CD Designs Blog

    Self Healing Concrete

    Avoiding Cracks with Self Healing Concrete

    Avoiding Cracks with Self Healing Concrete

    Another fascinating development in the quest to provide more eco-friendly concrete and other building materials – self-healing concrete is being hailed as the future answer to keeping pavements, structures – and perhaps one day our patios and pattern imprinted concrete driveways – in crack-free and in tip-top condition.

    Developed by Michelle Pelletier, a Masters student at America’s Rhode Island University, Pelletier has devised a concrete paint that helps it to ‘heal’ itself using bacteria containing a self-destruct code gene.

    At the same time, Newcastle university students have worked to create a new type of bacteria that acts as a glue on cracked concrete, effectively healing cracks and fissures, and reducing the need for rebuilds.

    The bacteria begins to germinate when it senses a change in the PH level of the concrete, automatically reproducing to fill the crack, until the bacteria begin to clump at the bottom of the fissure. At this point the cells change into three categories – calcium carbonate providers, filament acting cells that provide fibres to reinforce the concrete, and cells which produce a glue, to bind the materials together. Combined they harden within the crack to knit the structure back together.

    The bacteria’s self destruct gene prevents it from germinating in any place but a concrete structure, and the self-heal solution is being hailed as a way to reduce the need for replacing concrete buildings in the future, ultimately leading to significant benefits in carbon reduction.

    The students won prestigious science prizes for their work and now industry is looking at how their research can apply to everyday situations. Certainly it may be a while before those clever bacteria are burrowing their way into the designs of our pattern imprinted concrete driveways, to keep it in top-notch enduring condition, but it certainly marks an exciting development in the next wave of eco-friendly concrete materials.

    Image by Rik

    Zero Energy Homes

    In a world of soaring energy bills, it’s great to know that scientists are finding future ways for us to dodge the utility provider’s monthly reminder letter.

    Teams across the world are busy creating prototypes for low and even zero energy homes which will herald a new era for the way we live. To first inspection, many of these designs look reassuringly familiar – brick structures, gardens, pattern imprinted concrete driveways in the front yard, patios in the back etc – but others look decidedly futuristic and bizarre. However, the lure of an eco solution to wasted and expensive energy is an attractive one indeed!

    In Vision Zero has been developed by Dow Chemical. It looks like a regular home, with a green lawn, large windows and a reassuringly familiar pattern imprinted concrete driveway, but it is a net-zero energy home, using geothermal heating technology and cooling, solar energy, LED lights and lamps.

    The Green Tomorrow House by Samsung is a futuristic low-build no carbon house which generates energy without using any electricity or gas, with technologies such as landscaping and bio amalgamates, eco-friendly fishing materials and clever insulation.

    The Solar Decathlon Sustainable House looks more like a log cabin, but with a very youthful feel and integrated in and outdoor living approach. It uses rainwater recycling, thermal systems and even has a green grass couch outside!

    The Icynene Integral to Connecticut’s First Net Zero Energy Home has been certified to the highest energy rating available, and uses no fossil fuels or electricity.

    Villa Akarp looks decidedly Scandinavian, and indeed is the brainchild of a Swedish Inventor – Karin Adalberth. This house actually provides a positive net energy which can be sold back to the grid, and heavily combines technologies to recover, conserve and generate energy.

    Designed by Michelle Kaufmann, the Zero Energy Prefab looks incredibly modern and cutting edge, and includes photovoltaic panels to gather solar power, and also make use of gray and rainwater collection. The house is so light on the grid that the meter actually spins backwards during light energy demand periods!

    The Truro Net-Zero Energy Beach Home is a wonderfully futuristic, grand large home, custom designed by Boston based firm ZeroEnergy design with eight bathrooms and seven bedrooms! It uses a battery back-up and light consultant for maximum efficiency. No fossil fuels are used, and energy is automatically shut down in unoccupied areas of the house.

    Microsoft are also in on the act with their New American Home – an incredible looking structure which is entirely solar powered and filled with gadgets and technology.

    The Lumenhaus by Virginia Tech has a decidedly space-age appearance and uses solar energy, radiant heating and passive energy systems, along with an advanced shading system.

    Solar Driveway Markers

    Solar lights are already popular with many gardeners as a low energy way to light a garden or patio in the evening, whether as small lanterns pushed into the soil, or fairy lights strung around a seating area. The technology is becoming ever cheaper and the lights more durable and exotically designed.

    An interesting new product in this line is the solar driveway marker, which would be an excellent feature alongside any pattern imprinted concrete driveway for extra night time visibility. The markers are a metre tall and stick in the ground. They are fully charged by the sun and emit a clear red glow for eight hours overnight.

    Valuable dotted along concrete driveways as something pretty and attractive, these solar markers also have functional uses for houses without outdoor lighting, street lighting – or in areas prone to snow!

    Offering a guide for drivers parking up on their pattern-imprinted concrete driveways, these solar lights offer the additional benefit of requiring no maintenance beyond placing them into the ground, running on only 12 volts and being fully weather proof. They don’t even need full sun in the day – regular light is enough to power them each night, and their LED bulbs emit a surprisingly powerful punch at night.

    They’re definitely worth a try for any household keen to increase visibility on their driveway at night without spending  a fortune – and they look pretty good too!

    A Cracking Alternative To Cement

    With the world’s governments committing to reduce CO2 emissions and become more ‘green-minded’, it’s very positive to see the amount of research going into developing alternative cement products.

    Cement has been used since the Roman times and is a hugely strong and supportive structure. Most of us will come into contact with concrete on a daily basis – from concrete offices and car parks in town, to our own pattern imprinted concrete driveways and outdoor patio areas. It appears in tarmac, road bridges, airport runways, reservoirs, underground stations, skyscrapers and more.

    Yet it adds more CO2 to the environment than the world’s aviation industry and requires huge amounts of fossil fuels to produce. Additionally, it fails the green agenda by increasing in production every year, thanks to its role in concrete production.

    The good news is that ‘greener’ solutions are emerging, thanks to bright young science researchers passionate about the green agenda, and supported increasingly by industry and commerce keen to patent emerging green technologies.

    Light foam based concretes are one new solution, alongside CeramiCrete which is twice as strong as traditional concrete, and therefore only required in half the quantity. However, the sticking point is that these new technologies do cost more.

    The smartest and least expensive comes from the oil industry – a surprising quarter for any kind of green technology. Thermoplastic binders are being investigated by Shell for use as cement alternatives – produced by oil by-products, and possible for up to 90% of traditional concrete replacement. The product saves 3.5 tons of CO2 by using a ton of the new carbon concrete– significant gains indeed.

    It’s fascinating to see a crude oil by-product being transformed into a green product, and the concrete industry finally seeking viable alternatives for environmentally-friendly future products. Yet to be approved in some countries, these new products await the test of commercial large-scale application before the real benefits can be seen.  Certainly for now though, the future of the cement industry is looking a whole lot brighter, and greener.

    The Best Outdoor Fire Pits

    There’s nothing like an outdoor fireplace when you’re entertaining on the patio. Ideal for roasting hot dogs, marshmallows or just huddling around on a cool night, they are beautiful and functional tools for making the most of your outdoor space.

    Three types prevail on the market – wood burning stoves, gas or propane fire pits, or gel / ethanol pits which create a smokeless flame. A wooden model will be cheaper than a propane model, and designer brands can reach over £1000 in price.

    Regardless of brand however, a great fire pit will enhance the look of your block paved or pattern imprinted concrete patio no end.

    Good models to choose include the wood burning outdoor fire pit range from Weber. The lighting store Lumens carries some modern styles, including Blomus gel fire pits which offer polished stainless steel finishes and frost-proof ceramics.

    For hammered copper versions, try the Woodstream range, for a particularly attractive finish and great cooking potential. The Well Travelled Living range boasts urban and minimalist features, and the Asia range offers world influenced and traditional styles. Try Australian company Ecosmart for vent-less fire pits powered by bio-ethanol, but expect to pay for them. Unica Home is popular for high-end designer fires, with top brands including Extremis and Ore.

    Don’t rule out stores such as Argos and B&Q or Homebase either, which tend to offer their own branded ranges at excellent prices. Pop a lovely little fire pit at the end of your driveway or patio, huddle around and enjoy the evening in comfort!

    In case you missed our earlier post on Fire Pits, here are some of our favourites:

    Concrete Fire Pit - Pic by Snassek

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    Concrete Fire Pit - Pic by Snassek

    Complete Driveway Designs Ltd

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