The global green building materials market is expected to reach $377 billion by 2022—and Australia is leading the way.
Here are three examples of the Australian AEC sector working closely with universities and manufacturers to develop innovative products, materials and systems that have changed the sustainability game.
1. GREEN STEEL
The ability to manufacturer steel from waste plastic and rubber is now possible thanks to Australian materials scientist, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, head of the Centre of Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at UNSW.
Developed in partnership with OneSteel, Professor’s Sahajwalla’s innovation—Polymer Injection Technology (PIT)—substitutes up to 30 percent of coke with waste in the steel production process.
This goes a long way in reducing landfill, with over two million passenger vehicle tyres diverted from landfill to date. At the same time, replacing pure coke with a coke-rubber blend improved slag foaming, and in turn, energy efficiency in the steel-making process.
Today, PIT is used commercially by Australian steel makers, and has gained traction in countries such as South Korea, Thailand, the UK and Norway.
2. HICKORY BUILDING SYSTEMS
Most, if not all architects in Australia would have heard of Hickory Building Systems (HBS), named a finalist at the 2018 global Council of Tall Building and Urban Habitat (CTUBH) Awards.
An innovative, integrated structural system using prefabricated building components, HBS is known for accelerating high-rise construction delivery times by up to 50 percent.
The method integrates a building’s core, shear walls, bathrooms and façade into a unified structure, which is built in a production line environment in tandem with on-site works. This not only improves delivery times, but also minimises energy and material waste, and maximises quality and safety.
HBS has been used to construct several projects, including La Trobe Tower by Rothelowman, the tallest prefab building in the country.
3. GEOPOLYMER CONCRETE
Concrete is one of the most energy inefficient building materials today, but construction company, Wagners, has found a way to ‘green’ its production.
Wagners’ Earth Friendly concrete (EFC) is similar to traditional concrete except for one important element: it doesn’t utilise Portland cement to be manufactured. Instead, EFC uses a geopolymer binder system made from blast furnace slag—an industrial waste from steel production—and fly ash, a waste from coal power generation.
According to the company, this alternative binder technology reduces the carbon emissions associated with normal Portland cement by 80– 90%, and also has a much lower embodied energy.
“Importantly, the engineering and construction properties of this new environmental concrete are as good, and in some areas better, than normal concrete,” they add. “In fact, EFC has some significant performance advantages over normal Portland cement concrete, including improved durability, lower shrinkage, earlier strength gain, higher flexural tensile strength and increased fire resistance.”
EFC has been used significantly at Brisbane’s Wellcamp airport, reportedly the largest application of modern geopolymer concrete in the world—a feat that has saved over 6,600 tonnes of carbon emissions.