Benefits of Cladding a Building with Natural Materials

Natural materials are true to their character. What does this mean?

They speak to us from a long historical context and deep relationship with the human spirit. Natural materials such as wood and stone are pure. They’re less manipulated, less altered. They come from a long connection with people and the land, so we have an inherent understanding of them. This translates when we see or touch them.

This is important because it provides a sense of permanence; a sense of connection to the human spirit. Cladding with natural materials also has the appeal of looking contextually correct. It’s wonderful to take a stroll through our built environment and feel a connection to the materials and textures around us. It grounds our experience and provides an interesting level of comfort. This comfort and familiarity help’s enhance your sense of permanence in a space. Chaos and uncertainty are reduced by familiarity.

This leads me to argue that there are many benefits gained from using cladding made with natural materials. They help the environment, look beautiful, and can be used on many types of structures. It’s an environmentally friendly way to help the community.

  1. Sustainable and often times renewable or recyclable.
  2. Natural materials enhance the beauty of our spaces
  3. They can be restrictive yet versatile
  4. Reduce harmful chemicals and allergens

They also promote healthy living spaces with the ability to regulate temperature, humidity levels, and noise pollution. With many of these benefits, it’s clear there are many advantages gained from using cladding made from natural materials instead of synthetic.

With all the positives there are definitely some negatives or challenges to consider. Many natural materials are porous. Meaning they allow water to infiltrate into them. They breathe. This has to be taken into consideration when detailing a building structure.

The inherent properties of the material are more limiting than synthetic materials. This can be seen as a negative or a positive. Based on the limitations, your design will be directed in a particular way. Often leading you to design within certain known proportions. Proportions that are familiar to people. Comfortable to people. Proportions that are proven over time to be aesthetically pleasing.

Based on the material, it could be argued that sourcing the material could be more damaging to the environment than manmade synthetic materials. Each material needs to be evaluated before being used and it’s impact on the environment needs to be fully understood. We would never assume because it’s natural it was sourced in a low-impact method. Question everything. Pay attention to details. And design for people.

I’m an Architect. My favorite thing to do is create stories through architectural design. Founder of Whitewash Studio architecture firm in Atlanta, GA.