CD Designs Blog

    Self-Repairing Concrete


    Concrete Mixed With Bacterial Spores

    Imagine if your pattern imprinted concrete driveway never needed maintenance, and any weathering, cracks and other damage would heal by itself. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but Dutch scientists are nearly ready to begin tests that could make it a reality.

    Microbiologist Henk Jonkers and concrete technologist Eric Schlangen have been working at Delft Technical University in The Netherlands to engineer the new type of concrete. “In the lab we have been able to show healing of cracks with a width of 0.5mm. Now we are upscaling”, explained Dr Jonkers. They are currently trying to reduce the considerable cost of the process, but they believe that they can do this and be ready to begin testing in around 6 months, with a view to commercialising it in 2-3 years.

    The process works by mixing bacterial spores and the nutrients they feed on into the concrete. When the spores come into contact with water, they begin to feed on the nutrients and produce limestone, which begins to fill the cracks through which the water got in.

    Concrete is the most popular building material in the world, and if the lifespan of it can be significantly extended it should lead to reduced costs and better structures for everyone. If it can be incorporated into pattern imprinted concrete, then we should see significant savings on maintenance in the future.

    Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer

    Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer died last week at the age of 104. Widely regarded as one of the most influencial architects of the 20th century, he is best known for his work on the civic buildings of the Brazilian capital Brasilia.

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum Designed by Niemeyer

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro

    Niemeyer, full name Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907. He graduated with a BA in architecture from Rio’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934, and went on to work at his father’s typography house. He also worked as a draftsmen in an architectural studio, even though they could not pay him, where he worked with Lucio Costa who he would later collaborate with on the Brasilia project and who created the plan for the layout of the city.

    In 1940 Niemeyer was commissioned to design a series of buildings in a new suburb that was being built in Pampulha, a residential area of Belo Horizonte. The Saint Francis of Assisi church is the best known building of the complex, and was considered revolutionary with its bold use of reinforced concrete. It was controversial however, and although it eventually became the first modern listed building in Brazil, the church was not consecrated until 1959, with the archbishop of Belo Horizonte Antonio dos Santos Cabral describing it as “the devil’s bomb shelter”.

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    Building on the success in Pampulha, Niemeyer went on to design many prominent buildings in Brazil throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s. In 1956 new Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek asked Niemeyer to help him with an audacious project, to build a new capital city for Brazil. He designed a large number of buildings for the city including the national congress of Brazil and the presidential residence, but the most famous is the Cathedral of Brasilia (pictured above), a hyperboloid structure utilising 16 concrete columns weighing 90 tons each.

    After his death on December 5th, tributes came from far and wide. The BBC’s obituary called him “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”, whilst noting he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”.

    The Future Of Concrete?

    In the above video, professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California explains his vision for the future. It expands upon the ideas from this blog in July, where we gave a brief description of the process of 3D printing. The concrete used in todays homes has a usual compressive strength of 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), but the new fiber composite used for the contour crafting would have a psi of 10,000. It would also set fast enough to be used for arches and domes on-the-fly.

    Going one stage further and imagining even more sophisticated uses for concrete is mechanical engineering student Ben Peters of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His idea is for a ’spiderbot’, which is essentially a modified skycam that you might see filming a stadium event or an inventive movie shot. The skycams can be moved horizontally and vertically like a huge marionette, or can have their own motors attached which allow them to traverse a support wire.

    Peters and other researchers in the Mediated Matters lab at MIT, focus on bio-inspired 3D fabrication and are further looking into the example that spiders in the construction process. In the future they hope to use silk-like materials combined with concrete and 3D printing to create quick to build, great looking and environmentally friendly structures.

    You can look at the original article here.


    Pattern being applied to a Wallcrete wall

    Pattern being applied to a Wallcrete wall

    Wallcrete is a new, advanced lightweight render that has been specifically designed to recreate the natural products used in traditional methods of walling and construction. It can be used internally or externally, and applied to almost any clean, debris-free surface: wood, concrete, drywall, ceramic, fibreglass, linoleum, glass and many others.

    But the real beauty of Wallcrete is the vast range of effects that can be created by an expert tradesperson experienced in working with this unique and exciting material. With the intelligent use of a wide variety of pigments, the creative application of a ‘design stamper’ and a little judicious hand carving, Wallcrete can be made to look like practically any surface – natural stone, brick, exotic rock, slate, granite, sandstone – in almost any style, from the rough and rustic to the slick and modern. The effects are utterly realistic.

    Some of the typical uses for Wallcrete are:-

    • Internal and External walls
    • External Cladding for Houses
    • Boundary Walls
    • Garden Sheds and Buildings
    • Garden Walls
    • Internal Walls
    • Fireplace Surrounds
    • Fish Ponds
    • Dog Kennels
    • Coping Stones, Lintels, Cornerstones and Archways

    Cost-effective, long-lasting and versatile, the installation techniques are similar to imprinted concrete and the results equally as stunning.

    One Hotel To Rule Them All

    Following on from our Frankenstein themed post, here is another tenuous entry linking concrete recycling and movies. A hotel in Mexico resembles something from The Lord Of The Rings, and has rooms made out of recycled concrete storm drains and sewers.

    The hotel is located outside the village of Tepozltan, about an hour away from Mexico City, and opened in 2010. As the original article says, “If Bilbo Baggins was travelling around North America this is probably where he would stay”. The hotel consists of 20 concrete tubes formerly used for sewers and drainage systems, each with a queen-sized bed and a mountain view. It aims at the backpacker market, with a room recommended for 2 people but the hotel allowing as many as you can fit in, for the equivalent of £20 or £35 at weekends. The facilities are very basic, with each tube having a bed, night-lamp, fan and storage space, and the toilets are in 2 separate bath houses nearby. Far from deterring people however, they have found all sorts of people wanting to stay there because of its unusual nature.

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