Overcome lightweight construction challenges

In the quest to try to to more with less, lightweight construction challenges materials could also be the longer term of building livable structures. “Lightweight construction” could also be a touch little bit of a misnomer—some of these materials have enjoyed popular usage for several years while ruggedly standing the test of some time .

That’s not to say working with lightweight materials in building projects isn’t without its challenges. From thin plywood boards and composite lumbers to new-age materials made up of industrial waste, here’s the way to enjoy the advantages of both new and familiar lightweight construction methods while mitigating the challenges.


Just because a building material boasts a low weight or a novel chemical structure construction challenge doesn’t mean it can’t also stand the test of time. As researchers uncover new materials to figure with, a number of the burden rests on contractors and builders when it involves using them safely and effectively.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and elsewhere have identified lightweight materials construction challenge that are stronger than steel but less dense than water. Working with these, as well as more familiar lightweight products like composite lumbers, requires that we take some inspiration from nature.

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The 10-µm-by-50-µm beams designed at Karlsruhe provide optimal strength when fashioned into a honeycomb-style structure. Bones, wood, and actual honeycombs all present a similar structure that’s far stronger than their low weight would suggest.

In trials of “open-pore,” “non-massive” construction, Karlsruhe researchers demonstrated a better stability-density ratio than steel or aluminum. Because of using nature as inspiration to create walls and roofs unlocks the potential of those and other composite materials construction challenge.


New Jersey remains working through the aftermath of a 2015 apartment house fire that destroyed a posh called Avalon Bay Edgewater. After residents reported the fire on a Wednesday afternoon, the complex’s 400 occupants successfully relocated to a nearby school while responders tackled the blaze.

Nobody died, thankfully, but the loss of property was considerable. So were the lessons learned.

The Avalon Bay complex featured lightweight wooden materials, along with what a former New Jersey fire chief association president uncharitably referred to as “toothpick construction.” Both the materials and the methods are legitimate answers to cutting costs and material usage in the construction industry.

But hindsight says there’s a right and a wrong way to go about it. According to Charles Aughenbaugh, the former fire chief association president, Avalon Bay met all existing code requirements. Builders clearly must go further. The apartment house in question featured an “open-truss” roof design, which is typical of this sort of lightweight construction.

This design greatly hastened the building’s demise. In an interview, Aughenbaugh stressed that open-truss roofs combined with low-weight materials create a big fire hazard. The answer lies in creating a firewall using more familiar “legacy” construction methods.

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According to findings, an open-truss building made up of lightweight wood collapses in only five minutes. Legacy construction methods with proper firewalls can last 20 minutes or more. That kind of response time could have saved the building, as well as many of the personal effects within.


There’s more to fire safety than the shape of the roof and the presence of a firewall. Sprinkler systems are another issue. It took three years after the fire at Avalon Bay, but the Edgewater City Council eventually addressed a critical oversight in local fire and building codes.

Construction industry representatives lobbied against the passage of Assembly Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1261, citing higher costs, while activists argued the proposals didn’t go far enough. It contributed to the delay, but the resulting message is clear: Neither the council nor the apartment’s builders appreciated the danger of blending low-weight materials with lightweight construction.

The new building codes can function an instructive lesson in the way to build lightweight, high-occupancy structures within the future, and throughout the country. The bills involve firewalls altogether similar structures within the future, instead of open-truss designs, also as fire-fighting sprinkler systems that cover the spaces between floors and walls, instead of just the open spaces of hallways and rooms.


In 2016, a team of researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid helped address two longstanding concerns in construction:

1. The considerable influence it has on environmental damage and climate change

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2. The challenge of insulating and soundproofing low-weight structures

The team used waste from the textile industry to create an insulating, fire-resistant composite panel that puts the EU textile industry’s 5.8 million tons of annual waste to use while eliminating the chemical binders found in familiar insulating products.

Minimalist construction using thin plywood boards carries some downsides apart from fire hazards. These include sound transmission and insulation. As it seems , insulation formed from textile waste provides “twice the thermal conductivity” of competing commercial materials.

Builders throughout the planet are, right now, successfully demonstrating the flexibility , strength, sound-dampening and insulative capabilities of other materials also , including mycelium. This type of fungi has these four qualities in spades—and shows a compelling way forward for lightweight construction with fewer downsides.


It’s worth noting that not every building industry client fully appreciates the benefits of lightweight construction materials and techniques. As an example, aluminum isn’t just a great lightweight structural material—it’s also less expensive than steel over the lifetime of the building, thanks to more manageable maintenance requirements.

Part of the problem is the bad press, as mentioned above. Another issue is that there aren’t enough enterprising builders willing to explore the advantages of next-generation, eco-friendly, lightweight building materials. Aluminum is hardly cutting-edge today, but asphalt roofs still hold dominion, despite being heavier and lasting a fraction as long. Engineers got to intensify and develop more next-generation materials and make safer building designs.


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