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H-House Report Summary

Project ID: 608893
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Sweden

Periodic Report Summary 2 - H-HOUSE (Healthier Life with Eco-innovative Components for Housing Constructions)

Project Context and Objectives:
In recent years, significant efforts have been undertaken to reduce the CO2 emissions associated to the building sector. As the population increases, more buildings are required and thus more natural resources and energy are consumed during construction and operation. Coupled to the necessity to reduce the energy consumption, buildings are becoming heavily insulated and airtight leading to deterioration of the indoor environment. As people spend more and more time indoors, the occupant’s health, wellbeing and productivity is greatly affected.
The project H-House, “Healthier Life with Eco-innovative Components for Housing Constructions”, aims to develop a number of multifunctional and flexible components for the building envelope and internal walls, for new buildings and renovation (Fig.1). Strongly focused on environmental aspects (such as reduced embodied energy and carbon footprint) and human comfort (thermal and acoustic), the main objectives are the durability and energy-efficiency of materials and components and a healthier indoor environment by preventing the accumulation pollutants and reducing noise.
Technically the project aims to develop lightweight facade elements based on Textile Reinforced Concrete (TRC) and Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC). These elements have an integrated non-flammable insulation based on Foam Concrete (FC) containing aerogels and Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) optimized with regards to the use of resources and embodied energy. Outside, photocatalytic and hydrophobic surfaces will contribute to the reduction of pollutants and prevention of harmful microbiological growth as well as towards easy-to-clean/self-cleaning facades. Inside, the use of natural materials together with aerogels, will improve temperature and moisture control as well as reduce the air pollution by absorption and photocatalytic decomposition of VOC’s.
The project consists of seven work packages (WP), where WP2 to WP5 are of technical and scientific content: WP2 is dedicated to material development; WP3 to the design of building components; WP4 to modelling the performance of the materials and components and WP5 to production technologies. WP6 is entirely dedicated to life cycle assessment and the impact of the materials on human health, while WP7 is dedicated to dissemination activities, market analysis and business plan.

Project Results:
During the 2nd period of the project (M18-M36) the work focused on the final optimization of the individual materials in WP2 as well as the combination of the developed materials into components in WP3. The mechanical and physical properties of the various materials and components were characterized and modelled as a part of WP3 and WP4, respectively. WP5 involved the preliminary planning of the demonstrators. WP6 focused on the development of a database and iterative LCA assessments to aid in the design of the components. Lastly, WP7 encompassed the ongoing dissemination and exploitation of the project results.
Significant progress was made with respect to the development of modified earthen plasters in WP2 such that suitable shrinkage and strength properties were achieved along with a 100% improvement in water vapour adsorption compared to the base earth plaster. The adhesive strength, abrasion, as well as scaling up will be verified in the upcoming period.
TRC was further optimized by means of incorporating an epoxy coated carbon textile reinforcement which proved to have superior mechanical properties verified through flexural, tensile and pull-out tests. The upscaling of the concrete recipe for TRC was also accomplished during this period.
For the final development of FC, the basic mix composition was optimized in terms of workability and reduced setting time. The incorporation of polymeric fibres was found to further improve the flexural capacity, shrinkage, cracking and handling properties of the material. Furthermore, the inclusion of the modified aerogel granulate allowed to reduce the thermal conductivity of the foam concrete from 40 to 30 mW/(m·K) at a density of approximately 120 kg/m3.
The developed of UHPC was further optimized such that different binder compositions were investigated on a basis of physical and mechanical properties. The requirements on the compressive strength (> 100 MPa after 28 days) were generally fulfilled by the tested UHPC types. From durability tests, it was found that two binder blends composed of fine cement (one grey and one white), fine and ultra-fine slag, limestone powder and synthetic oxides, had the best overall performance and were further applied in WP3.
Water vapour adsorption testing was carried out for a large number of natural buildings materials. For earth plasters, the incorporation of aerogels allowed an improvement of almost 100% in the water vapour adsorption capacity. These tests form the basis for the development of innovative internal partition walls in WP3 as well as hygrothermal simulations in WP4.
Guidelines for production technology of partition walls (Fig.2) were established. An eco-design tool for the assessment and comparison of material options and internal partitions variants was established according to LCA and LCC results. The development of innovative solutions for eco-friendly, low carbon, low-emitting internal partition walls with high climate control capacities is close to finalization.
TRC-FC composite elements consisting of a 30 mm TRC outer layer, 150 mm FC insulating layer and a 50 mm TRC inner layer were cast at a large-scale (Fig.3). Glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) connector systems were designed and optimized for the TRC-FC elements by means of structural experiments (Fig.4) and modelling (WP4). Through experimental investigation at various levels (material, composite, and component), the structural behaviour of the composite elements was characterized and used to verify the developed models in WP4.
UHPC-FC/AAC sandwich elements have been developed and scaled-up. A comprehensive experimental study on the mechanical behaviour of the composite elements and associated anchorage details was conducted (Fig.5). The two step casting technique established for UHPC-AAC was found to be a reliable to produce the half elements via experimental testing.
The hygrothermal performance of the UHPC-ACC and TRC-FC composite elements was modelled for varying climate conditions. For the TRC-FC panel (thickness 230 mm), the overall thermal transmittance including point thermal bridges was found to be 0.26 W/(m2·K), while only for the panel without point thermal bridges was 0.20 W/(m2·K). As for the UHPC-AAC/FC panels (thickness 380 mm), had very low thermal transmittance values of about 0.12 W/(m2·K) and 0.11 W/(m2·K), respectively. The hygrothermal performance of the different internal walls is still under analysis.
Furthermore, finite element modelling approaches were presented to support the design of the TRC-FC and UHPC-AAC/FC elements according to varying loading scenarios. From the analyses, various parameters could be verified such as suitable panel thickness, reinforcement ratios and embedment lengths for connectors.
WP5 had an early start in order to perform preliminary design of the mock-ups and to establish the location and building permits for the demonstration sites. Two demonstration sites have been decided upon, namely 1) ITB premises in Warsaw, Poland and 2) Buzzi cement plant in Trino, Italy.
A database including 60 datasets of materials incorporated in the H-House components was developed. A screening assessment and related interpretation led to promising preliminary LCA findings for both TRC-FC and UHPC-AAC/FC. The adaptation of the assumptions and quality of the data for internal walls is ongoing to yield more accurate and consistent results.
As substantial project results became available, dissemination activities subsequently increased in WP7 as a result. The dissemination and exploitation plans, the project website and the project flyer were updated according to actual project findings and work progress. Considerable amounts of results were also disseminated through various technical and popular science publications. National workshops were organized in Germany, Sweden and Poland to disseminate results to relevant local audiences. As a final point, specific information guides for internal and external courses were developed.

Potential Impact:
The H-House façade elements and interior walls/partitions have a number of advantages with direct technical, economic, environmental and social impacts.
The use of TRC and UHPC as a material for the outer (and inner panels) means that thin and lightweight elements can be designed. This is an advantage also in terms of production, transport and assembly due to simpler, faster and safer processes. The substitution of steel by textile reinforcement as well as the high levels of replacement of Portland cement clinker by fly ash strongly contributes to the reduction of the embodied energy. The superior durability of these materials extends the service life and limits maintenance, for example by avoiding corrosion of the reinforcement.
The energy efficiency of the H-House solutions is guaranteed first by defining ambitious requirements, then by using materials that are highly insulative and finally by effectively combining these materials in the form of a composite system.
With regards to thermal performance, the H-House materials present a number of advantages. First, the use of cementitious based insulation materials guarantees fire safety; the materials are non-flammable and thus do not release toxic fumes. Then, the use of very little amounts of cement (FC) as well as the use of alternative binders (AAC) reduces the embodied energy when compared to traditional insulation materials. Thirdly, the use of aerogels produced from cheaper silica sources and by ambient pressure drying reduces the energy consumption and thus production costs as well as embodied energy. Finally, the choice of almost impermeable (surface treated) materials for the outer and inner panels, guarantees very little moisture transport from the outside and thus the effectiveness of the insulation, with direct impact on operational costs.
Human comfort and health are major concerns within the H-House project and the implemented solutions target these aspects through the use of eco-efficient building materials. The moisture buffering capacity of earth plasters and wood fibre boards is explored to control the relative humidity indoors within optimal comfort levels and this way also minimize mould growth. In addition, careful selection of non-emitting materials and incorporation of aerogels will reduce emissions and absorb pollutants such as formaldehyde and VOC’s. The high degree of prefabrication, flexibility and recyclability increases the economic efficiency and reduces the embodied energy.

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