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Building material is any material which is used for construction purposes. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, rocks, sand, and wood, even twigs and leaves, have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more and some less synthetic. The manufacture of building materials is an established industry in many countries and the use of these materials is typically segmented into specific specialty trades, such as carpentry, insulation, plumbing, and roofing work. They provide the make-up of habitats and structures including homes.
In history there are trends in building materials from being: natural to becoming more man-made and composite; biodegradable to imperishable; indigenous (local) to being transported globally; repairable to disposable; and chosen for increased levels of fire-safety. These trends tend to increase the initial and long term economic, ecological, energy, and social costs of building materials.
The initial economic cost of building materials is the purchase price. This is often what governs decision making about what materials to use. Sometimes people take into consideration the energy savings or durability of the materials and see the value of paying a higher initial cost in return for a lower lifetime cost. For example, an asphalt shingle roof costs less than a metal roof to install, but the metal roof will last longer so the lifetime cost is less per year. Some materials may require more care than others, maintaining costs specific to some materials may also influence the final decision. Risks when considering lifetime cost of a material is if the building is damaged such as by fire or wind, or if the material is not as durable as advertised. The cost of materials should be taken into consideration to bear the risk to buy combustive materials to enlarge the lifetime. It is said that, 'if it must be done, it must be done well'.
Pollution costs can be macro and micro. The macro, environmental pollution of extraction industries building materials rely on such as mining, petroleum, and logging produce environmental damage at their source and in transportation of the raw materials, manufacturing, transportation of the products, retailing, and installation. An example of the micro aspect of pollution is the off-gassing of the building materials in the building or indoor air pollution. Red List building materials are materials found to be harmful. Also the carbon footprint, the total set of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the life of the material. A life-cycle analysis also includes the reuse, recycling, or disposal of construction waste. Two concepts in building which account for the ecological economics of building materials are green building and sustainable development.
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