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    Mineral powders to reduce carbon emissions?

    Mineral powders

    We are always looking for more environmentally friendly ways to work, and a recent dissertation by Johanna Tikkanen of the Aalto University School of Engineering near Helsinki in Finland, could lead to big developments in the future.

    The idea of the paper was to study how different mineral powders could be used as replacements for the cement, the creation of which is one of the main contributors to the amount of CO2 emitted during the manufacturing process. Replacing or simply reducing the amount of cement in the concrete will lower the amount of CO2 used significantly, and will also reduce the cost of manufacturing. Mineral powders can also be used to reduce the water requirements of concrete, further adding to the economic and environmental benefits.

    Obviously, the properties of the cement will have to remain roughly the same, so that the concrete can be used in the same processes as before, but if it can be perfected, then concrete production will be greener than ever before.

    Living Concrete!

    Moss Covered 'Living' Building

    Moss Covered 'Living' Building

    If you missed our Spanish and mainly Barcelona themed blogs last summer like this one on the Sagrada Familia, and this one about Gaudi’s Park Guell, then here is another one that may have you longing for warmer climates.

    Researchers at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona have created a type of concrete that supports and accelerates the growth of microalgae, fungi, lichens and mosses. It consists of four layers, the first being a structural layer, next a waterproof layer which protects the structural layer from water damage, then the biological layer which actually supports the colonisation of the various organisms, and finally a discontinuous coating layer with a reverse waterproofing function, that redirects the flow of water to where it’s needed.

    The researchers claim that this new material will absorb CO2 from the surrounding area helping to improve the air quality, as well as capture solar radiation which will help to regulate the temperature inside of the building, making any structure built with this material a great benefit to the local environment. “The biological concrete acts not only as an insulating material and a thermal regulator, but also as an ornamental alternative,” said the research team.

    You can see the original article here.

    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.


    Olympic Eco-Report

    Following on from our look at the 2012 London Olympics, and the environmental and sustainability goals that were set by the organisers, a new report has just been released examining these things.

    The BRE Trust study looks at “the influence of the concrete supply strategy on the overall carbon footprint of the London 2012 Games, and also explores how the Olympic Delivery Authority addressed a variety of supply constraints. Outlining key lessons learnt from using sustainable concretes, the publication provides a unique insight for engineers, designers, architects, concrete manufacturers and regulatory authorities who will be able to apply the learning to future building projects.”

    According to the report, the embodied carbon of the concretes supplied across the London 2012 Olympic Park was 33% lower than the UK construction industry average, which is good news for all those involved in trying to make the London Olympics the most environmentally friendly ever, and good news for the environment.

    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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