Sustainable structure and materials

In South Wales, like all parts of the world, buildings have historically been made out of local materials. Therefore there are a large number of stone, wood and locally produced brick buildings in Cardiff and most would have had slate roofs quarried in North Wales. However, with Cardiff being an important port and industrial centre other materials were used. Stone from places like Ireland was brought back as ballast by the many ships. Ash from the mines and factories was combined with lime to produce mortar. Many of the houses built here during the nineteenth and early twentieth century contain these building materials. Modern materials often do not work well with these building materials. For example standard modern paint stops lime and bathstone from breathing and this in turn can lead to the paint peeling off. Using cement rather than lime mortar makes recycling stone and brick much more difficult and uneconomic.

With cheap transport and the drive for profit, building materials are now much more homogenous and manufactured in large factories. This means long distances are travelled for both the raw and final materials. Many of these products are heavy, cement based, 'over-engineered' and reliant on massive amounts of energy for their production. If we look at each of the main structural components of buildings in turn we can see where some choices lie. Click on the menu on the left of this page to explore these in more detail.

For more information on breathability of structures and materials click here for a very interesting paper on the subject

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