When we speak of building materials, the visuals that come to mind are cement, concrete reinforcement, bricks and mortars, additives, corrosion technology, ceramics, timber, steel, polymers, glass fibres, recycled materials and by-products, sealants, adhesives, to name a few. But a quick look at the architectural horizon reveals engineers and construction experts are no longer operating with just these basics.

Today’s leaders in architecture and design point out that the development of new materials with increased performance and functionality has become a key driver of innovation.

The construction needs of the hour have changed. Experiments are constantly on to include new elements to make the original ones stronger, lighter, greener, more responsive and more cost effective. These experiments are leading to new learnings, new understandings and products for a new age of construction.

These emergent materials and their associated technologies are changing the way that architects and designers work and the way that we as consumers are engaging with the buildings and products that surround us. There is concrete mixed with hemp, to create walls that sequester the carbon within the hemp, bioplastics developed for use in roofing systems, more eco-friendly insulation material than foam…  the list can go on and on.

Of course, these are the tangible results of the research that has been going on for a while now. Along with the innovative building products, it is interesting to note the various movements and concepts that are gaining ground in the architectural circles. Some of these include: Resilient design for buildings that will stand the storms and winds; Subscrapers (reverse of skyscrapers) as structures to be built underground, out of the path of the disasters; versatile raw materials that will let you build lamps, home furniture and even sculptural installations.

As architects and interior designers, there is much for each one of us to discover and explore. Much of the innovation that is being witnessed in the construction spaces today is a result of the team facing a challenge, looking for a better way or a better material to complete the task.

Architecture and building design through the ages has been influenced by philosophies ranging from rationalism, empiricism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and phenomenology. The most recent influence has been the concept of sustainable architecture, that explores the structure’s impact on its natural and built environment.