Innovative Construction Materials: ETI’s Guide to the Latest Trends

Innovation is a key component in the construction industry. New materials, concepts, and technology are constantly impacting the industry. ETI Construction aims to stay on top of industry trends and provide our clients with the most up-to-date information on construction technology and materials. 

innovative construction

Innovative Construction 

Innovation is driven by a complex combination of factors aiming to improve an industry or concept. These factors include increasing efficiency and productivity, improving safety measures, reducing costs, and driving market demand. More recently, global concerns such as climate change, urbanization, and population growth have forced the construction industry and other industries to be innovative and provide new solutions to these problems. Some innovative construction tactics are developed within the industry, while others are motivated by outside factors such as technological innovations and societal changes. 

Technology in Construction 

Technology is ever-changing and affects every industry. The construction industry has come a very long way since the invention of the wheel, the ancient Romans’ plumbing system, and the building of the pyramids. The last 50 years have been filled with crucial innovative construction technology. 

The personal computer and mobile devices are key tools in nearly every job, including construction. More specifically, software, including Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, has been more recent innovations. Similar software advancements include the creation and adaptation of digital client communications portals, such as ETI’s co-construct portal, and construction management software and apps. These technologies are now standard in the industry, but newer technology is leading the way for other innovations. 3D printing, machine learning, AI technology, and even virtual or augmented reality tools are being used to create construction products and design projects. The use of technology, combined with new alternative building materials, is critical to construction innovation. 

Types of Building Materials 

The basic building materials for commercial and residential projects have not changed drastically. Wood and lumber, steel and other metals, glass and fiberglass, drywall, insulation, and hardware have been used in construction, commercial and residential, for a long time. 


Drywall, also called sheetrock, plasterboard, gypsum board, and a variety of other names, has been a common construction material since the early 1900s. Innovations to drywall include the addition of a fiberglass face for mold resistance, increased thickness to improve fire ratings, soundproof drywall, and boards made from recycled materials.

Lumber and Wood 

Wood is used for framing walls, window frames, doors and door frames, cabinets, and floors. Wood also can be used for finishing touches such as molding. 

Steel and Other Metal 

Steel can also be used for framing buildings, and while it can be more expensive than wood, it is stronger and fire resistant. 


Glass is used for windows and doors. Different types of glass with different levels of thickness, scratch resistance, and levels of shatterproofing are used for different projects. 


A variety of materials are used for insulation, depending on the environment and the budget. Mineral wool, fiberglass, and foam are common insulation materials. 


This material is used for building foundations, slabs, and support beams. Concrete provides strength and durability in construction projects. 

alternative building materials

Alternative Building Materials 

Innovative construction materials blend standard construction products, modern technology, and consumer expectations. Alternative construction materials are made from the motivation to be more environmentally conscious, create safer structures, and increase efficiency and longevity. Modern types of building materials include reclaimed and recycled materials, technologically advanced concepts, and alternative construction materials. 

Reclaimed Materials 

Construction products made from reclaimed and recycled materials are becoming more common. Companies and researchers continue to test and create new ways to use recycled materials in construction. 

Cigarette Butt Bricks 

Somewhere around seven billion cigarette butts are littered annually. The creation of cigarette butt bricks helps to reduce the litter. Cigarette butts can be added to bricks during production, creating a lighter, highly insulating material. 


Ferrock is a material made from recycled steel dust, iron-rich ferrous rock, and silica from recycled glass. When mixed with water, it forms a compound that can be up to five times stronger than concrete. Ferrock is more flexible and more resistant to oxidation and corrosion. 

Post-Consumer Materials

Companies such as EcoRock create drywall alternatives made with 80% post-industrial waste content. When possible, the use of post-consumer materials in construction can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly. 

Wood Alternatives 

Wood and lumber are common building materials used in a variety of stages and aspects of construction. Innovative construction includes the use of alternative building materials to replace standard wood. 

Engineered wood

Engineered wood, also called structural composite lumber (SCL), is a type of wood product made from strands of byproducts from the lumber industry and other wood products. The strands are sealed together with adhesives, creating a stronger, more durable lumber alternative. 


Bamboo is incredibly fast-growing and is harvestable in just three to five years. Traditional trees used for lumber can take 20 to 80 years before they are ready to harvest. While bamboo does not have the strength needed for framing and structural support, it’s useful for flooring and trim.


Similar to bamboo, cork is not strong enough for support beams, but it can be used as an alternative flooring material. Cork is durable, moisture-resistant, and simply nice to walk on. 

New Construction Materials 

Transparent Wood

Transparent wood is a new building material that acts as a great alternative to glass and plastic. Using transparent wood is more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. In the production process, the lignin in wood is replaced with polymers to make it transparent. 

Self-Healing Concrete

What if concrete could heal from a crack the same way our bodies heal from a cut or scrape? Researchers are experimenting with adding fibers or capsules that have adhesive liquids into concrete mix to create self-healing concrete. After concrete cracks, these fibers and capsules secrete adhesive fluid and heal the concrete. This self-healing technology will increase the lifespan of concrete and reduce the need and the cost of repairs over time. 

Pollution Absorbing Bricks

What if the bricks used to build a structure could also help improve air quality? Pollution-absorbing bricks filter the outside air, providing cleaner air to the interior of the structure. These bricks are designed to direct airflow, can be much cheaper, and require less maintenance than mechanical air filtration systems. 

types of building materials

Choose ETI Construction 

ETI Construction is known for quality and dependability, professional integrity, and exceptionally responsive service. Our client focus and attention to detail are second to none, making ETI one of the most respected construction firms in the Chicago area. Our team has experience in commercial and multi-family projects and a solid understanding of current trends and technologies. If you are a property manager with a project, contact us today