Traditional concrete can develop cracks through recurring freeze-thaw cycles over time. Cracks expand as it freezes, potentially letting water seep in further pulling it apart. Just as concrete deteriorates, steel structures do too due to inevitable corrosion. The rusted steel eventually wears the entire structure, threatening a crash if not inspected by a safety engineer. Innovations in building materials are rapidly disarming hazards posed by old materials—a British steel company patented a new form of colour-coated steel, galvanized steel, being used as additional protection against adverse environmental factors. Read more here.
Researchers have pondered whether materials could be made as such to bounce back from harsh conditions and vulnerabilities. How about self-healing concrete? Or recycled waste used in insulation works? The construction industry can shave off billions in reworks and repairs of faulty building work while cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. Day by day, the industry is marching toward a progressive era of reusable construction materials and nullifying options that serve no one.
Modern construction materials breed modern construction methods. They will bring more strength, safety, and cost-efficiency to structures of tomorrow that’ll enhance their longevity and usability.
Here are five new materials boosting the construction sector’s growth.
One of the first scientists to create self-healing concrete, Dr. Schlangen of Delft University has demonstrated that the material can be joined back if its half-sliced pieces are put together and heated in a microwave. This technology innovation can save companies $90 million annually.
Self-healing concrete will help build structures that last—from small shops to skyline-expanding high-rises. These structures will carry minimal repairs and would facilitate easier maintenance. Project owners want to ensure their build not only stays functional in its lifetime but offers incremental benefits to end users, for this to become a widespread reality, builders will have to consider self-healing concrete more aggressively since construction costs are higher with regular concrete that also poses durability threats as the climate worsens.
Using the right materials is only half the battle, making decisive shifts on jobsite is the other half. New building materials will need the consensus of all stakeholders down to the last subcontractor on the project. Without it, flaws in construction processes emerge faster than realized which leads to reworks. Contractors are pressed to extend timelines lest quality suffers and to ensure they’re on track, they use punch lists. Get more info on how best can punch lists be optimized for maximum results.
Studying the effect of built environments on occupants, safety and environment specialists are closer to home with their understanding of indoor air quality. Many indoor air cleansing solutions have been introduced but none as efficient to recognize as a permanent fix to continuing air contamination affecting respiratory health. With traditional solutions, more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, deteriorating outdoor air as well.
Thanks to Cal Poly School of Architecture’s assistant professor, Carmen Trudell, who invented a passive air-cleaning system that puts bricks used on the building’s exterior to filter out toxins and pollutants in the air as it lives inside the space. The air will get funnelled into an internal cyclone filtration section separating heavy elements and dropping them down a hopper at the wall’s base. This pulls clean air into the building with maintenance being only to the extent of removing and emptying the hopper periodically.
Building energy-efficient structures will never go out of style—and, the industry is evolving at breakneck speed to accommodate environmental costs into the build process. One such endeavour is to make cement perform as an energy-saving agent through the process of polycondensation of raw materials including industrial waste, silica, water, alkali, and river sand. Conducted at room temperature, the process uses less energy.
As is popularly echoed, the future is in part influenced by the past—so when researchers look to eco-friendly new construction materials, they need to grasp what didn’t work with old alternatives. A surge in interest in Roman concrete has thus been stumbled upon as it embodies less energy than the popularly used Portland cement while being much more durable beyond the traditional lifespan of modern architecture. Unexpected weather incidents endanger our infrastructure and buildings for which stronger and energy-efficient materials are important to ensure projects endure the coming times.
Widely used 50 years ago, timber’s use is declining today. But cutting-edge engineering has made timber stronger and durable to support heavy structures.
Researchers have developed laminated timber, also called glulam, to create a more water-resistant and durable replacement for wood. This has made timber highly cost-efficient with its current use in projects saving wood usage. Wooden structures absorb a ton of energy and this development couldn’t have been more opportune. Substituting wood with laminated timber would cut down about 3,000 tons of carbon emissions gradually increasing as more builders adopt it.
Reprocessed Scrap Material
Turns out the trash isn’t trash, after all, recycling can make the worst material beneficial. Builders have pioneered the use of recycled scrap such as cardboard, plastics, leftover metal to build structures registering minimal carbon footprints.
When cardboard’s recycled, it’s used for high-quality cellulose insulation that outperforms traditional insulation. Replacing dry processes that generated incalculable filth and dust, cellulose insulation renders air clean. Another scrap material recycled is plastic—from small bags to large containers, recycled plastic can last a few times that cuts new plastic production by a significant number. An unprecedented innovation, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) carpets have given a new lease of life to plastics, turning them into fibrous soft reusable carpets with no expiry date that can be used in insulation.
Making materials sustainable isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay. It has been having a big impact on construction in multiple ways beyond direct construction activities. It has helped construction companies expand engineering teams for R&D and safety implementation as these new building materials require periodic upgrades like any new technology.
As the industry opens up to eco-friendly substitutes, construction projects would gradually substantially reduce harmful environmental effects. Conscientious builders will get in on the fun early on, leverage competitive edge, and win more bids and public goodwill as they seek to improve the economic status of the sector through redefining how materials are made and used.