Future Systems, Selfridges, Birmingham, UK, 1999

Welsh Assembly

Richard Rogers, Welsh Assembly, Cardiff, UK, 2006

Federation Square

lab architecture studio, Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia, 2002

Imperial War Museum

Daniel Libeskind, Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, UK, 2002



The most common building materials are wood, brick, stone, steel, glass and concrete.

But did you know that buildings can also be made of grass, bottles, beer crates, old jeans, goat’s hair, car tyres and water?

In some countries, buildings are made from raw materials that are easy to get hold of. In Africa buildings are often made of mud – even cow dung! In Arctic countries they are traditionally made of snow and ice. Many houses in Japan have thick rice paper walls.

Each material has its strengths and weaknesses. Imagine that you are an architect starting to design a building. Which materials will you use?

You might think about some of these questions:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How strong is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does is feel like?
  • Is it safe?
  • Is it right for the climate?
  • Will it last well in the weather?
  • Does it need a lot of looking after?
  • Can you buy it easily?
  • How will it affect the environment?
  • Does it come from a sustainable source (something that can be renewed)?
  • Will it help to save energy in the building?
  • How long do you want it to last?