Material Selection in Architectural Design

Jan 30, 2021

Architecture is about space and experience crafted on a page, built to physical reality by a thoughtful selection of materials. The architectural material palette is a medium to tell a story that arises from the concept stage shaping the abstract ideas to reality.

What aspects influence the Architect’s material selection process?
How do we know what material is right?  How can materials shape how we feel in a space?

Through a precise material selection process designer must understand the realm of physical, structural, aesthetical, and contextual property that drives the emotional experience of spaces, instead of an abstract exercise. However, the designer needs to decide how to prioritize the criteria that matter most to the design. Using the following selection criteria designer can make a thoughtful, informed decision.

Structural Importance

The material selected for structural stability should demonstrate their ability to support external loads and the loads imposed by the building. Material Selection must focus on the construction techniques, identifying the structural properties of materials determined by its weight, strength, and durability. These factors account for the maintenance and lifecycle of the building. A suitable structural system and appropriate selection of structural materials can increase the performance of the building. Building design and material selection can aim to reduce excess material use and waste.

3--Material-Matters-1

The performance expectation of the material is estimated from the physical and structural properties of the material. Resistance to weather conditions and fire resiliency of the materials will extend the knowledge on how the building is being constructed and supported. These factors determine the lifecycle and adaptability of the building.

Physical Behavior

Physical and thermal properties of the materials add character to the building. Thus, material selection must ensure adequate thermal protection contributing to a comfortable living environment. It is necessary designers address the overall well-being of its occupants. Physical context and location of the site establish the preconditions for making material choices.

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Occasionally, a few physical properties concerning porosity, density, moisture resistance, the acoustic property of the material, become secondary or maybe even tertiary considerations in the selection process.

Aesthetic goals

Architectural style and visual impact influence the material selection for the project. Aesthetical property defined by color, texture, shape, and finish of the material narrate and reveal the experience intended to create by the design concept. Form, scale, size and proportion of the space support material consideration and selection.

5--Material-Matters-2

The architectural framework can be divided into different planes to create an intangible sensory experience. Elements of design combined and featured on walls, floors, ceiling, and the structural plane can conceive the design artfully by creating a contrasting or harmonious design experience. Design theory and pragmatic vision for architectural style define the material selection process.

6--Material-Matters-1

Environmental Impact

The decision about choosing a material for any project must go beyond the aesthetic and physical performance.  Considerations must include its environmental impact. Knowledge on the production process and volatile emissions during installation are additional factors influencing the selection process. Further, identify locally available materials for greater contextual significance and lesser cost implication.

Maintenance & Cost

Cost factor stays as an underlay consideration with all the selection principles. Although materials contribute as major project expense, building expenditure include the cost of construction and the life cycle of the materials as well. Life cycle costs include maintenance and care for the material and replacement. Project budget most often imposes the designer to choose from a selective range of material variants. However, following a detailed material selection process designer can strikingly meet their design intentions.

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