Building materials composed of building rubble and plant waste could make the construction industry more sustainable, according to a team from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research.

The materials, which were developed as part of the ReMatBuilt project at the institute, are a combination of demolition waste and plant production residue. Specifically, the team used a combination of concrete and masonry waste, as well as agricultural waste, including plant-based natural fibers such as flax and wood chips from forestry and turned it into recycled concrete. The team also used ash from burnt rice husks as a cement substitute.

Source: Fraunhofer WKISource: Fraunhofer WKI

Further, the research team also developed insulation material composed of plant-based waste products including sawdust, rice and wheat straw, instead of commonly used crude oil-based plastic, mineral and glass wool, or wood fibers. The team suggests that insulation boards can connect to the finished concrete components to create insulated walls.

Efforts are also underway to develop composite systems that enable recycled concrete, in combination with laminated veneer and cross-laminated lumber, to be transformed into timber-concrete composite floor slabs.

Although the goal of the program is to transform the building sector — which is one of the world’s largest consumers of natural resources as well as a producer of significant amounts of waste — into a more sustainable sector, the researchers are also exploring how the waste material could be used in warzones.

“Our work has the potential to make a significant contribution to the reconstruction of Ukraine,” the researchers explained. “The country is also rich in natural resources and one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural raw materials, such as grains — wheat, corn and rice.”

The team concluded: “We are currently working hard on putting our results into application. With local industrial partners, we can significantly help the people in Ukraine to reconstruct their country quickly, economically and sustainably. We can do this with recycled concrete components and corresponding insulation made of natural materials that are all abundantly available on location.”

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