_Carlos Gris / Rimsha Kidwai / Claudia Rivera
With the world focussing in on eco solutions, it is crucial to tackle one of the hidden villains of the world’s environment decline – Concrete. Made primarily of water, sand and cement – concrete is responsible for 8% of the CO2 produced around the world, with cement being the main offender. We joined the many engineers and architects around the world – setting about to find 3 waste or excess materials, native to the UAE, to replace them. Read Down.
Alternative #1 – Water to Brine. The first material we decided to displace was water. Why use perfectly drinkable water in the construction of houses, when there is so much waste water being pumped in to the oceans? With the world heating up, the process of ‘desalination’ (making seawater drinkable) is becoming more common. This process comes with a nasty by-product called Brine – which is a type of heavily salted water that is pumped back in to the oceans and is destroying water eco-systems as we speak. This is the logical replacement for water, however the salt is evidently a weakening agent for concrete. Read Down.
Alternative #2 – Coarse Sand to Desert Sand. Coarse sand is not in excess and requires time and carbon footprint to manufacture and therefore its use in construction should be minimised. Covering large portions of the globe is desert sand, and efforts must be divised for it to replace coarse sand. However, the finer the sand the weaker the concrete bond. Read Down.
Alternative #3 – Cement to ??? – Cement has the biggest carbon footprint in the construction industry, but is also the most effective material at acting as a bonding agent, glueing the sand and water together. We ordered Bitumen, which is a bi-product of the oil refinery industry, and also Ferrock, FlyAsh, Mico-Silica and GGBFS, which are all a bi-products from the metal industry. Read Down.
We were greeted with mixed results – Some resulting in very hard wearing and useable concrete through to very brittle and useless produce. Each piece had its own individual beauty, with the salt and bi-products creating unique textures. Whilst we are in need of scientific input, our results fill us with optimism that this will be possible. We can now set about making household products from this excess or waste materials of the UAE. They will no doubt last for hundreds of years, but will also unfortunately not be permissible for use in the construction industry. This experiment joins many similar ongoing experiments, and we can remain confident that within a decade we will find a solution. We really have no choice.