‘Green concrete’ concept wins major award
Revolutionary product will change building industry and cut CO2 emissions, says professor
A project piloted at the University of Bradford to create ‘green concrete’ which vastly reduces CO2 production has won a major award.
The project to create ‘demountable’ concrete blocks has won its category in this year’s Newton Prize Fund awards. The Newton Fund develops science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of collaborating countries.
The environmentally friendly reusable interlocking blocks could change the building industry forever and prevent millions of tons of CO2 from being pumped into the atmosphere.
“This award will advance the research project a significant step in terms of the environmental benefits as well as the impact and visibility of the research. We are planning to enhance the greenness of developed construction and demolition waste-based geopolymer concrete through new-generation CO2 capturing. The main aim here is to eliminate high levels of unavoidable CO2 to protect human health, natural ecosystems and the global economy.”
He described the ‘green concrete’ premise as nothing short of revolutionary.
“This is a complete change in the way we think of structures. We are developing a new structural system whereby you can de-mount individual concrete units, so you will not have to demolish buildings in future. You will simply take them apart and reuse them. Demolition results in depletion of materials and a great deal is sent to landfill. New concrete is also a major source of CO2. Our technique is a completely new approach.
“Cement is responsible for at least five per cent of CO2 emissions. Our project uses construction and demolition waste (CDW), so we will save dumping all this in landfill. We are going to recycle this and produce a geopolymer binder in a far less energy intensive technique.”
Prof Ashour said the technique would be quicker, cheaper and faster than traditional building techniques and would enable robust structures to be built. The process, which is being tested in the UK and Turkey, involves using existing demolition waste bound together with a geopolymer to create interlocking blocks which can then be used to make columns, beams and slabs.
The geopolymeric concrete has a compressive strength of 52 MPa (megapascals). It is also about 45 per cent cheaper to manufacture and because it uses demolition waste to produce geopolymer binder as well as aggregates, it effectively reduces CO2 emissions.
The project could have massive implications both in the UK and abroad. For example, Turkey plans to demolish a third of its building stock (some 6.4m buildings) by 2040 and currently has no viable means of dealing with the amount of CDW this would create.
Prof Ashour said a detailed full-scale field demonstration was being planned to showcase the project’s global application and significance.
Professor Mustafa Sahmaran, from Hacettepe University, Turkey, said: “The construction industry is a huge contributor to climate change. Our circular economy approach aims to drastically reduce waste, bring down CO2 emissions and reduce environmental damage, while ensuring construction demands can be met.”
In the UK, in 2014, DEFRA reported 202.8m tons of waste, 59 per cent of which was CDW, which is costly to dispose of. In 2016, the total rose to 221m tonnes, 62 per cent being CDW.
'Green concrete' is a British Council-funded project, which was shortlisted for the Newton Fund Prize 2020. The concept has also won EU Horizon 2020 fund (MSCA-IF), starting in 2021 for two years, to progress the development beyond the current achievement.
Prof Ashour added the project would open doors for collaborations with industry professionals, governmental agencies and research organizations, creating an expert network within the UK.
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014-2020), in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. The project is currently funded with £240,000, with £140,000 to be spent in the UK and £100,000 in Turkey). Further funding of €224,000 was also awarded by the EU Horizon 2020 fund (Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions) to sponsor one fellowship in Bradford.