Durable building materials?


What’s the most durable building material? In my opinion, most “durable” building materials don’t last long enough.

For example:

Has low tensile strength. I’ve seen a concrete cylinder break with a mere 80 pound weight attached to the bottom. Sidewalks crack easily from plant roots, expansive soils, and stuff.

Rusts over time. Even galvanized metal rusts eventually. Getting accidentally cut by rust can be fatal, so it’d be ideal to replace metal whenever it rusts.

Can get water damage, feed pests, and can crack. Damaged lumber poses a structural stability risk.

Chips easily which ruins the aesthetic appeal and exposes the base material to damage from the elements.

Is there a material out there that is way more durable than common building materials? For brainstorming purposes, feel free to disregard the cost of the material. All that matters to me is it’s durability.


Let’s face facts here…there exists no material known to man that is 100% impervious to damage. There are, however, some relatively recent scientific discoveries that may prove to be more durable than most materials commonly available for construction related purposes. I remember coming across several articles referencing materials created through nanotechnology and others where an almost indestructible material is being developed as some sort of hybrid between silicon and carbon fiber. I do not remember the source of this information but if I can find the source(s), I will edit this post to include that information.

Traditionally a building material is selected largely for its ability to withstand debilitating climate conditions in a specific region. This is the reason why blocks of ice may function admirably in the arctic while being of no practical use in the tropics, thus it stands to reason that no single material will satisfy every environmental requirement to which it may become exposed.


Most durable? Granite, probably. Lead is not bad.

I’ve not yet seen a building built out of pure Kryptonite, but my guess is that it would be everlasting.


Concrete in a compressive dome structures. Just look an Pantheon, Rome.


If built “cold” like the Egyptian pyramids. Seams require maintenance. Many of our beautiful “Jugendstil” buildings with a thick eternal-looking granite cladding have required the facing to be painstakingly dismounted and reassembled as the metal clamps holding the stones have rusted and the seams have eroded by moisture and frost. Quite a task, for instance in the Helsinki Railway Station and its tower:


Well, there is perhaps some principle to the fact that if you did have something indestructible, then you couldn’t build with it as you couldn’t cut it, form it, or whatever as you need.




Thieves… :stuck_out_tongue:


They’ll steal copper, bronze and even steel if it’s massive enough these days.


I’ve been working for a while now on a large scale project which has a stated service life of 10,000 years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_of_the_Long_Now). Engineering for this unprecedented length of time (Giza pyramids are about 5k) has led to a lot of extensive research on this very subject, some complex material testing, as well as a lot of discussion on potential future scenarios. Material mechanical properties (gold is like soft butter), methods of forming available (casting, machining, welding, printing, growing) oxidation, mode of failure, scarcity/value (to avoid potential looting), reaction to potential future planetary changes (acidification, nuclear winter, climate change), probable availably in a wide variety of futures (reparability) and lots of other factors have been extensively considered. In the end the go-to material is 316 stainless steel. Along with bronze, zirconium, sapphire, stone, some specific concretes, and some small amount of exotic metals. In this case the whole construction is incased in a cavity that’s cut out of monolithic stone which avoids problems with seams and sealing in stacked stone.


The oldest buildings and other structures extant in the world are stone stacked on stone, so the answer to me seems to be somewhat self-evident.


Concrete, hands down. Stone is not really a viable building material for an entire building, but concrete certainly is. The Colosseum in Rome is built of concrete as are many other ancient buildings. As long as the proper materials are used, including fly ash as the Romans did, concrete will last hundreds, if not thousands of years. For a home, nothing beats one of the ICF methods of construction. Bulletproof, energy efficient, dead quiet, tornado proof (if one of the concrete roof methods is used).


But only if lacking steel reinforcement. The steel expands when it rusts and cracks the concrete from within.


Absolutely. There are other materials that can be used including fiberglass or basalt rebar, fiberglass additive, etc… The Romans just relied on volcanic ash formulations, of course.


I didn’t know there were stone materials that could handle the tensile stress required for reinforcement :open_mouth: .


Most materials are ‘durable’ when used appropriately and detailed sensibly.
Everything needs maintaining - some more than others !
Nothing lasts forever.
Although the Egyptians’ Pyramids were as ancient to the Romans as the Romans are as ancient to us !
So the Egyptians had a pretty could try at making things last !

Also it depends on whether you meant ‘structure’ or ‘components’…

Concrete - mass or reinforced - e.g. modern dams, Roman buildings, bridges, harbours etc
Stone - e.g. European cathedrals, the Pyramids, classical temples. old bridges etc
Brick - many examples of old brick buildings from Adobe to the Yemen…
Timber - e.g. Scandinavian stave-churches, medieval timber-framed houses, Japanese buildings, USA railway bridges, many complex roofs etc
Metals forming the main structural elements is relatively new, but many structures using it have been around for over a hundred years !

For the ‘components’…
The ‘skin’ of the building can be made from the main supporting material - e.g. the curtain-walls in gothic cathedrals - and although these did include large areas of glass, the cheapest material for the ‘infills’ was still stone.
In Islamic buildings ceramic wall-tiling as an external finish has proved to be very enduring…
In larger modern buildings the structure is either concrete or steel and the ‘skin’ a composite of aluminium, glass, plastic etc…

The question really needs refining.
Are we talking about structure like floors, roofs, walls, columns and beams ?
Are we talking about the material finishing off external elements, like roofs, walls, windows ?
Are we talking about the internal materials - like floors, walls, ceilings finishes ?


Google basalt rebar. I don’t know offhand how it compares to steel for use in, for instance, long spans. I’ve studied ICF construction for twenty years or more, but I’m not an engineer or an architect. I met a contractor ten years or so ago building a three story ICF home on the water in Matlacha, Fl in which he specd some sort of epoxy coated rebar. Very expensive, but will probably never rust.


@TIG Good point. Nothing lasts forever, but modern structures can survive for centuries. My question was asking what the most durable raw building materials (or composite building materials) are (like concrete, lumber, metal, glass, carbon fiber, gold, etc.).


As monolithic materials go, I would probably guess granite.


Since ‘rock’ was there before we arrived, and it will be there long afterward we have gone, it’s the obvious choice - time-wise.
Igneous rocks like granite - forged within volcanoes - are the most durable, but even they will vanish given enough years,

Unfortunately your premise has insufficient bases.

From the biblical [building on sand…], to the three-piggies houses…

It depends on so many variables…

A granite pyramid built on a stable granite substrate will last a long time [unless it’s in an earthquake-zone].
But the same building founded on sand might be far less enduring…

A stave-church in Norway might last for more than a thousand years, but in a warmer area, with hungry termites etc it will vanish surprisingly quickly !