Plastic bottles are probably inside more buildings than we’d care to know about, as I’ve personally (and unfortunately) been on enough job sites to see way too many bottles thrown around the job site, outside of trash containers. A large percentage of the bottles that are lucky enough to make it in a dumpster, end up in a landfill where it takes them an estimated 500 years to fully decompose! In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our nation’s landfills, one startup company is hoping to turn recycled plastic into the next green construction material.
ByFusion has come up with a mobile process to be able to turn plastics into usable building blocks that mimic the size and shape of a typical CMU block, which they call RePlast. The company can turn 6 of the 7 types of plastics into the building material, with the exception on #6 plastic, due to lack of structural integrity. The ByFusion machine, which converts the plastic into the blocks is completely mobile and can be hauled by a flatbed truck or as a shipping container. Since it’s mobile, ByFusion hopes to send the machines around the country and allow foremen to operate them themselves after an initial training session. Based on the needs for each jobsite, the unit can be operated by either gas or electric and the shape and density of the block can be fully customized. Even the water that is used for the process is recycled and filtered through the machine and can last up to 10-16 weeks before filters need to be changed.
Supported by rebar, RePlast blocks stack on top of each other and do not require glues and adhesives, contributes 95% less greenhouse gas emissions than concrete, and has a high thermal and acoustic insulation rating. According to Mental Floss, ByFusion is only recommending the blocks right now for small load applications, as the plastic cannot hold nearly as large a load as concrete can. It’s also recommended that the walls are clad in mortar to increase UV protection and fire rating. The company will formally conduct ASTM fire rating testing on the product soon. The machine and the blocks are not being sold yet, but the company does have an IndieGogo page to raise money for their first project, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and to complete testing to make RePlast an approved building material, upgrade the pilot ByFusion machine, and expand manufacturing capabilities.
Check out ByFusion's video below:
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
One of the most challenging issues with modular construction, of any kind, is the sheer size and weight of many of the components that need to be transported and lifted in place once onsite. That presents a specifically tough situation for jobsites that are not easy to get to. Arup, a design, engineering, and consulting team in the United Kingdom, has developed and successfully implemented what they say is the “world’s first modular glass-fiber, reinforced polymer bridge.” You may remember Arup from their testing of a “living wall” scaffolding cover that we wrote about last year.
Snow causes all kinds of travel nightmares and not just on the roads. Snow and ice can cause major airline delays and flight cancellations. Because of these issues (and the large amounts of money to be gained by solving them) several different groups of researchers have been hard at work figuring out ways to reduce and remove snow and ice from pavement without the need for chemicals and snow plows. The first technology to get a full scale test slab installed at an American airport, however, came from Iowa State University professor Halil Ceylan.
Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand for a while (forgive the pun right out of the gate), but I've recently found out that the world is suffering from a shortage of sand. The New York Times reports that the increasing demand of sand from manufacturing and construction in combination with rising sea levels and human development of shores is reaching crisis levels. Sand is used in plenty of construction activities, from mortar to concrete to brick and asphalt. We use a LOT of it. In fact, concrete production takes a whopping 80 percent of all the sand that is mined. So what can we do? One company says the answer is to drink more beer.
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.
3D printing technology faces major issues when it is required to leave the shelter of a warehouse and step foot on a construction job site. 3D printers are extremely large, heavy, and rely on precise calibration for accuracy. Even the first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which was completed last year, had to actually have its components printed off site and assembled on site. But, Apis Cor, a 3D printing company, believes it has created the technology to print a full structure completely on site.
The concept of solar roadways has been in the news a lot recently. Using the millions of miles of roadways throughout the world to also create power seems like a no brainer, the asphalt and concrete we’re using now aren’t really accomplishing anything more than handling the traffic on the road. But, there’s also a very strong reason why those products are used: they’re strong, reliable, and relatively durable. Still, many researchers believe there is a lot of unharnessed potential for roads and the world now has a very strong test subject for the future of solar roadways in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France.
3D printed construction has been on top of the news the past few years, but we have yet to truly see many real world applications of the process. Last year, Dubai unveiled a completed 3D printed office building, which they say was built in only 19 days, but news has been pretty slow until the world’s first 3D printed bridge was completed recently.
It’s no secret that the United States dominates when it comes to LEED certified construction projects. The US actually has more total gross square meters and number of LEED projects than the the other top 10 countries combined, by almost 3 times, totaling 336.84 million gross square meters over 27,699 LEED projects! China, Canada, and India are ranked number 2, 3, and 4, respectively.
The US Green Building Council recently released their annual top 10 list of states for LEED construction in 2016.