Looking at Buildings

Materials & Construction


Materials & Construction

The history of building construction is intimately related to the availability of suitable building materials and the ability of craftsmen and engineers to exploit their properties of strength and durability. Until the 19th century the abundance of Britain's forests and its geology determined the types of material available for construction , namely earth and clay, stone and timber and helped to promote the use of the two principal building systems, the use of heavy load-bearing walls or a lightGlossary Term framework.

Industrialisation made it possible to both produce materials on a large scale and convey them over greater distance via new means of transport such as the railways and canals. Thus traditional materials such as bricks were manufactured in huge quantities but also new, industrial materials such as cast and wrought iron, and steel. From the late 19th century concrete began to play an increasingly important role in construction and from the mid-20th century even plastics were being employed. Up to the present, architects, engineers and designers continue to use a wide variety of materials in unusual and innovative ways.

With greater understanding of the properties and behaviour of these materials, building technology has developed to achieve buildings of ever greater height and span, suitable for the requirements of modern society. In the pages of this sectionGlossary Term of Looking at Buildings you will find short introductions to the production and use of all the major building materials, alongside pages examining the different methods of construction in buildings ranging from castles to skyscrapers.


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