Papercrete – An Alternative Building Material

Cement Concrete is one of the conventional building construction materials today. It is a composite material made of cement, water and aggregates. When it was first made with Portland cement and stone, it went on to gain wide popularity and became a boon for the construction industry. Cement concrete is still among commonly materials used for mainstream construction today.


Paper is a commonly used substance in our day today lives. We use paper almost in every field. But, once the paper is used, it ends up in junkyards and recycling factories to take up another form of paper – recycled paper. Have you ever wondered whether paper could become a construction material some day?

What is Papercrete?

Papercrete is a new building construction material made with re-pupled paper fibres and Portland cement. It was invented by  Eric Patterson and Mike McCain.

Paper + Concrete = Papercrete. Not very popular today but, once you know its advantages over the traditional cement concrete, you will definitely choose this one over traditional bricks and concrete blocks!

Though not standardized or commercially accepted, Papercrete is slowly gaining momentum to take over the low-cost construction market with its greatly useful properties – good sound absorption, thermal-insulation, light-weight, mould-resistant, does not easily catch fire, does not catch fungi and they can be manufactured in various sizes.

Papercrete slurry in block-moulds

Is Papercrete environmentally Friendly?


Papercrete is environmentally friendly because it can significantly reduce the quantities of paper ending up in trash and landfills. It reduces the amount of concrete required for making concrete blocks of same size and strength.

How can We use Papercrete for Construction?

Papercrete can be used for construction in many ways – as blocks, panels, it can be poured, pumped, sprayed, hurled and trowelled on. It can be used for interior walls, construction of domes and various other things. But, always keep in mind that variations in the mixtures of Papercrete may alter its properties.

Now, let us look at the Pluses and Minuses of Papercrete as an alternative building material.

Advantages of Papercrete

  • Sound and Heat-proof

Papercrete has amazing sound-absorbing properties which makes it an ideal material to construct interior walls. Being made with a mixture of concrete and paper, it does not catch fire easily

  • Light in weight

A solid block entirely made of cement concrete is relatively heavier than Papercrete. Paper is light in weight and so is Papercrete!  

  • Inexpensive

The manufacturing costs of Papercrete is comparatively very less than that of concrete blocks. Recycled paper is easily available everywhere therefore the manufacturing does not require resources that aren’t available in its nearest proximity

  • Can be manufactured in required shapes and sizes

Papercrete is a very versatile material. It can be cast into any size or shape you want!

  • Reduces paper-wastage

Manufacturing something so useful with paper reduces huge loads of paper ending up in landfills. Recycling reduces the cutting down of trees for more paper products

  • Mould and Fungi-free

Paper concrete does not encourage the growth of mould or fungi. However, dampening of Papercrete has to be avoided

  • Easy to use

Papercrete does not have complex workability. It does not require skilled labour to construct using this material

Disadvantages of Papercrete

  • Preferable for single storey buildings

Papercrete is definitely strong but, since it is not certified as a standard construction material, therefore, it’s safer to construct single storeyed buildings with it

  • Not suitable for Rainy and Marshy areas

Paper absorbs moisture which weakens its structural strength. Rainy and marshy areas are not the ideal places to use Papercrete in.

  • Not approved by International Code Council

As of 2007, Papercrete lacks approval from the International Code Council. It is not used as a load-bearing wall where building codes apply.

Single storeyed building constructed with Papercrete

Papercrete is definitely a wonderful invention in the field of building construction. It probably won’t gain popularity like its contemporary mainstream building materials but, it is ideal for low-cost construction. And, Papercrete can be used for so many other purposes apart from building walls. Sculptures, benches, planters are just to name a few.

So if you love experimenting with construction materials and don’t want to spend much while being not-so-harmful to mother-Earth, then you should definitely try doing something innovative with this admirable material.