The world is constantly changing and evolving but, in recent years, the change in construction and architecture is happening more strongly than in other sectors. Possibly this is due, among other things, to the rise of the ideas of sustainability, energy efficiency and respect for the environment for which we are surrounded today. This new thinking has penetrated society, in demand, and forces us to rethink architecture and with it its materials. It will no longer be worth the most spectacular, the most expensive or the highest building, it will also be necessary that the constructions are respectful with the planet, of quality and that consume little energy. The last excesses of construction in past years have done nothing more than underpin this thinking and now architecture seems to be called upon to command that shift towards sustainability.
Taking into account that, as we mentioned in a recent post, cement and steel, the main construction materials nowadays, are expensive and expensive from the environmental and energy point of view, what will be the materials that we use in the constructions of the future? It is possible that some of them already exist, the possibilities are increasingly wider but will any be able to replace brick, cement or steel? In this post we collect 7 very interesting materials that we may find in the architecture of the near future.
The synthetic tiles of the company GR Green are made of recycled plastics and limestone, are sustainable and around 50% cheaper than traditional ones. They have a lifespan of more than 50 years and are then 100% recyclable.
Another option is the photovoltaic roof tiles, which we talked about in a previous post, in this case it is a more expensive product than the traditional one, but it ends up being profitable thanks to the energy generated.
PANELS OF FIBERS AND COMPOSITES
These materials are a good alternative for enclosures, interior divisions and roofs. In Spain, an interesting option is Compoplak, a product of the Alicante company Grupo Valero. These are panels formed by a combination of kevlar, fiberglass and carbon fiber that are 30% cheaper and 3 times more resistant than a traditional brick partition. It is a synthetic material, so it is immune to rodents and insects and this also makes it have a longer lifespan. Of course, it is efficient and totally ecological. It is insulating, resulting in energy savings of up to 50%, produces 100 times less waste than brick and is 100% recyclable.
It seems that we are determined to replace the traditional brick in favor of any other material that is cheaper, more efficient and that contaminates the minimum in its production. Of course, the brick, like the tiles, seems to continue to have the same shape and surely the same size. What is certain is that there are already several alternative solutions to the brick of cooked clay of all life, some are treatments of recycled glass or plastic and others start from natural presses as compressed earth.
One of the options is Durabric, a brick that is made by mixing water, earth and cement, compressing the mixture in a mold and letting it set naturally, without fire. With this process, up to 14 trees can be saved for each house built since wood is not used as fuel in the manufacture of brick. By avoiding the cooking process, Durabric reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to ten times compared to traditional baked bricks. As for the cost, building a wall with Durabric is 20% cheaper than with clay bricks.
Another of the most interesting examples is Biomason, an ecological brick that, although it seems incredible, is generated from microorganisms. It is an ecological alternative that does not release CO2 in its production and that is more economical, since it comes from natural resources. The Biomason brick is created at room temperature, feeding the microorganisms with materials such as sand and generating conditions in which they begin to produce crystals until, finally, they give rise to a brick.
In a recent post we have already talked about wood as a material that is very suitable for sustainable construction, provided it comes from responsible felling. But not only that, the MGA architecture studio and the DVVD engineering have developed massive panels of wood, which can be up to 2.40 x 20 meters and in various thicknesses, and can be used directly as structural material. These are contralateral panels, formed by layers of wood arranged longitudinally and transversely, glued together, forming solid wood plates.
Without going any further, in Lleida, the Altermateria company has built a 6-storey building with these wooden plates. In addition, since wood is better insulator than concrete, these buildings have a better thermal behavior and are more energy efficient. Of course, the use of wood panels and their derivatives is not limited only to the structure of buildings but can be extended to interior partitions, facades, etc.
RESINS AND SELF-REPAIRING CONCRETE
Not all fields of research are focused exclusively on sustainability and energy efficiency. The University of Alicante has recently presented a transparent and flexible resin able to self-repair after being cut with scissors. Simply put the two parts in contact to rejoin it in about 15 seconds. In addition, it also has shape memory, so whether it is crushed or manipulated, it regains its original shape in a few seconds. It is a material that is still experimental but that could have multiple applications in construction, such as in enclosures, building joints or even combined with other materials.
Along the same path have been researchers from the Technological University of Delft that has developed a bio-concrete capable of self-repair. The process is reminiscent of the Biomason bricks. It consists of introducing into the concrete a new additive composed of small capsules containing bacteria and calcium lactate, when the capsules are broken (by the action of water that penetrates the cracks) the activity causes a chemical reaction that creates solidified limestone and insoluble. In the event of cracks in the concrete, this process would be activated that would fill and repair them. This bio-concrete has already been successfully tested at a lifeguard station in the Netherlands.
Energy efficiency in construction is becoming little by little an obsession. Solar paint is still in development but, at the University of Sheffield, they have created the first spray capable of transforming any type of surface into a solar energy panel thanks to a mineral called perovskite, which has the property of absorbing light. Its efficiency is 20% compared to 25% achieved by silicon solar panels, but this lower efficiency makes up for it with its easy application on practically any surface imaginable. Another advantage is the ability to generate power even in low light conditions and lower cost than the photovoltaic panel. Undoubtedly this painting would eliminate many barriers when it comes to the implementation of photovoltaic systems.
Many of these materials are already available but are either unknown or do not generate enough confidence in architects and builders. Although for now nobody forces us to use new materials or construction systems, it seems that the future of architecture, construction and all materials and systems involved is linked to accessibility for all, sustainability and respect for the environment.