Building Materials Superior to Concrete

Despite its low sustainability ratings, concrete remains the most commonly used material in the construction industry. Made of cement, it is an environmentally hazardous material both during construction and throughout a building’s life. According to data released by the Sustainable Development Commission, building materials based on cement account for as much as 5%-10% of all carbon dioxide emissions. For comparison, CO2 emissions originating from the aviation industry constitute barely 4%. Finding a greener alternative to this useful but harmfully polluting material has been the focus of much industry research in recent years, and the findings offer a bright outlook for the future of sustainable construction. The building materials listed below are just some of the alternatives which can successfully replace concrete.


Obtained through mining, limestone is used for the production of a whole range of building materials. Lime-based cement is the main alternative to traditional cement due to the abundance of this natural resource throughout the world. The material is durable, breathable, and its production process non-intensive.

Wool Bricks

Wool bricks are created by simply adding wool and natural polymers obtained from seaweed to a traditional brick clay. The advantages of this alternative are improved strength, non-toxicity, and higher resistance to cold and water. On top of that, wool bricks do not require firing like traditional bricks.


One of the most sustainable building materials available, bamboo is characterized by remarkable strength for its weight. It can find a variety of applications both in structural construction and as a finishing material. Bamboo grows very fast in certain climates, which adds to its advantages as an alternative to concrete.

Improved wood

Used in construction for centuries, wood as a building material has many advantages – its flexibility under loads and extreme strength when compressed are just two of them. Researchers have now come to a better understanding of the molecular structure of wood. This enables them to improve it as a building material which will find new applications in construction.


This outstandingly light and strong material with high thermal insulation is made by blending various materials such as sand, lime, aluminum powder, fuel ash cement, and water. Aircrete is used to manufacture blocks which can be used to build walls and floors.


Made of sand and urea as basic ingredients, dupe’s structure is practically as strong as that of concrete, and has no greenhouse gas emissions.

Fly Ash

Fly ash is the waste ash from coal combustion used to enrich concrete. It adds to concrete’s durability and balances the CO2 cost of cement production at the same time.

CO2 Structure

Manufactured by injecting CO2 into a mixture of sand and quartz, it makes a remarkably strong, fast-drying, and carbon-negative material. According to CNN reports, the material was first developed by the Japanese as a quick emergency rebuilding alternative to concrete in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.


Combining hemp and clay into hemp bricks decreases CO2 emission as the plant absorbs the gas. Mixed with lime, it is already widely used as a walling material with remarkable thermal isolation.


Successfully used for binding organic materials together, mycelium comes from the roots of a mushroom, and is expected to become a widely used material for building blocks.

Straw Bales

Straw is making a return to construction as both an insulating and structural material. It is highly sustainable and has negative CO2 production.


Cob is a blend of clay, sand, straw, and earth. Combined with mud, it constitutes an attractive, sustainable alternative to concrete for small building construction.

Enviroblocks and Durisol

The use of recycled materials in building blocks is becoming an increasingly popular construction solution. In Enviroblocks, recycled waste materials make 70% of a block, while Durisol is made from 80% recycled wood chips and 20% steel.

Ziegel Blocks

These clay blocks have already been in use for a long time, but they are now becoming increasingly popular due to substantially lower CO2 emissions and good insulation allowing for lowering a building’s energy costs.

As illustrated by the above variety of materials avaialble, some innovative and traditional yet improved building materials that are way better than concrete are available to the construction industry. These materials prove to be not only environmentally friendly but most often also stronger, more flexible, and more durable. As the field constantly rapidly developing, it is only a matter of time before these alternatives are perfected and their use becomes a common practice in the construction industry.