The original building materials were dirt, stone, mud, and brush. One hundred thousand years ago, the first homes built by humans were made of clay and dirt. In the Neolithic times, around 50,000 BC, rocks and stones were used for building homes. Mud was used to fill the spaces between the stones to provide insulation from the weather. Homes made of plant materials, such as branches, brush, twigs, and leaves, were common, both then and now, in tropical areas, due to the widespread availability of such materials. Thatch roofs, common all over the world, are another type of construction based on plant materials that still continues to this day.
The use of stone and mud progressed to bricks and mortar as new building materials, as well as cement and tile. The variety of different shapes and sizes of bricks are still being used today in masonry and in decorative use, in addition to basic foundations and walls. Even the surface of bricks has been updated, with rubbed and glazed bricks providing a visual change from plain clay, the material from which most bricks are made. Stucco is another variation of the progression from mud that is used today for building exteriors, because of the wide range of possible visual effects.
Concrete and cement are in the next in line of progression of building materials from stone and mud, but each serves a far more complex purpose, in that these newer materials supply more support in construction than mere mud. Cement, by itself, is just a binder of the aggregate material (usually stone), the combination forming concrete. Sand and ash are also added to the mixture to reduce weight and to add insulation properties. Long metal rods, called rebar, are also used within concrete to add strength. Concrete is best used for foundations and floors.
Stone itself is still being used as a building material; it's best to consult with an expert in stone, on what types would be most useful. Like concrete, stone can be used as a foundation or floor, and, in some special cases, even a roof. And stone does have a visual look that can be quite appealing as a part of any building.
Continuing on from the use of original plant materials, wood, turned into timber and lumber, is, of course, one of the most basic types of building materials, used by mankind for thousands of years. The flexibility and durability of wood serve well in its use as a building material. Because there are so many different kinds of wood in every type of climate all across the globe, structures using wood are everywhere. Even today, when most structural parts of buildings are made of concrete or steel, wood is still used quite often for doors and windows. Wood provides good insulation, and can also used on buildings for decoration, or for the sheer visual appeal of wood.
Newer types of building materials have been developed within the last few centuries or so for use as building materials. Metals, usually steel or iron, are used as basic structural support of both small and large buildings. Glass, made from sand, is an ancient material often used for non-structural sections of large modern buildings. For homes, however, glass is used mainly for windows and, sometimes, for doors. The poor insulation qualities of simple glass do count against it for use as a building material. However, glass treatments, such as sealed double panes, have been developed that improve the insulation qualities. Even with those improvements, glass is still used mostly for its visual appeal.
The possible local weather conditions will determine how durable a building material must be, which, in turn, will lead to the choice of a material with the characteristics most suited for that need. For example, building in a tropical climate with both high temperatures and high humidity will force a choice of building materials that not only are resistant to humidity and moisture, but also act as good insulation from the heat. Materials that corrode under the sun's heat would be a poor choice for a tropical climate. In an arctic climate, choosing materials vulnerable to freezing temperature would also be a poor choice. The insulation requirements, on the other hand, would be almost identical, because good insulation can keep interiors either warm or cool, depending on the outside conditions.