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6 Unique, Sustainable Innovations in Construction Materials

6 Unique, Sustainable Innovations in Construction Materials


In an effort to reduce carbon emissions that come from construction, a number companies have created innovative building materials that could be more environmentally friendly than traditional ones.

Transparent wood
Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic. When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable.

Bamboo-reinforced concrete
As a natural replacement of steel for reinforcing concrete, bamboo is gentler on the planet without compromising on durability. Bamboo-reinforced concrete also allows for better earthquake resistance. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it can easily be regenerated while simultaneously absorbing CO2.

Super-hydrophobic cement
Recently, scientists have found a way to alter cement’s microstructure in a way that makes it absorb and reflect light. This finding has led to the creation of super-hydrophobic cement, or luminescent cement, which could replace traditional street lights and the energy they consume. Plus, this form of cement is more durable than conventional cement and could last up to 100 years compared to just 30 to 50 years.

Breathe Bricks
A few years ago, architect Carmen Trudell started researching the air quality problems in Cairo, and that resulted in the creation of the Breathe Brick. Inspired by the treatment her brother received for kidney failure, Trudell started wondering if she could produce a building component that filters toxins. Trudell and her team “came up with the idea of putting a cyclone inside of the exterior wall” by developing the Breathe Brick. When using Breathe Bricks to build a wall, the faceted surface of the bricks pulls outside air into ports, then the cyclone filter spins the air and gets rid of particulate matter that causes pollution.

Synthetic spider silk
With spider silk being one of the toughest natural materials on Earth, scientists all over the world have been trying to duplicate it. 3D printing has changed the game in the world of synthetic spider silk, and it could create a product made from water, silica and cellulose that is “stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

This could change multiple industries like textiles, construction, automobiles and medical devices.

LED and OLED lighting
Lighting a commercial or residential building takes a lot of energy. So, over the past decade, LED (light emitting diode) and OLED (organic light emitting diode) have entered the marketplace to drastically reduce the amount of energy used to light up structures.

Not only do LEDs use just 10 percent of the energy used by incandescent lighting and 50 percent of fluorescent lights, but they also last 40 times longer.

The advantages of OLEDs are the slim size and the transparent material, allowing for natural lighting during the day before they light up at night.

As technology continues to advance and materials change, the cost of LED and OLED should fall, making them both affordable and energy-efficient.

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