Innovation in Building Materials


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As it was already known that human activities had effected global climate change, the construction and operation of buildings had also contributed a significant impact on the environment, estimated roughly around 40 percent to total energy consumption. The constructing and operating period of the building also consume and pollute enormous amount of natural resources.

 Consequently, the green building practices and standards were established as the attempt to reduce the environmental impact, promote the environmental responsibility and force the resource efficiency throughout a building's life cycle; design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. 

Building material, in this case, comprises of building material, product, system, equipment and technology, plays the crucial role for the green building as the element of the design that the architect, engineer and building owner selected to perform their green properties. Currently, we are able to witness the development and the competition of the green building material which also expected the growth of demand derived from the growth of green building and construction until 2020. However, today technology are not really satisfy the need of energy efficiency and environment protection and there are more new developed technologies for the upcoming future which they will be justified by their performance when commercialized into market. 

But what is the shape of future technology? The development of greener building material can be determined by the current research and development from the design stage to the prototyping and testing stage. According to European Patent Organization (EPO), the proportion of the building technology patents that were filed during 2000-2011 mostly (82%) lied in the energy side which are; integration of renewable energy, energy efficiency of lighting and HVAC, efficient home appliances and end-user electric power management. There were a slight portion of patents on the information & communication technology (12%), construction and architectural element (2%), technologies with potential greenhouse-gas emission mitigation(2%) and the patents on elevators(1%). 

The trend of the patent shown the high growth especially in the research and development of integration of renewable energy which had significantly growth more than 6 times in those decade. This information can give us an idea of the market and competition in building material and what we can expect for the building design in the future. 

And what is most likely for us to see in the future? Some surveys were conducted with many innovators and industrialist in construction and building industry which can be summarized for the technologies with promising demand and market success including; 

1. HVAC and IEQ technologies: the energy used and the quality of building's internal atmosphere were incorporated, with more than 40% of building energy were used for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. There were many interesting HVAC related patents that help reduce energy usage as well as create well-being internal environment including; ultraviolet light and photo-reactive chemicals air purification, and passive solar and radiant heating that able to divert natural outside air to heat or cool the inside condition. 

2. Insulation Energy-efficient heating: the energy efficiency is not only with the system, but also with the insulation property of the building. The R&D in the thermal insulation included insulating concrete forms (ICFs), an interlocking polystyrene concrete forms to create a seamless wall which air cannot penetrate. The sandwich or composite technology such as Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are another frequently used insulation technology with more variation of integrated materials, including particle and gypsum board, fibre cement, sheet metal with the plastics and foams.

An emerging technology of phase-change materials (PCMs) are group of the most potential insulation technology that able to absorb or discharge heat by changing back and forth from a solid to liquid state. This technology is one of the breakthrough upcoming innovation.

 3. High efficient lighting technology: the number of innovations for more efficient lighting has been growing at an incredible rate especially with LED (light emitting diode) and OLED (organic light emitting diode) which reduce a big amount of energy used for both indoor and outdoor lighting, estimately about half of the fluorescent lamp.

 4. Self-powered buildings: the idea of producing own energy was not radical, but the technology for the idea was complex and needed an integration with many basic sciences as well as initial investment that was very high. However, the development of today technology and facilities creates an opportunity for us to produce our own energy at homes and even send(sell) excess energy back to the grid.

Currently, integration of solar cell is common but it will not only on rooftops but will also building facades and even in transparent modules used as windows and skylights. The wind power are a promising innovation when integrate the turbine to high rise building where the air current in higher altitudes are more constant.

 5. Recycled concrete: in the future when most of the natural resource are scarce and needed to preserve, the use of alternative material is another promising technology as we will see rising use of them such as concrete made with fly ash or with other additives features that will give superior performance properties. The recycle of the concrete from demolished building is also an interesting development as it is one of the most environmental friendly in term of material usage.

 6. Permeable pavement: the problem of heat in the city and water management will create the demand of a pervious surface material. The permeable pavement and the sustainable grass block will be supported by interest in reducing water runoff and minimizing strains on older sewer and water systems.

 However, there will be more new innovations to be launched from today research and development, and they might overcome the prediction above and offer more energy efficiency and greener property to the building and construction field that we might unable to think of.


Writer : Amornrut Det-udomsap Aracha Krasae-in   Date :2013-10-31