We humans, occupants of the habitat we call The World, find ourselves in a predicament – confronted by a changing environment, we must adapt and do so quickly, achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 (See Ed Mazria’s 2030 Challenge). Advocates of biomimicry point to nature, with 3.8 billion years of R&D, as a source for cost-effective, low-energy strategies. I recently read about the “Ripe Chair,” a project by Andreas Konradsen, part of the DON’T RUN OUT exhibit held in Paris this week, where a steel frame chair was submerged in salt water to naturally weld the joints.
This process recalls one the Romans used in the production of concrete – they compacted volcanic ash and lime in forms submerged in sea water. The mix, when in contact with sea water, underwent a chemical reaction to form concrete more durable than today’s.
Those of us architects focussed on sustainability think a lot about creating zero-energy use buildings. The energy that goes into the production of materials used in buildings is equally important with the embodied energy associated with materials attributed to many years of a building’s life cycle costs.
Among the many materials buildings employ, concrete is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases (an estimated at 7%). The Roman’s knew how to produce low-energy concrete, how is it we continue to produce high-energy Portland Cement when there are solutions? Research into alternatives, such as Belite Cement, is underway and Drexel University has produced a low-energy concrete. There are other researchers exploring low-energy solutions. Once these alternatives are on the market, I’m hoping the building industry can move quickly embrace the DON’T RUN OUT philosophy to integrate these technologies into new construction.