Design + Decor

Twist on Traditional: New Materials Are Changing the Way We Build A Home

Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


“Come gather ’round people; wherever you roam; and admit that the waters around you have grown; and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone; if your time to you is worth savin’; and you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone; for the times they are a-changin.'”  ~ Bob Dylan


The times they are definitely “a-changin,” as Bob Dylan so aptly described them; perhaps at this time in our lives more than ever. And times are changing in the home building, architecture and interior design industries, too.

Since we all just celebrated Earth Day last Thursday (you celebrated, right? 😉 ), I thought today’s blog should explore the building materials that are shaping our homes today. They might not be mainstream, yet, but they certainly are on the cusp and are turning tradition on its head.

Each of these materials is environmentally friendly, offering a positive nod in Mother Nature’s direction and as an added plus are often easier on the wallet.  As written in a recent article in Dwell magazine, “Maybe framing lumber won’t ever face obsoletion–perhaps demand for vinyl windows is everlasting. But new materials will come into the home and stay.”

Here are a few that just might. I have to say, all of these innovations just fascinate me. I’m so excited when new advances take place in the interior design, architecture and building industries. Nothing made me happier than paint that didn’t smell anymore, thanks to those awful VOCs being removed, and performance fabrics that finally became as beautiful as they were functional certainly put a smile on my face.

I’m equally as excited about all of these new building materials. Onward and upward!



Near Bologna, Italy, Mario Cucinella Architects and 3D-printing company WASP are building a new kind of home. It’s called TECLA, and it’s a 100% 3D-printed house made of clay harvested at the build site. The zero-waste process utilizes reusable and recyclable materials to produce affordable dwellings—and Cucinella believes that it’s the future of housing. (Dwell)

Don’t these houses look like wasp nests??

Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


The siding of the dome shows multiple layers of clay stacked one on top of the other. The slow, systematic process guarantees resiliency in multiple climates and varying weather conditions. (Dwell)

Photo: Wasp


Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


The design allows natural light to pour in during the day, reducing reliance on grid and solar power. (Dwell)

Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects



Talk about a Zen-like experience! So very peaceful. This “contemporary cave” checks all the calming boxes for me. And no need to worry about art for the walls, which are definitely works of art themselves.

Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


The nearly 650-square-foot residence can be printed in 200 hours. (Dwell)

Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects


Via Dwell | Photo by Iago Corazzo | Mario Cucinella Architects



This is the first 3D printed home to be listed for sale in the United States and it comes in at a reasonable $300,000, half the price of other homes in its area. Printed using the companies patent-pending ‘Autonomous Robotic Construction System’, the home lacks compromise and is fully certified for occupancy.

More than just a shell, everything is either printed or concrete filled. From footings to foundations, interior and exterior walls. The 3D printed home features approx. 1,500 square feet of living space, including a 2 ½ car garage, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and an elegant yet conservative open floor plan.

Not only is this house stronger than a conventional wooden-frame home, but it’s eco-friendly, and built at a fraction of the cost. SQ4D believes in their construction method so much, it includes a 50-year limited warranty on their 3D printed structures. (Man of Many)

SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


SQ4D | Man of Many


3D PRINTED HOMES: Bioplastics

Environmentally friendly bioplastic is a third alternative that is being used for 3D printed homes. Bioplastics (or bio-based polymers) are plastics made from renewable biomass sources.

One of the major advantages of this type of construction is that it produces very little waste because with printing you only use the material you actually need. The leftover bioplastic can be shredded and reused to make new designs.

Examples of 3D printed construction using bioplastics can be seen on the canal-side site of Dus Architecture in Amsterdam. “We have entire 3D printed tiny houses, all kinds of staircases and walls standing here,” says Hedwig Heinsman, DUS Architecture’s co-founder. “It looks like a modern-day ruin.”

The “Urban Cabin,” made from a linseed-oil based bioplastic with a 3D printer is super tiny, measuring only 86 square feet, barely big enough for a sofa. (Green Building Advisor)

DUS Architects | Photo by Sophia van den Heck | Dezeen

Not sure about the outdoor bathtub!



Hemp wood is becoming an enticing alternative to oak and bamboo when it comes to choosing a building material. The “hardwood” is made out of compressed hemp pulp fibers, held together with a soy-based glue. It looks and feels like oak but is actually 20 percent harder. It’s also faster to grow–100 times faster! While it takes an oak tree (one of the most endangered trees on the planet because of the high demand for oak furniture) at least 6 decades to mature, it takes hemp only 6 months.

Greg Wilson, the founder and owner of the new hemp wood producing company, Fibonacci, was a pioneer in the bamboo flooring industry before hemp became legal. (Return to Now)




Return to Now

Hemp fields


I love this view of HempWood which shows its many beautiful layers. It has such an interesting grain. I could see this as a stunning floor or even an extremely lovely tabletop.




What if a contractor could promise a repair-free patio, driveway, walkway and foundation? Now they can! With self-healing concrete.

Self healing concrete is a bio-concrete, created just like regular concrete, but with an extra ‘healing agent’ mixed in. This healing bacteria remains intact throughout the mixing process, but if the concrete cracks and water seeps in, it dissolves and becomes active. The bacteria used is self healing concrete is found naturally in high alkaline volcanic lakes and can survive up to 200 years without any food or oxygen. These bacteria are activated when they come into contact with water, making them an ideal ingredient in self healing concrete to effectively repair any cracks which may naturally occur. (Build Abroad)

Self healing concrete was developed by microbiologist Henrik Jonkers of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. It was largely inspired by natural body processes in which bones heal through mineralization, and Jonkers explored the idea of whether this could be replicated in concrete. (Build Abroad)




North Carolina startup bioMASON uses a bacterium to grow masonry products. While traditional cement releases carbon to make it, BioMASON’s process captures carbon instead and uses it the same way nature does by combining carbon and calcium to produce biologically formed limestone materials. The biocement materials consist of approximately 85 percent granite from recycled sources, and 15 percent biologically grown limestone. (BioMASON)

BioMASON’s bioLITH product includes four tile sizes in two colors. The material is created by combining microorganisms with waste aggregate, which is pressed and cured into tiles.


Mycelium is expansive and efficient; it can be easily, quickly, and cheaply grown in ample supply anywhere in the world; and as it happens, it’s a potential analog, and perhaps improvement, on a number of foam, timber, and plastic building products such as insulation, door cores, paneling, flooring, and cabinetry, according to a recent joint report on engineering mycelium composite construction materials from Australia’s RMIT University and the University of Vienna in Austria. (Pro Remodeler)

These fine white filaments are mycelium, basically mushroom roots.

There is a stretch of fungus in Oregon’s Blue Mountains that, even though you can only see it above ground in clusters of honey mushrooms, extends over nearly four square miles. It is the largest organism on earth and may be 8,000 years old. (Pro Remodeler)

This just blows me away! Tiny little mushrooms, and they’re the largest organism on earth. Who would have thought?!


The whitest ever paint produced by academic researchers is said to aid in the cooling of buildings and tackling the climate crisis. It could be on the market in one to two years.

The new paint reflects 98 percent of sunlight and radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere and back into space.

White painted roofs have been used to cool buildings for centuries. This paint just takes the idea to a whole new “cool” level.

Photo by Jared Pike/Purdue University


An infrared image shows how a sample of the “whitest paint” (the dark purple square in the middle) cools the board below ambient temperature.

Photo by Joseph Peoples/Purdue University


Did you know that before 1950, there was no PVC or vinyl? Now you can hardly find a home without one of these materials. Before 1940, there was no aluminum siding. And before the 80s, there was no fibre cement (without asbestos). Today, asbestos, lead, cadmium, PCBs and many other materials that were commonly used in the building industry years ago are no longer anywhere to be found in new home construction.

Times they are a changin’, just like they always have. And the changes are making Mother Earth (and me) pretty happy. What about you?

If you’d like to learn more about new building materials or how we could incorporate one or more of them into your home, give us a call at 314.395.1114 or CLICK HERE to send us an email.

Stay safe and healthy,

P.S. Want to learn about more cool ideas in design? Check out our posts on Biophilic Design and Living Walls/Roofs.


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