Transforming Clay Into Structure: How Ceramics Are Used in Construction

credit ArchDaily

by Giovana Martino | Translated by Diogo Simões
Ceramic fragments and figures found at the Neolithic site of Mureybet, in Syria’s Middle Euphrates valley, indicate that clay and fire work date back to the 7th millennium BC. This means that dealing with ceramics is one of the oldest activities in human history. More than 9,000 years later, ceramic, and all its derivatives, has become one of the most used materials in construction, being used at different times, from structure to finishes.

Ceramic is the material that results from the combination of clay, which can have different compositions with metallic and non-metallic materials from the soil, and fire. In addition to its natural malleability while hydrated, when heated to high temperatures, clay gains mechanical strength and becomes a good material for thermal and acoustic insulation – important properties for construction. Presenting chemical similarities, the industry currently comprises five types of ceramic-type materials: glass, advanced ceramics, abrasives, cements and traditional ceramics.

Despite their chemical similarities, what we usually call ceramics are traditional ceramic materials, which are based on red or white clay fired at high temperatures. This traditional ceramic is the same one used to make objects and tools thousands of years ago. The use of ceramic as a building material goes back to the Assyrian and Chaldean civilizations, and many of the peoples from different regions of the world have vernacular techniques that involve the use of fired clay.

From the wide access to raw material and the intense use by different societies, ceramic technology was one of the most developed and used from the Industrial Revolution onwards. With technological advances, traditional ceramic is now being used in different ways in construction, always as molded and fired pieces, to meet the needs according to their physical and chemical properties.

As an element that gives shape to the construction, ceramics can be used to make structural blocks that can be present both in the shallow foundation and in the superstructure, always combined with other materials such as steel and cement mortar. Ceramics can compose what we understand as structural masonry, as ceramic blocks have high strength, being used to build ground floor and medium-sized buildings.

With the advent of independent structures, such as reinforced concrete and metal structures, ceramics are also used as sealing and subdivision materials. Bricks, tiles and hollow elements are some examples of ceramics used as sealing elements.

One of the most common uses of ceramic in construction is as cladding. Whether floor or wall, ceramic cladding performs technical and decorative functions, presenting a layer of enamel on its surface that brings protection and identity to the elements.

If, historically, ceramics began to be formed to create utilitarian objects and tools, today’s ware is an offshoot of this practice. Tanks, washbasins, toilets, among others, are ceramic pieces that testify to the evolution of domestic architecture and construction techniques. Source ArchDaily  ISSN 0719-8884


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