Last edited 28 Jun 2019

Natural materials


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.

Typical materials regarded as ‘natural’ and used in construction include:

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:

The reasons for this may be because these materials are:

  • Inorganic
  • 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.

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