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Green Integrated Structural Elements for Retrofitting and New Construction of Buildings

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Innovative green building block to transform the construction sector

Through new technologies and strategies, EU-funded researchers developed prefabricated components through the reuse and recycling of waste construction materials and structures.

Climate Change and Environment

The EU’s construction industry is vital to the economy, providing millions of jobs and driving growth. Its expansion over the last decades, however, has led to an increase in the production of construction and demolition waste (CDW) that puts considerable pressure on the environment. CDW accounts for about 31 % of total EU waste production, consisting of several voluminous materials, such as concrete, which are heavy in nature. The EU-funded GREEN INSTRUCT project sought to develop a modular prefabricated building block that incorporated green wall technologies. Such a block, which is made up of a comprehensive and streamlined CDW supply chain and can be used for both new construction and renovation of buildings, is the first of its kind.

A spotlight on key achievements

Project coordinator and professor at Brunel University, London, Xiangming Zhou confirms: “Through novel material design and production methods, state-of-the-art numerical analysis and rigorous validation tests, the GREEN INSTRUCT consortium proved that massive volumes of CDW can be successfully reused to develop something that can improve construction.” The construction block consists of six integrated layers with structural performance that provides high levels of insulation, a comfortable healthy indoor environment, high aesthetic value and CO2 capture, amongst other features. “The project met and even exceeded the panel thermal performance requirements set out initially, providing a U-value of 0.14 W/m2 K. Furthermore, sound insulation performance computational analysis verified that the panel meets the sound insulation performance target of 57 dB,” explains Zhou. The panel is designed for easy and quick installation and is 30 % lighter than conventional enveloped walls of the same size. Installation during the project was estimated to be 600 % faster and could reach 800 % at the production stage. By integrating a vertical green wall, the panel is designed to contribute to on-site grey and storm water management, providing additional functionality. Zhou highlights: “The greatest and most significant impact that the project outcomes can make is the realisation of a building block containing more than 70 % by weight CDW uptake and with very high energy efficiency, that will ultimately contribute to a climate change-resilient construction economy.” Development of this panel could also play a vital role in future responses targeting sustainable expansion of the built environment and addressing rapid urbanisation and economic development. It can additionally strengthen the EU construction sector and building stocks as well as help the EU achieve its green transition goals.

Paving the way for future green technologies

Discussing next steps, Zhou reports: “The green wall developed in the project is close to product commercialisation. It has already secured new funding from the EU and is expected to be available on the market in the next 5 years.” Other promising technologies with a high potential for external/private investment are extruded aluminium profiles and unique PVC connectors produced using extrusion. “Project partners are expected to work together again in the near future on the basis of the latter technologies.” The project also established a central database of raw material characterisation, sample descriptions, relevant tasks, techniques and conditions, which will be open for sharing with other projects, stakeholders and researchers. “We may also request contributions from others to expand the database,” concludes Zhou.

Keywords

GREEN INSTRUCT, construction, CDW, building block, green wall, prefabricated, construction and demolition waste, waste recycling

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Climate Change and Environment

2 April 2014