Building materials of the future

Germany is still in the midst of a construction boom. At the same time, huge quantities of non-recyclable building materials are needed that are harmful to the environment. Alternatives are urgently needed: the building materials of the future.

The construction industry still consumes an incredible amount of resources, but at the same time hardly recycles anything. Besides concrete, bricks and steel are also needed. All three components do not belong to the renewable raw materials, they require a high level of energy for production and they are accordingly becoming increasingly scarce. Construction companies use 500 million tons of mineral building materials per year. These include sand, gravel, lime and gypsum stone. At the same time, 200 million tons of waste are produced, construction waste after demolition or renovation work that is not recycled. They account for around half of the total waste generated in Germany. Alarming figures that have long since called scientists to the scene.

The long breath in the search for building materials

That is why improvements are urgently needed in this area. The new buildings must not only be energy-efficient, they must become more sustainable. But that is easier said than done. In addition to the development of completely new building materials, it is also important to build cost-effectively and, ideally, to continue using old building materials. The first companies have set to work recycling concrete and steel. But this is still the exception and is just a drop in the bucket. Anyone who wants to break new ground needs a lot of staying power.

Criticism of building materials of the future

In principle, builders, architects and construction companies agree that there must be new methods and building materials to meet demand in an environmentally friendly way. But there are also critical voices that cannot be ignored so easily. Already, construction is more expensive than ever. Nor is there any prospect of cost reductions in the near future. For this reason alone, many builders prefer to use inexpensive alternatives such as Styropor instead of more environmentally friendly ecological insulating materials. If building is to be expensive, then there is also the demand that the costs should be amortized within 10 years, instead of the previous 30 or so. These are all requirements that the new building materials must meet.

Possible building materials of the future

And they can do that, too. For example, the novel “super material”. It was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The new building material is said to be 10 times harder than steel and significantly lighter than plastic. The honeycomb-like appearance of the carbon atoms pressed into a network in it is reminiscent of coral in the sea. The density is low, the weight hardly worth mentioning, and yet the super material is unusually hard. This makes it perfect for the construction of bridges or tall buildings, for example. It is also very heat-resistant and corrosion-free, so it also has a very long service life. So far, however, initial construction tests are still being carried out on the 3D printer. There is still a lack of real testing possibilities. If a company can be found that dares to go into production, then the super material could soon actually be used for construction.

What if there was other concrete?

The “what if principle” also plays a role in other developments. For example, there are different approaches to producing new types of concrete. Carbon concrete is one possibility, while wood concrete and textile concrete are others. Even a concrete that can repair itself is on the researchers’ agenda. The latter is already working perfectly in the Dutch laboratory of Henk Jonkers. But here, too, it is like everywhere else. If donors for further tests are lacking and companies do not step in to put the theoretical considerations into practice, then rapid ecological building of the future may not happen for a long time. Added to this are the strict building specifications and laws in Germany. It can easily take between ten and 20 years before a new building material is approved, even if it has proven itself in the laboratory and in initial practical projects, and we need them so urgently, the building materials of the future.

Image copyright: Maxisports


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