Building products are constantly evolving. Product manufacturing companies spend crucial research and development time exploring the next generation of building materials. These futuristic materials and processes include recycled ingredients, improvements in how materials are created and changes in the ways architects are designing buildings. Here are a few examples of futuristic materials and processes already being used in residential and commercial construction.
Plastic Construction Bricks Incorporate ‘Unrecyclable’ Materials
Some pre- and post-consumer waste has been considered unrecyclable — until now. California startup ByFusion Global is leading the way on futuristic materials with its giant, multi-colored plastic blocks. Bags, bottles and other plastic containers are steam-compacted to create ByBlocks, plastic blocks roughly the size of concrete blocks. When combined with metal rods, they can be used to build steps, walls and even whole structures, as the video below shows.
ByBlocks use materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Communities and businesses can also partner with ByFusion to create their own Blocker system and get their plastic waste stream under control.
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Composite Decking Makes Gains
Non-wood decking materials have been in use for decades, but composite options have improved in recent years. As Remodeling explains, composites combine natural wood fiber with plastic. Improved manufacturing processes have solved one of the product’s biggest hurdles — mold — creating strong decking that requires less maintenance than wood. Not all composite decking is sustainable, but many brands use recycled material, including discarded plastic and wood scraps instead of fresh-cut lumber.
Self-Healing Concrete and Other Concrete Innovations
The need for maintenance and repairs is one factor in a building material’s longevity. As ConstructConnect explains, self-healing concrete can fix its own cracks, making maintenance almost obsolete. This futuristic material can be made with post-industrial waste fibers, making it more sustainable. Other innovations in this realm include eco-friendly concrete, permeable concrete and even Martian concrete, which the video below explores in more detail.
3D-Printed Buildings on Earth and Beyond
Hobbyists and professionals have been using 3D printing for years to create everything from artwork to medical devices. But it was 2004 when 3D printing was first used to create a structure. That’s when University of Southern California professor Behrokh Khoshnevis built a wall. His technique, a process called Contour Crafting, has been continuously improving since then, making it more affordable, efficient and accessible around the globe. Khoshnevis is currently using his innovation to construct low-income housing. 3D printing will be used for commercial construction and eventually, even building on the moon.
Biophilic Design Brings Nature Inside
Biophilic design may not seem like it has anything to do with the building materials of the future, but it’s an approach that’s likely to become increasingly popular in the years ahead.
In biophilic design, architects and engineers integrate nature into and around buildings, allowing the occupants to enjoy the beauty and health benefits of the natural world while remaining indoors. This includes natural lighting and views of nature, use of sustainable materials and organic shapes as well as water features and plants. Biophilic design can be visual, such as a rug that mimics a pattern or texture found in nature, or audible, such as the sounds of birdsong playing softly through a speaker.
Watch the video below to hear designers in Singapore describe how biophilic design transforms the building process.
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