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Concrete Blooms a Mossy Façade

Friday, January 18, 2013

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Concrete generally doesn’t remind us of lush, green gardens.

But a group of Spanish researchers has set out to change that mindset. They have developed a "biological concrete" that can grow algae, moss, lichen and fungi to create a living façade.

No green thumb is necessary.

biological concrete building
Photos: UPC

Buildings can grow green with the new biological concrete, according to the researchers.

The team from Barcelona’s Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) says the new building material is a low-maintenance option to the current vegetated façade and vertical garden systems out there, because it supports biological growth on its own and does not require complex support structures.

Multi-layered Concoction

Biological concrete is just your conventional concrete—carbonated concrete and concrete made with magnesium phosphate cement—that’s been altered in terms of its pH balance, porosity and roughness, according to UPC's Structural Technology Group, which is heading the research.

The resulting four-layer concrete panel features a waterproofing layer, a structural layer, a biological layer (that captures and stores rainwater), and a coating layer that lets in the rainwater and stops it from leaving.

biological concrete

The team calls the four-layer concrete ideal for Mediterranean climates.

The biological layer, i.e. where the magic happens, facilitates the development of biological organisms with its internal microstructure, the team says.

The material is recommended for new construction as well as renovated structures in Mediterranean climates.

Budding Benefits

The new material offers environmental, thermal and aesthetic advantages, according to the research team.

“From an environmental perspective, the new concrete absorbs and therefore reduces atmospheric CO2, thanks to its biological coating,” the researchers said.

It also has the capacity to capture solar radiation, making it possible to regulate thermal conductivity inside the structure depending on the temperature reached.

The biological concrete also acts as an ornamental alternative. It can be used to decorate the façade of buildings or surface of constructions with different “finishes” and shades of color, UPC says.

There’s no need to cover the entire façade, either. The material is designed for the colonization of certain areas.

Make the Garden Grow

While they have a patent, the UPC researchers are still investigating how to make the concrete garden grow at a faster pace.

The end goal, they say, is to create a surface that obtains an attractive appearance in less than a year.

A Barcelona-based maker of concrete panels for architectural and urban furniture, Escofet 1886 S.A., has shown interest in commercializing the product. 


Tagged categories: Cement; Coatings Technology; Concrete; Concrete coatings and treatments; Design; Green building; Green coatings; Green design; Research

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