In the world of sustainable construction there are a lot of factors to take in to account and none more important than the materials that we use. Whether it’s bricks made of cigarette butts or concrete made of martian dirt, the construction industry is pushing every day to be more sustainable. Not only this, but alternatives can improve the efficiency of certain construction projects.
We have compiled a small selection of some of our favourite alternatives to traditional construction materials that we thought you’d be interested in.
First on our list is: Plastic concrete aggregate.
Some of the best alternatives in construction are materials that can be gathered from domestic and industrial waste. Landfills are overflowing and our oceans are suffering under the weight of domestic and commercial plastic waste. A fantastic way to breathe life into this waste material by using it in construction.
"Landfills and oceans are suffering under the weight of domestic and commercial plastic waste."
High density polythene, when shredded, can be added to cement to act as a concrete aggregate. By heating and shrinking plastic bags, their density is perfect for concrete. They also have the benefit, much like glass, of being colourful and more decorative than traditional concrete.
Continuing along the lines of alternative forms of concrete, say hello to graphene concrete!
Graphene concrete is right up there as one of the most exciting new construction materials on the market!
This semi-metal has huge potential. Made from transparent sheets of honeycomb patterned carbon, this material is the strongest, lightest, best-heat and electrically conducting material that's ever been discovered.
There is literally nothing in the world stronger than this one molecule thick material.
It all started when scientists at Exeter University developed an inventive technique that uses nano-engineering technology to integrate graphene in concrete production. The new material produced from this composite is four times more resistant and twice as strong as existing concrete.
The graphene mix uses up to 50% less cement is needed to make concrete which leads to a considerable reduction of 446kg of the carbon emissions.
"Adding graphene to concrete uses 50% less cement, reducing carbon emissions by 446kg in carbon emissions."
In places like India, the process creates a lot of nasty unclean matter that is left behind and really bad for the environment. With the MIT BLAK brick, it is made from 70% boiler ash waste (which usually ends up in landfill) and the other 30% is lime, sodium hydroxide and clay. Using alkali-activation this means the bricks do not need firing and reduce the negative environmental impact of having to fire bricks.
"Alkali activation means the bricks do not need firing and reduce the negative environmental impact of brick firing."
Modular construction is a low cost, low energy and low waste method of building houses, schools, shops and offices.
Dating back to the 1830s, modular construction was made famous in Britain and Australia by British Carpenter Henry Manning. Modular houses started appearing in the US some years later and being a major feature in the Sears catalogues over there.
Essentially, modular construction is when the parts of the house are made within a factory setting before being taken to site and put together on site. This method means that there is a reduction in waste as many parts are duplicated for other projects. With less waste comes less cost.