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Last edited 06 Feb 2021
The term ‘natural materials’ refers to those substances that are found in nature and which can either be used directly for some particular building function or require human intervention (e.g processing) to make them usable.
How much processing will depend on the material in question; some materials require more processing than others. For example, wood (or ‘timber’) can be used to build with very little human intervention – a tree can be cut relatively easily into smaller components that can be used to construct a building. Conversely, clay is also a natural material but requires more labour to turn it into bricks in a process that typically includes winning, shaping, firing and drying.
- Stone (including marble, slate etc)
- Lime (for mortar)
- Wool (carpets)
- Straw (insulation)
- Coir (for mats)
Some of these materials have good aesthetic qualities (including variability which results in myriad colour and texture variations) and an association with nature that can promote wellbeing - see Biophilia for more information.
It should be noted that ‘natural material’ is a conceit that has resulted from wilful and romanticised interpretations as there are some materials which occur abundantly in nature and are used in construction but are not regarded as ‘natural’. This includes:
- Iron (building structures)
- Diamond (diamond saws and other cutting tools)
- Aluminium (doors, window frames etc).
- Sand (glass, concrete etc.)
The reasons for this may be because these materials are:
- Require so much processing that the finished product does not resemble the natural occurrence.
- Have few, if any aesthetic qualities.
- Often have a machined, industrial appearance.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Birch wood.
- Chip carving.
- Choosing stone.
- Engineered bamboo.
- Kentish ragstone.
- Lime wood.
- Modern Stonemasonry.
- Modified wood.
- Natural stone cladding.
- Natural stone for Interiors.
- Natural stone.
- Physical Properties of Wood.
- Roof slates.
- The differences between hardwood and softwood.
- Timber preservation.
- Timber vs wood.
- Types of timber.
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