ board is actually 1 ½” wide and 3 ½” high. For larger dimensions, wood is referred to as timber or beams, and it is often utilized in constructing the frames of substantial structures like bridges and multi-story buildings. Another type of wood used in construction is engineered wood, which involves combining different forms of wood through adhesion to create a composite material suitable for specific construction purposes. Examples of engineered wood include glued laminated wood (glulam), plywood, and fiberboard.

Due to its lightweight nature, wood is not the most suitable material for supporting heavy loads or spanning long distances. It is uncommon to use wood for foundations and basement walls, as it requires pressure treatment due to its exposure to soil and moisture, which can be quite costly. In wood-framed houses, foundations and basement walls are typically constructed using reinforced concrete.

Building Material

5: Aluminum

Due to the growing demand for construction materials and the limited availability of resources like timber, aluminum has become a widely utilized building material in modern construction. It is considered eco-friendly and has minimal impact on the ecosystem compared to the use of timber.

Aluminum itself is not inherently strong, but its strength can be enhanced by incorporating other alloys such as copper, magnesium, zinc, and more. Various grades of aluminum products exist, each with different strengths, and the selection of the material should be based on its intended application. Additionally, the use of different profiles in aluminum construction not only serves their intended purpose but also enhances the overall strength of the material.

Building Material

6: Gass

Glass is a widely used building material, particularly in the construction of facades. While facades in buildings of all scales often combine other materials like brick and block walls, glass dominates the construction of facades in high-rise buildings.

One of the advantages of glass is its lightweight compared to brick and block walls. Additionally, it enhances the visual appeal and aesthetic appearance of the building. Glass is available in various thicknesses, ranging from 6mm to 20mm, allowing for selection based on the structure’s nature and the applied loads to comply with relevant design standards.

Furthermore, glass finds utility beyond facades and can be used for flooring, internal facades, and other internal requirements in construction projects.

7: Paint

Paint serves as the final finish for buildings, covering both external and internal surfaces and contributing to an appealing appearance. There are two types of paints suitable for specific applications: internal paints and external paints.

External paints are typically designed to withstand weather conditions. They should endure heat and maintain their color for an extended period of time. Additionally, they should minimize water penetration into brick walls. The number of paint layers to be applied will be determined based on project specifications, but a minimum of two layers is typically recommended.

For optimal performance, a higher number of paint coatings is desirable, particularly for external surfaces where multiple layers are essential.

Moreover, paint is also applied to protect steel structures. When galvanizing is not used, paints are applied to prevent corrosion of the steel. For more detailed information, one can refer to an article comparing paint and galvanizing methods.

Building Material

8: Tiles

Tiles are a versatile and highly sought-after type of building material that is utilized for a wide range of applications in the construction industry. With their impressive array of sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns, tiles offer unparalleled design flexibility and can be used to create stunning and unique spaces. They are available in various materials, including ceramic, porcelain, glass, natural stone, and even metal, each with its own distinct characteristics and aesthetic appeal.

One of the key advantages of tiles is their durability and resistance to wear, making them ideal for areas that experience heavy foot traffic or are prone to spills and stains. They are commonly used as flooring solutions in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and commercial settings, where their ability to withstand moisture, abrasion, and frequent cleaning is essential.

Tiles also excel as wall cladding materials, providing both functional and decorative benefits. They can be applied in bathrooms and showers to create waterproof surfaces, protecting the underlying structures from water damage. Additionally, tiles are utilized as decorative accents in various spaces, allowing for the integration of eye-catching patterns, intricate mosaics, or vibrant colors that enhance the overall aesthetic appeal.

The versatility of tiles extends to their application in outdoor areas as well. They can be used to create stunning patio or poolside surfaces, adding both beauty and practicality to outdoor living spaces. The availability of slip-resistant tiles ensures safety, even in wet or high-traffic outdoor areas.

Maintenance and upkeep of tiles are relatively easy, making them a practical choice for both residential and commercial environments. Regular cleaning and occasional sealing, depending on the material used, can help preserve the tiles’ appearance and longevity.

Tiles are a timeless and functional building material that offers endless design possibilities. Their durability, resistance to wear and moisture, as well as their ability to enhance the visual appeal of any space, make them a popular choice among architects, designers, and homeowners alike. Whether used for flooring, wall cladding, or outdoor applications, tiles continue to be a staple in the world of construction materials, providing both practicality and aesthetic appeal.

Building Material