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5 Unexpected Construction Materials [Video]










In an effort to offset the environmental impact by buildings, researchers and construction professionals have come up with a wide array of solutions to make them more sustainable. Read on to uncover 5 unexpected construction materials that could actually be used for sustainable construction - today and in the future.


1. Carrots for concrete

Let’s start with perhaps the most unusual construction material: carrots. A group of researchers at Lancaster University has conducted tests to see if particles from the vegetable could strengthen concrete. By mixing these particles with cement to strengthen concrete and prevent cracks, less cement would be required, lowering the carbon footprint of concrete as cement is responsible for a significant part of global CO2 emissions.

Engineering professor Mohamed Saafi explained the potential of the new material: “The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement. This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing.”


2. Car tire walls

In off-the-grid eco-construction projects called Earthships, car tires are being used as a stacking system for walls. These passive solar earth shelters are made of natural and upcycled materials and can be found across the globe. In addition to utilizing an otherwise waste product, these tire homes are designed to maximize energy efficiency. The ability of the earth-rammed tire walls to soak up and store heat during the day and radiate heat at night, facilitate a comfortable indoor climate. Examples of these structures can be found in New Mexico, Brighton, and Normandy.



You may also enjoy reading Sustainability: Finally at Home in Construction


3. Insulating with algae

For the Chinese city of Hangzhou, architects have designed a tower with a facade that’s covered with algae. This way, the building would not just contribute to the city’s greenness in the literal sense - the idea behind this ‘biofacade’ is that it absorbs carbon dioxide while it helps to insulate the structure. In Paris, a similar building has been designed with a bio facade that produces microalgae for medical research, called The Algo House.


4. Building with beer bottles

While beer bottles may still be far from a mainstream construction material, the two following projects demonstrate human ingenuity is key to coming up with alternative construction materials. You may have heard of a Japanese pub that has been built from 100 recycled materials, including newspapers and beer bottles. Here, beer bottles were recycled and used as chandeliers. You can check out the full video by the World Economic Forum here.



Another project that takes the use of beer bottles to the next level is the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple in Thailand: ‘the Temple of a Million Bottles’. Starting in 1984, a million bottles were collected by Buddhist monks for recycling purposes. Within 2 years, the eye-catching temple was built. Ever since, the monks have continued to use discarded bottles to expand the site, which now comprises over 20 buildings. Reportedly, the benefits of building with beer bottles are that they “do not lose their color, provide good lighting and are easy to clean.”


5. Newspaper homes

In the Japanese pub mentioned above, old newspapers were used to line the wall. While this project won an award for its sustainable design in 2016, old newspapers were already used almost 100 years ago to construct an entire house using thousands of papers. The idea behind the project was to use paper for its insulation properties. This Paper House is still standing and a popular tourist attraction in Rockport, Massachusetts.  


The future of construction

The projects listed above demonstrate human creativity and tribute to a sustainable way of life. But will they remain just that - remarkable buildings raising environmental awareness? Or will these construction materials truly lead the way to a sustainable future? Let us know your thoughts!


 Is your firm ready for the future of construction? Take a look at our free guide Adopt or Die: Why Adopt Tech Trends in a Competitive Construction Market?


About the Author

Anne-Mieke Dekker is a content marketer at Stabiplan B.V., a Trimble company offering BIM solutions for the MEP industry. Her aim is to provide MEP engineers with the right information to optimize their BIM workflow and ultimately realize better building installations.

Profile Photo of Anne-Mieke Dekker