Natural materials and sustainable architecture

Natural materials and sustainable architecture

The combination of the term “sustainable” with architecture is becoming an important trend developing very fastly also in our country.

A new way of thinking about the concept of living where, in addition to “ecofriendly” plant and design solutions and the use of green, the materials chosen also play an important role.
An architectural element or an entire building that consumes little energy, but requires a too high quantity to be realized, is a contradiction in terms.

Therefore it is clear how important it is to opt for natural, non-polluting materials whose production has zero impact or close to it.

A sustainable material need to have three main requirements:

  • Its production must take place through processes that do not waste energy and do not emit pollutants
  • After its installation there must be no emissions of harmful or polluting agents
  • It must be durable and have a long life

The choice of a material can not only be aesthetically pleasing. In the design phase we must consider all its life cycle and the possible effects on the environment at every stage, from production to use and disposal.


The word sustainable, applied to architecture and design, makes us think of wood, the natural material par excellence, which has always been identified as the most used natural material to create everyday items.


As often happens, Nordic countries are ahead of these issues.
The tallest wooden building in the world, the Mjösa Tower, will be completed in the next months in the small town of Brumunddal, 140 km north of Oslo in Norway. A building of 18 floors, for a total of 85.4 meters high, entirely made with high quality and light wood, a feature that speeded up the construction process and required a smaller use of forces.

It is a completely safe building: the materials used to build each floor have a fire resistance capacity of 90 minutes.

Natural materials

But it’s not just about wood; also hemp, soil, stone, marble and glass are materials seen in a new sustainable way with innovative production methods and uses, technological and smart.
Marble and natural stone in particular also have great aesthetic efficacy, the result of their simplicity and elegance, which they transfer to the environment.
Earth, glass, wood and its “natural” derivatives, like fibers, fabrics and papers, are associated with this new idea of ​​architecture and sustainable design; they are organic materials and they recall those of natural organisms.

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Bio-composite materials

Bio-composite materials are a natural evolution of composite materials commonly used in construction, such as reinforced concrete or carbon fiber products. The principle is the same: two elements are united with different physical properties to obtain greater performance.
Bio-composite materials join only natural and completely eco-sustainable elements to create, for example, bamboo fiber panels for roofs and floors or biocomposite concrete in lime and hemp.

Recyclable materials

Recyclable materials fully enter this world and the word itself makes us immediately think of glass.
It is an ancient material that comes from sand, discovered by chance by the Phoenicians, very oftenly used in construction because of its incredible transparency properties.
Glass is a solid, but in physics it is considered a very high density liquid, a property that gives it great flexibility.
Environmental sustainability is one of the winning features of glass given the possibility of “virtually” recycling it over and over again.

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Susanna Dei Rossi

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