Ancient techniques make concrete more sustainable

29 November 2023 13:05

CleantechAlpsGreater Geneva Bern

Zurich/Lausanne/Geneva - A team from the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne has worked with the architecture firm Archiplein to develop a recyclable, non-reinforced concrete using ancient techniques from historical archives. The concrete reduces the use of CO2-intensive binding agents.

A team from the Chair of Sustainable Construction at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, the Archives of Modern Construction research group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the Geneva-based architecture firm Archiplein has used ancient techniques to show that load-bearing walls can be built without reinforced concrete. As part of the Circular Building Industry Booster, where Innosuisse promotes projects for a circular construction industry, the researchers delved into historical archives dating from Roman times to the 19th century. They looked for and tested old concrete and cement recipes for walls, which can even be made from unprocessed quarry waste, as the researchers report in a statement.

“The challenge now is to revive these old methods – not for financial reasons but for the sake of our planet,” said Marlène Leroux, a partner at Archiplein. “We seem to have forgotten how to build simple load-bearing walls from stone offcuts, with a minimal carbon footprint and without the need for additives, chemicals or steel reinforcement bars.”

At the end of October, the team built six load-bearing walls from recycled quarry waste and field stones, and named them cyclopean walls. They tested different construction methods and three types of mortar-based binders, and developed computer models. This helps identify new mortar formulations that are inspired by the past but meet modern requirements.

In the next step, the team will develop standardized, low-carbon wall construction methods. Like their historic predecessors, they will carry out strength tests and draw up comparative tables. ce/mm

Swiss Pavilion Digital

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