The energy efficiency of buildings commonly entails reduced energy consumption in their use phase – which is one of the key targets under the EU’s climate and energy package.
However the energy required for the production of these buildings, also known as embodied energy, is equally important to the assessment of their environmental impact. In fact it is responsible for approximately 35 % of a building’s carbon footprint.
Reducing this energy use from mining to processing of resources, manufacturing and transport was the main concern of BIOBUILD. Completed in May 2015, the project developed new biocomposite materials to reduce the embodied energy of the building façade, supporting structure and internal partition systems by at least 50 % compared to state-of-the-art materials – all this without increasing cost.
The project’s results were praised at this year’s JEC Europe Innovation Awards, where the new BIOBUILD façade won the prize for most innovative product in the construction sector.
‘This product pushes the boundaries of both facade and materials engineering towards new targets by using bio-composites in an extremely demanding sector of construction. The design freedom of bio-composites can generate a strong impact on the appearance of buildings,’ said Guglielmo Carra, BIOBUILD design manager at Arup Berlin – one of the 13 project partners working under the coordination of NetComposites in the UK.
The façade panels, which can be used to replace conventional construction materials including aluminum, steel, brick and concrete, are composed of two bio-composite laminates produced thanks to open-mold process.
The two laminates are made from bio-polyester-impregnated twill (diagonal-ribbed) Biotex flax fabrics and have a distinctive appearance: the external laminate has a clear coating that makes the natural fabric visible, whereas the internal laminate is painted white.
The project team points out that a number of coating colors and finishes can be chosen for the surface, depending on the architect’s requirements.
Between the two laminates is a material improving the acoustic and physical insulation characteristics of the panel. The thickness is variable and the panels can be used in both residential and commercial buildings, just like other BIOBUILD-developed products such as internal partition and suspended ceiling kits.
A life-cycle approach
The project team notes that their new bio-composite materials allows for higher environmental sustainability when compared to benchmark materials solutions like traditional glass and carbon fiber composites, while also featuring an outstanding lifespan of 40 years.
The BIOBUILD products were designed while following a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach for all their parts, which can be easily separated from others at the end of their life cycle to be either recycled or reused.
BIOBUILD was funded by the EU to the tune of EUR 7.5 million. Although it has now come to an end, some dissemination activities are still planned and will be advertised on the project website.
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