There’ve been some great strides in the concrete industry over the last several years. It’s pretty interesting because the concrete the Romans used 2000 years ago keeps getting stronger, whereas most of the concrete used today becomes brittle and breaks down after 50–100 years. In the lab, scientists have figured out why–but there’s one other component that is pretty recent and is beginning to take on more steam: bio-concrete
Now, Roman concrete (according to the linked article above) can take centuries for the necessary chemical reactions to occur which make it stronger over time. However, Henk Jonkers has discovered that by adding the correct bacteria to the concrete, when the concrete gets wet–it essentially heals itself.
The problem with how concrete works is that it’s still very porous and as water gets inside the concrete, and temperature changes, the stuff cracks. Which then leads to more cracks. And eventually, it crumbles.
Now, with the aid of Bacillus bacteria, which can survive in the high alkaline and dry environment that is concrete, when water does seep into the concrete–it activates the bacteria which then re-bond the concrete to itself.
Of course, everyone knows, that as of right now why we aren’t using it more is because of the price. Self-healing concrete is literally double the price of regular concrete. Of course, it’ll last longer–but until the day comes when it’s no longer double the price, it’ll remain largely unused.
However, what is good news is that Jonkers has made some incredible strides in figuring out how to lower the price and hopefully within a few years, this amazing material can be more widely used.
Cellular concrete, also known as aerated concrete, is essentially concrete that’s been mixed with foam to create a low-density, yet still strong concrete.
Why we like it is because when it’s properly mixed, cellular concrete can be a great insulator. Check this video out:
We’ve seen some great strides made with people actually building homes out of cellular concrete blocks, or even some panels. Most of these companies have been in other parts of the world rather than the US. However, one company, Benson Bondstone Homes in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, has figured out how to make a panel system that still adheres to the strict building codes in the United States and actually makes a stronger, more affordable home.
One of the issues with cellular concrete is that when it’s not properly mixed and reinforced, it becomes a structure that can be ruined pretty easily in a natural disaster. So what ends up happening is more money goes into the actual reinforcing and mixing–which then jacks up the price to where most homeowners (or contractors for that matter) won’t use it.
However, Benson Bondstone has apparently figured out how to make it super strong, supposedly even stronger than traditional building methods, and still make it affordable. We’re pretty excited about this because it could potentially be a game changer for a lot of potential homeowners. If you’d like information on their panel system you can check out their website here.
3D Building Printing
This one we’re really excited about. In this article, MIT researchers have developed a prototype printer that can print a home or building in a mind-numbing 14 hours. Essentially, this is a robotic system that can be moved and print on demand.
The researchers actually built a dome-like structure spanning fifty feet in diameter and twelve feet high. Which is pretty incredible.
Of course, in the prototype stage, the technology is still quite expensive. However, 3d printing is becoming more and more viable in a wide range of applications.
Consider a couple of years ago in the Netherlands, Dutch architects built a bridge entirely out of the 3d-printing.
What’s really exciting about printing homes and structures, is that eventually, it will bring the cost way down. Right now the technology is, in many ways, still in its infancy. But consider the benefits of a home that can be printed without the need for a crew that spans months of work and can be completed with, essentially, the designer, and then the robot. It could save tens of thousands if not even hundreds of thousands of dollars for new homeowners.
Perhaps the downside could be that some will say it’ll cut people from the industry–unless you’re a plumber or an electrician or flooring specialists. There are also windows that’ll still be needed, so really, what it does it remove foundation pourers and framers.
We actually feel that such a technology would be better because it gives more people the chance to get a home built fast, efficient, and affordable.
These are some of the materials that we’re excited about. There have been a lot of technologies evolving and growing, and here at HomeBuildersLive–we try to embrace those emerging technologies, because rather than fighting the future, why not embrace it? Why not make a better world?
We believe that we can.