A nation’s progress and economic well-being is inextricably linked to future construction activity. Yet, environmental concerns are today leading to questions on how construction can align with imperatives of sustainability. Happily, new research is helping the construction sector to look at alternatives beyond the traditional modes.
Given rapid urbanisation, a pragmatic approach is to explore new technology in the construction industry to mitigate the impact of commercial construction.
The building and construction industry is a capital-intensive industry with a pronounced, and perhaps perennial, mismatch between supply and demand of construction material. Poor quality of material or workmanship add to costs of the sector. Therefore, innovations and improvements in material science hold a lot of promise for futuristic building material for this industry.
Some innovative and new-generation building materials have emerged for the industry to consider and adopt. Each of the applications, over a period, will establish its popularity for mass usage in construction worldwide.
With wood being vulnerable to fire and weakness over time, mass timber, which is solid wood panelised and cross-laminated or glue-laminated for strength, is emerging as a viable construction material. It is not only fire resistant, but also stronger and easier to use.
From a maintenance point of view, self-healing cement is yet another exciting possibility. Small, water-permeable capsules when mixed into wet concrete, upon drying, exist in suspended animation. When water enters a crack in the concrete, through a chemical reaction, calcite forms from the capsules and fills up the cracks to prevent further damage. This could help in huge sums being saved in repair and maintenance.
Presently, indoor air quality requires energy to filter the air. The innovation of air cleaning bricks uses bricks on the outside of buildings to filter out the heavier particles in the air as it enters indoors.
These help remove about a third of fine particulate matter and 100% of coarse particles.
Strand Rods is yet another exciting material suited to seismic zones. A combination of thermoplastic carbon fibre composite covered in inorganic and synthetic fibres and with a finish of thermoplastic resin, these rods are five times lighter than metal wire, thereby providing a remarkably light, yet strong seismic reinforcement system.
Passive Cooling Ceramics are the answer to air-conditioning affecting global carbon emissions. Building facades are now often being made of a ceramic comprising of clay composite and hydrogel that cools buildings much the same way our skin cools our bodies. This innovation holds great promise of savings and reduction of carbon emission.
Even discarded trash is being recycled and converted into building material. Scrap metal, cardboard, and plastic bottles are helping build with smaller carbon footprints. Bricks are being made from cigarette butts. Recycled cardboard is being used for insulation.
India too can contribute to this change with its own unique, local unconventional products and adaptations. The Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) has identified 27 types of such agro-industrial products and by-products as viable construction material. Some with the most potential include bamboo corrugated sheets, rice husk ash concrete which can be used as an admixture for concrete, plastic bricks and bagasse particle boards which can considerably reduce the use of concrete, wood and other traditional resources.
The potential is enormous and promising. There is a plethora of choices from the local, traditional to the modern, recently-discovered material. A combination of the traditional and the modern which is environmentally sound can help establish a cost and energy-efficient building process.