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By James Galvin
October 22, 2017
There is a lot of talk about carbon neutral buildings with solar panels that produce enough electricity on a day-to-day basis to power the entire house, but what about the materials that these buildings are constructed from? Traditionally, bio-materials would be materials such as mud, hay, and clay. Now, scientists and engineers are developing a new wave of construction materials that can be recycled, upcycled, and reused, turning the construction industry on its head.
Although these materials haven’t necessarily been given the full go ahead for mainstream construction, especially in a place as isolated as Australia, there has been significant milestones reached, in the hope to create a circular economy of building resources.
Hempcrete is a construction material that was previously used centuries ago by Roman and Japanese cultures for the restoration and construction of traditional buildings. The recipe, adopted by Hempcrete Australia and being used in in various construction projects, is based on the basic mixture of lime, hemp, and water.
When combined, these ingredients create a material that doesn’t crack severely under movement. What is more, it is only a seventh of the weight of traditional concrete and can repair itself thanks to lime’s ability to heal cracks when coming in contact with water.
Invented by Mieke Meijer, a Norwegian Design Academy graduate, NewspaperWood is wood-like material created from upcycling old newspapers. The process involves collecting unsold newspapers and feeding them through a specially developed machine that glues and compresses the paper.
When finished, NewspaperWood can be cut, sanded and manipulated just like any other wood. When the material is cut, the layers of paper along with the ink and colours creates what appears to be a wood grain, offering a visually unique construction resource.
Plastic bags are notoriously difficult to recycle and widely known for their overwhelmingly negative impact on the environment. Gert de Mulder, the designer and creator of Recy-blocks decided to make use of this plastic epidemic and design a unique block material out of heated, compressed and moulded plastic bags, incorporating colours to create images within each block.
Although unable to bear heavy loads due to their light weight, these coloured bricks offer a distinct alternative to traditional materials when dividing rooms, building sitting elements, and fashioning DIY furniture.
Although the name is a little misleading, mushroom walls (or mushroom insulation) is a significant scientific step in biodegradable insulation. The roots of a mushroom, known as Mycelium, often found in rotting organisms, offer an insulation that can organically grow to any desired shape or size within just a few days. Once the necessary growth is complete, simply heating the insulation panel in the likes of an oven will stop any future swelling and offer an entirely biodegradable and environmentally friendly insulation panel, in comparison to the traditional, non-biodegradable, and sometimes poisonous, previously used insulation.
Kokoboard Peanut Shell
After a harvest, peanut farmers currently burn valueless peanut shell waste, producing harmful CO2 emissions. However, through the simple process of heated compression and adhesive, this peanut shell waste can be transformed into a biocomposite particle board that resists moisture and heat. Thanks to this innovative process, farmers are able to increase revenue through the sales of peanut shells, encouraging agricultural nurturing rather than deforestation, and generating a material able to be use in ceilings, floors, walls, and furniture.
Organic and non-organic waste is consistently being refigured and compounded into bricks and boards to be used in day-to-day construction and DIY projects, often incentivised by governments and environmental groups. With more than 14 million tonnes of organic waste alone produced in Australia in 2010, there is an ever-growing amount of material to be reclaimed.
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