Difference Between Conventional and Alternative Building Materials (With Table)

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 that is used to build houses, hence it is important to the man at a personal and professional level. 

Needless to say, man has searched for time immemorial for different materials and different methods to build strong and sustainable shelters and buildings which 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 are Conventional and Alternative building materials.

The difference between conventional and alternative building materials is that conventional building materials use non-recycled products that cause harm to the environment, while alternative building materials use recycled products, hence they are environmentally preferable.

Comparison Table Between Conventional and Alternative Building Materials

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, and it has been that way for many years.

However, one of the biggest concerns these conventional building materials has brought forth is that they are not environmentally a very viable option. This is because the chemicals used in the process of creating these substances are elements of waste and pollution.

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Also, the process of making these building substances leads to a lot of chemical wastage, which again brings 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 IceCaps, etc. were not yet perceived as a big threat.

However, times have changed now, and issues of environmental protection have risen a lot, and more and more people are getting environmentally concerned every day, 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 stuff like 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 that has its known use since the Romans, however, the mainstream use of Cement only came about 200 years ago. Glass is also a conventional building material that has been used since the early times. Some other conventional building materials are plaster and steel.

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 so because they have become an alternative solution to the conventional building materials that have been used over centuries.

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

Alternative building materials also serve as an answer to the rising demand for materials for construction. As the population increases, more and more jobs are created, and more and more people are in search of accommodation. This leads to more production of construction material, 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.

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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 too.

Main Differences Between Conventional and Alternative Building Materials

  1. The main difference between conventional and alternative building materials is that conventional building materials 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 that for alternative building materials is 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.


Whatever be the kind of material one decides to choose when building something, they should always keep in mind the economic factors, as well as the environmental factors involved in the process, so that one makes the best decision, both environmentally and economically. Saving the environment has become a great issue in the current world, and every decision made should be made by keeping it in mind.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652614005514
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=hXatSM-_67QC&oi=fnd&pg=PA4&dq=alternative+building+materials&ots=lbgPEnsZr4&sig=TB0CJhLTasZsaqRjLKW4oJ6Mdh8&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=alternative%20building%20materials&f=false