Choice of appropriate building materials
The "appropriateness" of a building material or construction technology can never be generalised. The following questions show some of the main factors which determine appropriateness:
• Is the material produced locally, or is it partially or entirely imported?
• Is it cheap, abundantly available, and/or easily renewable?
• Has it been produced in a factory far away (transportation costs!); does it require special machines and equipment, or can it be produced at lower cost on the building site? (Good quality and durability are often more important than low procurement costs).
• Does its production and use require a high energy input, and cause wastage and pollution? Is there an acceptable alternative material which eliminates these problems?
• Is the material and construction technique climatically acceptable?
• Does the material and construction technique provide sufficient safety against common natural hazards (eg fire, biological agents, heavy rain, hurricanes, earthquakes)?
• Can the material and technology be used and understood by the local workers, or are special skills and experience required?
• Are repairs and replacements possible with local means?
• Is the material socially acceptable? Is it considered low standard, or does it offend religious belief? Does it match with the materials and constructions of nearby buildings?
Readers are requested to keep in mind the following points:
• While it was an important aim to make this sourcebook as comprehensive as possible, it cannot be considered complete and does not represent a scientific analysis of construction technology.
• All technical data in this manual are taken from publications or producers' data sheets. Therefore, neither the authors nor the publishers can be held responsible for any inaccuracies.
• The building materials, elements and general information presented in this manual have principally been dealt with in the context of one- and two-storey low-cost buildings. The construction of multi-storey buildings requires careful consideration of the structural requirements and expert advice should be sought.
• A house cannot be built without fundamental knowledge of building materials and construction. Unfortunately, appropriate building materials and technologies are generally considered to be simple enough to be handled by people without special skills or training. The poor results - and even failures - have led to a great deal of criticism and to the general belief that appropriate technologies are "inferior technologies". It is, therefore, important to stress that a material that has failed or performed poorly, was evidently not appropriate for that particular application, or it had been produced and used incorrectly.
Building materials which are produced with appropriate technologies, therefore, have to be prepared and used with the same skill and care as a high technology product.
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