Study Looks at Tires for Building Construction


A team from Idaho State University has recently tested how recycled tires used as columns could reinforce buildings, protecting them from natural disasters.

The results of the research were recently published in the journal Sustainability, detailing how the columns using the tires could withstand 50% more pressure than the columns that did not use the tires. 

About the Research

According to the university, associate professor Mustafa Mashal and alumnus Mahesh Mahat grew up in the earthquake-prone cities Kabul, Afghanistan, and Kathmandu, Nepal, respectively.

“The worst one was the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake,” Mashal said. “I was an undergraduate student at Kabul University then, and it was in the morning. I was in a classroom, and as the earthquake started, I thought someone had kicked my chair and saw the radiator pipes rattling against the walls.

“I ran outside and had a hard time staying balanced. While the earthquake did not cause noticeable damage in Kabul, I knew that many would be affected wherever the epicenter was located.”

Mahat was reportedly 18 when he experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015. 

“Seeing the devastation around me was heartbreaking, as many buildings had crumbled into piles of rubble,” Mahat said. “The news of friends and acquaintances who did not make it or were injured added to the distressing atmosphere. It's a feeling I wouldn't wish upon anyone.” 

As a result, these experiences led them to a career in civil engineering and the latest research. In 2021, Mashal began looking at tires as a form of concrete columns in new home construction or reinforce an existing building. Waste tires have been studied in both structural and non-structural applications, Mashal said, but not in this way.

“The concept immediately resonated with me as it allowed us to explore sustainability and seismic resilience simultaneously,” said Mahat.

Mashal and Mahat, alongside research engineer and laboratory manager Jared Cantrell, then reportedly built 12 columns, some with the tires as support, others without. Additionally, some were constructed with rubber aggregate from recycled tires, and others with the more traditional rock as an aggregate.

All the columns were then placed in a press capable of exerting more than 2.5 million pounds of force on the columns, squeezing the concrete to its breaking point. While the columns were being stressed to their limits, the team could get data on precisely how much force was being placed on the columns up to and the exact moment they failed. 

Using these materials would also provide a “second life” for some of the one billion tires discarded each year. Additionally, they would offer low-cost construction materials in developing nations like Nepal and Afghanistan.

“Many developing nations face challenges around natural or human-made hazards, and many of the homes in these countries are not able to withstand forces such as earthquakes and hurricanes due to insufficient foundations,” said Mashal.

“Consequently, there’s almost always a tremendous number of lives lost when a natural event such as a large earthquake strikes in these countries. In the years ahead, I hope to see new practical and cost-effective designs in use and those death tolls become lower and lower.”   

Mashal adds that the research team at ISU is planning to follow up on this preliminary research and explore other aspects of using waste tires in other structural applications. They reportedly plan on partnering with non-profit organizations to help implement these solutions in the developing world. 

Other Recycled Tire Research

In August last year, a team from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University reported they have replaced 100% of conventional aggregates in concrete with rubber from discarded tires to promote a circular economy.

While small amounts of rubber particles from tires have previously been used to replace concrete aggregates, RMIT said that the rubber replacements have produced weak concretes that fail to meet the required standards.

Lead author and Ph.D. researcher from RMIT University’s School of Engineering, Mohammad Momeen Ul Islam, said the findings debunked a popular theory on what could be achieved with recycled rubber particles in concrete.

Because used tires in Australia cannot be exported, methods for recycling and reprocessing them locally has become “increasingly important.” Study co-author and team leader, Professor Jie Li, said this manufacturing process will unlock environmental and economic benefits.

About 1.2 billion waste tires are expected to be disposed of annually worldwide by 2030. Li added the new concrete could also greatly reduce manufacturing and transportation costs.

Later that month, researchers from the University of South Australia also conducted a series of tests to observe how end-of-life tires might be utilized in widespread architecture.

According to the university, the tires were verified for structural integrity and were used to construct walls. As a result, the researchers found that the tires, which were packed with earth to create the walls, could potentially provide new opportunities for the reuse of end-of-life tires in the construction industry.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building design; Building materials; Colleges and Universities; Design; Design - Commercial; Disasters; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Recycled building materials; Research; Research and development; Safety; Z-Continents

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