I want my advanced culture to have stone houses but I cannot think of a reason why they would keep this old fashioned method. What can I do to convince the czar of this land to use stone for building instead of metal or lumber?

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    $\begingroup$ The Great Chicago Fire. The year after, the Chicago City Council mandated the use of fire-resistant materials, such as brick, in the construction of future downtown buildings. (ref) While not precluding steel construction, it did spur the need to fireproof metal frameworks. $\endgroup$
    – Nick T
    Oct 27, 2015 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ Here in the UK at least i know of a lot of new-build homes built of stone. Particularly on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, UK. Residents here are very fond of the material coined "Portland Stone" as it is quarried from the small isle they live on, because of their love for it a lot of the newer houses (as well as the older ones, of course) are still being produced using this nice looking stone that has been cut into easy to manage bricks. $\endgroup$
    – James T
    Oct 27, 2015 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ Don't jsut look at the US when you think about advanced culture. Not least because almost everywhere else was a comparably advanced culture before the US was, or even existed. That said: In a large part of the world, people don't build wood structures unless for temporary or emergency housing. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Oct 27, 2015 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ Would they have concrete? Also, would they still be building uninsulated mass walls, or would they be using stone purely for cladding and structural value, with explicit control layers (water/air/vapor/thermal) inserted? (I.e. for insulation -- foam if you think they'd do this "plastic" thing, rockwool if you think they wouldn't) $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Sep 10, 2016 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ Also, what are they using for roofing? (Cladding, deck, and structure -- clay or slate tile could be used for roof cladding, but you need tension members for rafters.) $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Sep 10, 2016 at 0:23

9 Answers 9


Stone Buildings are Hard to Burn

This is no joke- if you want your home to be resistant to fire, use stone or ceramics (clay) to form the load-bearing parts. As a small anecdote: I have lived in Europe, and once in a mostly stone home, which experienced an electrical fire. What did the fire department do? Tell us to simply keep flammables away from the fire, and let it burn itself out. Did it work? Yes, it did. Our house, nor the things in it, burt (aside from some electrical wire).

Also, stone countertops can easily take excess heat from hot pans and such. Most people consider this ability a definite perk.


Stone can be really handsome. Some people like the way it looks. Some people really like how some rock looks, and rocks come in a variety of shades, textures, and colors. They can be pounded or eroded to become smooth, or kept rough and craggily. As far as an artistic medium goes, it's pretty broad and versatile even in natural or lightly-manufactured forms.

Refuge From Things

Imagine the relief you feel from a cool tile floor on a summers day. Now, make your whole house like that! Stone can be a good insulator, but expensive to shape and put together. It's good for extreme hot/cold environments. Obviously, in a cold environment, you'll need to heat it (and maybe use many floor rugs), but in a hot environment, it's great! Additionally, due to the fact that it takes a lot of energy to heat/cool your stone, a home of stone will experience thermal lag, so your home is warmest at night, and coolest in the day.

We should also mention that the weight of stones helps a building withstand high winds. If you're afraid of your house being blown away, make like the third little pig and make your house out of bricks, or stone, or something equally heavy. Also, this same argument may apply to invaders, raiders, and traitors.

"Environmentally Sound" Building Material

Some areas of the world have lots of rocks. Putting them to good use has the added benefit of making your homes very recyclable. A rock taken from an old building can be just as useful as a rock taken from the ground. Rejected building rock can be ground up and used in cement, or gravel walkways. Rocks are everywhere, so procuring them is rather cheap. Demolished homes would have nothing nasty in them- like asbestos. (Unless you actually put asbestos rocks in there... then it has a lot of asbestos!)

  • $\begingroup$ Also great answer! $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Oct 26, 2015 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ In support of this answer... In places like the Middle East, modern homes are made from granite and concrete. In a hot environment those materials are effective at preventing fires and assisting in cooling. There are also very few trees around that make for good building material. I honestly don't see any reason why that would ever change unless someone developed a "miracle material" that was somehow cheaper and more effective at all those things. $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is also worth to mention marbles (not game but material) which can be used for both internal and external and it looks very nice. $\endgroup$
    – user902383
    Oct 27, 2015 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Thanby : the insulation and thermal inertia aspects work well in cold climates too : my previous two houses had 2 foot thick stone walls and didn't lose heat quickly. Stone houses last well too, so they can easily be cheaper in the long run (centuries rather than decades). $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2015 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ Just remember, if you're building in earthquake country you need a lot a steel reinforcement to keep masonry construction from being deathtraps. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2015 at 21:10


I never got why in the US, where storms are so common, the houses are built with lumber. In middle europe nearly every house is build of stone or concrete. This has the advantages mentioned above (fire resistance, thermal lag, etc...) and in addition a good protection against storms and snow. Also I as far as I know, middle Europe is quite an advanced culture, so I see no reason why an advanced culture shouldn't build houses of stone. If anything I consider using wood as building material is "less advanced".

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    $\begingroup$ Houses get built with lumber because it's cheaper. $\endgroup$
    – DrewJordan
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I don't think it's cheaper on the long term, if you have to build it again after every bigger storm, than to build it once and it stands there for several hundred years... $\endgroup$
    – Bounce
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with you. Unfortunately, a company that's building a development doesn't often care about the longevity of the structure past a couple of years where they're on the hook for warranty. Anyhow, the vast majority of homes don't need rebuilding (storms don't get that strong in most of the US, just certain parts of it) and with natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, it doesn't much matter what the structure is built out of. $\endgroup$
    – DrewJordan
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ I live in the UK which has a fairly damp climate. Whilst it's possible to treat wood to make it more durable, I imagine the ongoing maintenance would be much greater than that of the much more common brick houses. Also I think house construction may tend to be more conservative in the choice of materials than other types of building because they are almost always bought with mortgages that require a surveyor to be convinced of the structural integrity of the building and surveyors may be suspicious of construction types they're not familiar with, $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2015 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ Wood frame buildings are becoming more common in the UK actually, mostly for price reasons, although they are usually clad in stone or brick still. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Jan 25, 2016 at 11:03

Durability. Modern light-frame residential construction is designed to be exactly as strong as it has to be in order to reduce costs, and if they went without any maintenance they wouldn't last 30 years. The bones of a light-frame home could last a century or more, but that depends on the exterior holding up to the elements, something most stone buildings can handle as a matter of course but most modern buildings require re-sealing every few years and re-roofing every 20 to 30.

If cost were less of an object (in a society with sufficient technology, the logistics of stonecutting would make assembling a building out of carved blocks less demanding than today), building a home durable enough to pass on to your children and their children would be worth something. It's counterintuitive that as our technology grows, we're moving past the need to be mobile; many jobs can literally be performed from anywhere, and of the ones that do require travel, most are local in scope (maintenance, local delivery etc). That makes a durable home a better investment.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the technology observation, and for bringing a cultural point into it regarding passing a home down through the family. That could easily be a part of the culture the OP is designing. $\endgroup$
    – thanby
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ Stone houses require re-roofing just as often as stick frame houses do. Even ceramic tile roofs need to be checked for cracks regularly. The materials used for framing have little correlation with the materials used for roofing. You have to design your framing up front to withstand the weight, but a stick house can be constructed to hold up an earthen, stone, or ceramic roof, just as an stone house can be constructed with an asphalt, sheet metal, thatch, or cedar shake roof. $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2015 at 18:27

In extreme environments, stone provides a thermal "battery" to moderate temperature swings. During the day in a desert, the stone will absorb the heat while the interior of the building stays cool. At night, the warmth gradually seeps into the house and keeps the interior warmer than the cool outside. (If you don't have stone, the same effect can be had with massive masonry walls, adobe or rammed earth as well). In cold climates, the heat from the hearth will be retained in the stone after the fire burns out, keeping the interior warmer without such a large expenditure of fuel.

Stone is also relatively inexpensive (it is the stonecutting and dressing that makes it expensive), long lasting and sturdy if built properly, all bonus points for people who build with stone.


Historical value

Instill in your czar the idea that the old ways were better, that we are in danger of losing important history, and it is incumbent on us all to preserve the past by retaining its sound architectural techniques. Stone castles have stood for hundreds of years; those newfangled wood-frame houses don't last nearly as long. And steel? Hard to make, hard to work with, messy.

Combine liberally with a sense of fashion. Since he's the czar he probably has a great deal of sway with public opinion (controlling the press and all that). Use that. Make people want to preserve this aspect of their history.

But progress is good too.

We aren't just old-fashioned, you must assure your czar; we are also looking out for the future. Stone is available without the environmental impact of deforestation or steel mills. Stone is also durable and long-lasting, so you pretty much only need to quarry new stone for additional construction — houses you've already built will stay put, and if you do decide you need to demolish for some reason (replacing with a larger structure, making way for a highway bypass, etc), you can reclaim the materials. Try reclaiming the framing studs from your wood-frame house — doesn't work as well.

Stone: the choice for preserving the good ideas of the past and protecting the environment for the future!


I'm not sure you'll be able to do this

Metal and lumber aren't your competing materials. What you need to think about are bricks, breeze blocks and concrete as these are the materials that replaced stone in most of the world.


The problem with stone is the cost. First you have to find suitable stone, extract it, move it to where you need to build and shape it to the correct size. This last one is the killer, it required master craftsmen. These master craftsmen were the original freemasons, wealthy and free to move around the country in the way other non-nobles weren't. It's also incredibly heavy and massively labour intensive to lay even after being cut.

To maintain this as a viable building material you're going to need to solve these problems and especially solve them relative to the real competitor:

Breeze blocks

For most tasks these are perfect. Also known as cinder blocks or concrete masonry units, they are a fraction of the weight of an equivalent stone block, they're already perfectly shaped and designed for building. All you need is some cement and a brickie. Bricklayers are not master craftsmen, you can pick them up on a street corners as day labourers, just stop a van by the side of the road and wait. The blocks even have central hollows which help with insulation.

The only downside is that they're not exactly pretty, hence why, when looks are important they tend to be clad with an outer layer of:


Another small, artificial, lightweight, regularly shaped alternative to stone. Available in various colours, shapes and sizes, easy to cut when you need a half brick, usable for both decoration and structure. With all the advantages of breeze blocks except for size. They're relatively expensive and labour intensive to lay which is why they're not often used for large buildings any more.

Stone does retain one advantage over bricks and breeze blocks, that being damage resistance. This is where we come to:


This is the ultimate stone replacement. The kings of England were building with stone from the 11thC but the Romans used concrete. Nero's building code required concrete after Rome burned. The Pantheon might have granite columns at the front but it has a concrete dome. The castles are crumbling, the concrete still stands.

With these as your competitors the only option is looks. Natural stone will always look better.


Because it's cheap.

An advanced culture is as sensitive to available resources as an old-fashioned one. If stone is readily available and effective then there is little reason they would not use it for construction.

Tell the Czar that this method is cost-effective and will win favor with the environmentalists.


No usable trees

Imagine a land where there simply aren't any large woody plants to supply lumber for building. Maybe it's grassland with some shrubbery, or some fibrous flora that simply doesn't have the strength to be used as a primary building material.

Think of habitats like the Outer Hebrides—stone buildings are the norm there, as wood is very scarce.


If the location the culture lives in has little to no trees, then building with the few trees you do have wouldn't just be impractical, but foolish and idiotic.


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