New Horizons in Building Materials: Spotlight on Polymeric Materials

By Don Browne

In today’s world, where the affordable workforce housing crisis is seemingly everywhere, an authentic approach to traditional neighborhood architecture is met with the costly proposition of replacing original materials with the same wood or brick.

There is also a litany of sustainability challenges, ranging from the larger carbon footprint impact to having to replace these same costly materials in less than 20 years to the lack of recyclability. Fortunately, our association’s “faithful companion” – Architectural Design for Traditional Neighborhoods – has a solution: polymeric materials.

Polymeric materials can help you meet personal and municipal standards for sustainability (and you will also be paying it forward knowing that these materials can be recycled once they’ve reached the end of their product performance).

These innovative materials can be used for traditional neighborhood projects with greater durability and resource efficiency. Chapter 4 of Architectural Design is dedicated to integrating modern materials into traditional neighborhood architecture. It focuses on continuity and evolution, polymeric material categories and their distinct advantages, and architectural considerations.

These distinct advantages include composites in their product selection that “can replicate any architectural shape, from siding to profiles to classic trim.” Polymeric materials also offer “labor saving benefits” because they can combine the tasks of many different trades into a single application. The labor savings continue throughout the performance life of polymeric exteriors because they don’t “wear, flake or chalk.”

As for architectural considerations, the most elaborate and complex traditional millwork shapes can be emulated with polymeric cladding, choosing from a full line of profiles and trim selections. There is an extensive color scheme with polymeric products that can add depth, character and variety to traditional neighborhoods. Shingles, shakes and clapboard siding will outperform wood and traditional materials in both endurance and style, as well as beaded siding if you are aiming for a more traditional southern look.

If you are involved in or are considering a traditional neighborhood project, you owe it to yourself to take 10 minutes to read Chapter 4 of Architectural Design for Traditional Neighborhoods to learn about the modern building materials available to you. In fact, you could read this chapter first to check out the exciting possibilities before reading the rest of the book.



Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.