Building material can be developed from many different substances. Historically, most buildings were constructed of wood, steel, stone or concrete. Modern times have brought many new building materials to the forefront. Many of these popular materials fall into the category of ‘Lightweight Construction Materials’.
Lightweight trusses are made from two parallel lengths of wood, usually 2”x3” or 2”x4”s. These pieces are connected with web like supports and joined with metal fasteners called gusset plates. The compression and tension provided by the design gives it its strength. For the most part, they are an excellent choice as a building material. The issue with them is that if the building were to ever catch fire, they can fail unexpectedly and put building occupants, especially firefighters at extreme risk. If lightweight trusses are used, fire safety measures should be carefully planned and followed to prevent fires.
Lightweight concrete is made in a variety of ways, with a variety of materials. One type of lightweight concrete is made by mixing water, cement and a special foam. This concrete is very easy to install, because it is self-levelling and resistant to cracking or shrinking once it if fully hardened. Foam concrete’s actual strength can adjusted by adding other materials such as sand or fly ash. In the case of portable buildings, foam concrete is light enough that it can sometimes be moved with the building. It is also free from any toxic chemicals so it’s eco friendly. Since it contains up to 80% air because of the air pockets in the foam, foam concrete is insulating, sound absorbing and reasonably fire resistant. If it is just made from cement and foam, it should not be used for structural applications. To be sound as a foundation material, it needs additional aggregates added.
Structural Insulated Panels are another popular type of lightweight construction. Also known as SIPs, they are a great option for indoor and outdoor walls. Traditionally constructed walls are made from 2”x6” studs that are spaced 12” to 24” apart. While stick built homes are still strong, homes built from SIPs are even stronger because the weight of the upper level is evenly distributed over the entire panel, instead of over the individual studs. Buildings built with SIPs are extremely strong and able to withstand many environmental events. Properly constructed buildings can even withstand hurricanes.
Another bonus to lightweight construction is that it is generally quieter. With lighter materials, less loud heavy equipment is needed so a home can go up in the neighbourhood without disturbing everyone else. Labour hours are reduced when lightweight construction is used.
Modern lightweight construction can offer builders a cheaper alternative to traditional materials, without sacrificing any building quality.