Alternative natural materials is a general term that describes natural materials like rock or adobe that are not as commonly in use as materials such as wood or iron. Alternative natural materials have many practical uses in areas such as sustainable architecture and engineering. The main purpose of using such materials is to minimize the negative effects that our built environment can have on the planet while increasing the efficiency and adaptability of the structures.
Alternative natural materials have existed for quite some time but often in very basic forms or only as ingredients to a particular material in the past. For example, earth used as a building material for walls of houses has existed for thousands of years. Much more recently, in the 1920’s, the United States government promoted rammed earth as a fireproof construction method for building farmhouses. Another more common example is adobe. Adobe homes are prominent in the southwestern U.S. and several Spanish-speaking countries.
Straw bale construction is a more modern concept, but there even exists evidence that straw was used to make homes in African prairies as far back as the Paleolithic times.Alternative natural materials, specifically their applications, have only recently made their way into more common use. The ideas of being both green and sustainable in response to global warming and climate change shifted more of a focus onto the materials and methods used to build our cityscape and homes. As environmentally conscious decisions became commonplace, the use of alternative natural materials instead of typical natural materials or man-made materials that rely heavily on natural resources became prominent.