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:
Concrete can adapt to any shape its formwork calls for while it’s being placed. While it’s POSSIBLE to make intricate designs with the material, it’s not always easy or practical to do so. Researchers from ETH Zurich have designed a new method of forming and placing an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof system that they plan on installing on a construction project next year.
As electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular around the world, researchers are trying to find ways to adapt the technology to heavier duty applications. Due to the large size of projects and amount of money in the industry, the mining industry has seen its fair share of technological advancement. Several manufacturers, like Komatsu, have developed and released driverless dump trucks for mining operations in the past few years. A team of companies in Switzerland is now working on a gigantic battery powered dump truck that will be tested for 10 years.
Rapid growth and the industrialization are the major contributors to China’s noted air quality issues. 4 years ago, the Chinese government issued a “war on pollution” aiming to improve air quality and reduce other environmental hazards, such as land and water contamination. Air quality is at its worst in the winter months across the country, due to households relying more on coal power to heat residents’ homes.
Asphalt is one of the world’s most popular pavement materials. Because of that, researchers and scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve upon it. Additives have been included in some asphalt mixes for years to improve strength, but recently researchers have been getting pretty clever with the types of additives they’re testing.
As great as a product as asphalt is, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement. Scientists all over the world are trying to solve its most common issues, such as potholes, cracking, ice build-up, and storm water drainage. Los Angeles is now tackling another issue with the material: heat island effect.
In March of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin taking orders on their Solar Roof Shingle concept. Tesla Solar Roof is a solar power roof system that eliminates the need for bulky solar panels installed over top of traditional roof materials. Instead, the shingles themselves, which come in a variety of different styles, are the solar panels.
At the company’s second quarter earnings report, Tesla announced that the first solar roof installations have been completed.
Standard vertical elevators have had it too good, for too long. After the first cable dependent elevator was unveiled in 1857, not much has changed in the elevator industry. They’re still using cable systems and still only going up and down. But not anymore. ThyssenKrupp has officially made a multi-directional elevator a reality.
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.