Conventional vs Alternative Building Materials: Difference and Comparison

Construction is one of the fundamental processes of industrialization. We know that industrialization is important in terms of development for a city, a country, and its economy.

Also, construction is the process used to build houses; hence, it is important to the man personally and professionally. 

Man has searched for time immemorial for different materials and methods to build strong and sustainable shelters and buildings that could house their livelihood processes.

This has led to the discovery of various materials that could be used for this purpose. A broad classification of them in the current world is Conventional and Alternative building materials.

Key Takeaways

  1. Conventional building materials include brick, concrete, and steel, while alternative building materials include bamboo, straw bales, and adobe.
  2. Conventional building materials have a longer lifespan and are more durable, while alternative building materials are cheaper and more sustainable.
  3. Conventional building materials require more energy and resources, while alternative building materials are locally sourced and require less energy.

Conventional vs Alternative Building Materials

Conventional building materials have been widely used for centuries in construction. They include concrete, stone, wood, etc. Alternative building materials are materials that are less commonly used in construction. They include bamboo, straw bale, hempcrete, and rammed earth.

Conventional vs Alternative Building Materials

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonConventional Building MaterialsAlternative Building Materials
FlooringUses concrete flooring.Uses wood flooring.
ConcreteUses cement and other substances harmful to the environment.Uses ‘green concrete’, which contains recycled items.
AimDoes not have any environmental goals.Aims to reduce environmental pollution.
ReinforcementSteel reinforcement.Bamboo reinforcement.
Wall SystemBrick walls.Walls are made of straw or bale.

What are Conventional Building Materials?

Conventional building materials are those materials that have been traditionally used to make buildings, monuments, structures, etc.

They are defined by the term conventional because these materials are what people tend to use the most, which has been that way for many years.

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However, one of the biggest concerns these conventional building materials have brought forth is that they are not environmentally viable options.

This is because the chemicals used in creating these substances are elements of waste and pollution.

Also, making these building substances leads to a lot of chemical wastage, again bringing forth environmental issues.

These issues were not noticed much before, as the environment was still in a better condition, and effects like Global Warming, Melting of ice caps, etc., were not yet perceived as a big threat.

However, times have changed, environmental protection issues have risen a lot, and more and more people are getting environmentally concerned daily. Hence there have been several questions on the usage of these conventional materials.

Not all conventional materials are environmental hazards, though, because conventional materials also refer to traditional building materials, which involve mud and clay.

But these materials have long been obsolete and not in use anymore; hence when we refer to conventional building materials, we refer to the environmentally threatening materials used in everyday construction.

The major components of conventional building materials are cement, a building material known since the Romans; however, the mainstream use of Cement only came about 200 years ago.

Glass is also a conventional building material used since early times. Some other conventional building materials are plaster and steel.

conventional building materials

What are Alternative Building Materials?

Alternative building materials are environmentally friendly building materials that have risen to recent popularity due to the rising environmental sustainability issues.

Alternative building materials have been named because they have become an alternative solution to conventional building materials used for centuries.

Alternative materials consist of environmental alternatives to the usual building stuff, like using wood as a flooring material instead of concrete or walls made of straw instead of regular brick walls. 

Alternative building materials also serve as an answer to the rising demand for construction materials.

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As the population increases, more and more jobs are created, and more people are searching for accommodation.

This leads to more production of construction materials, and if more conventional materials are used, which results in environmental wastage.

Hence, alternative materials are a better choice in such scenarios. They lead to better environmental impact.

Another advantage of alternative materials is that they are a very economical solution, thus, are a very cheap yet efficient option to the usual conventional materials.

They are also low maintenance and thus save a lot of money in the long run.

alternative building materials

Main Differences Between Conventional and Alternative Building Materials

  1. The main difference between conventional and alternative building materials is that they use non-recycled products that cause harm to the environment, while alternative building materials use recycled products; hence they are environmentally preferable.
  2. The conventional building material for flooring is cement, while alternative building materials are wood.
  3. Alternative building materials aim to reduce environmental pollution, while conventional building materials have no such aim.
  4. Conventional building materials use steel reinforcements, while alternative uses bamboo.
  5. Conventional building materials have brick walls, while alternative building materials have walls made of straw.
Difference Between Conventional and Alternative Building Materials

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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25 thoughts on “Conventional vs Alternative Building Materials: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The impact on the environment should be a significant consideration in the choice between conventional and alternative materials.

  2. The economic benefits of alternative materials are compelling. They offer a promising solution for sustainable construction.

  3. It’s interesting to learn about the historical perspective of conventional building materials and their environmental implications.


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