A slew of greener materials is being developed to reduce the carbon footprint of construction materials.
The construction insurance specialist notes that cement is the world’s most widely used building material and accounts for 5% of the CO2 emissions we generate each year. Several new technologies could reduce our reliance on cement and other energy-sapping processes.
The organisation believes that 3D printed bioplastics could help reduce the amount of waste in the construction industry, which it says account for about 20-30% of discarded building materials.
The beauty of these bioplastics is that they can be used to make floors or even full buildings and that they can do so using plant-based polymers that can be melted, recycled, and re-used.
Another material it believes could make a difference is programmable cement, which is being developed by Rice University researchers in Texas. This material works by adjusting the material’s molecular structure so it can be packed more tightly. Adding different types of surfactants to the concrete makes the material stronger and less porous. CRL claims this means smaller volumes of materials can therefore be used to create a material with the same attributes.
To tackle the growing need for passive air conditioning, it has also lauded the development of hydroceramics that could reduce inside building temperatures by 5°C. It notes that researchers in Barcelona have integrated hydrogel within the ceramic façade of buildings. This system absorbs humidity from the air; and then, on hot days, the water inside the material evaporates, cooling rooms and reducing air conditioning costs.
Like many others, CRL has noticed the rise of the bio-based brick. It cites the work of bioMason – a US-based company that is producing concrete bricks that don’t need to be fired, saving a huge amount of energy in the process.
"The company has developed a way ‘growing’ bricks," it says. "After placing sand in rectangular moulds and introducing bacteria, they supply the mixture with water full of nutrients for a few days. As a result, calcium carbonate crystals form around each grain of sand to create a hard substance."