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Innovative Materials in Modern Architecture

The future of architecture

We live in an age of rapid technological advancement, but also an era of excessive use of natural resources and land. The construction industry recognizes the need to evolve and revolutionize its approach to building, as well as the materials used for crafting new structures. With the implementation of innovative materials becoming more prominent in modern architecture, as well as unconventional, outside-of-the-box designs and concepts, we are witnessing the rise of eco-consciousness on a global level. New technologies are being developed, changing the appearance, and lifespan of our buildings, thus propelling the industry towards a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable future. Let’s take a look at some innovative, eco-friendly building materials that are transforming and reshaping modern-day architecture.

Self-healing concrete

Concrete, even though one of the most durable materials out there, is prone to damage, and cracks inevitably over the span of time. Just like any other building material, when exposed to water, chemicals, and harsh weather conditions, concrete is at risk of growing cracks and suffering damage. What happens when the water enters the cracks in concrete is that it further penetrates into the structure, and leads to corrosion of steel reinforcements, causing unwanted structural weakness, thus putting the integrity of the whole structure into question. To solve this problem, a Dutch researcher and microbiologist Hendrick Jonkers invented a self-regenerative bio-concrete mixture consisting of limestone-producing bacteria used to mend microcracks in concrete, thus solving the problem of concrete structures that are deteriorating. The bacteria can lay dormant inside the concrete mix for as long as two centuries, turning this researcher’s invention into a reliable long-term solution, and drastically changing the building’s life expectancy. As a result of this discovery, the costs of building maintenance are substantially reduced.

Solar Innovations

With the idea of sustainability dominating the architectural world these days, many architects are looking for electricity-generating solutions that solely rely on the use of solar energy. There are numerous benefits of renewable energy, and cutting the carbon footprint while slashing the utility bills are just the tip of the iceberg. Nowadays, solar panels are being joined with nanotechnology to further contribute to the reduction of the cost of solar technology, finally replacing fossil fuels with a viable alternative in the form of solar energy. Silicon ink, fully transparent solar panels, and dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are other solar inventions that can replace the standard glass windows, thus making solar energy cheaper and widely available. Another awe-inspiring innovation in this field is the invention of photovoltaic glass. The glazing used to cover the glass makes it possible for a building to generate its own electricity, with the whole structure acting like a big solar panel. The two main types of photovoltaic glass are amorphous silicon glass and crystalline silicon glass. Although both of them are able to generate clean energy, where they’re positioned and how they’re utilized depends on the amount of light the structure is exposed to.

Self-cleaning surfaces

Yet another fascinating innovation in terms of building materials, self-cleaning surfaces and finishes are slowly but surely becoming a staple in the construction of high-rise buildings. With its inherent ability to eliminate the debris and bacteria from its surfaces, architectural cladding plays an important role in the maintenance of the buildings, while simultaneously providing an aesthetically pleasing façade. Coated in a mixture of nanoparticles, the protective layer provides the building with a surface that repels oil, water, and dirt. The coating also serves as a protection against smog, which is crucial for structures in areas with a high concentration of sulfur oxides caused by sulfur-bearing fossil fuels. By eliminating the challenging maintenance of high-rise buildings, self-cleaning surfaces are also deemed a sustainable architectural solution, as they require neither the use of water, nor the application of chemically-packed cleaning substances, which pose a threat to the environment. With self-cleaning technology becoming widely available, the upkeep of larger structures, as well as smaller buildings and residences, is likely to become an obsolete task.

Plants incorporated into the building designs

If there is one innovation in the field of architecture pointing to a greener future, it is definitely the buildings that have living plants incorporated into their designs. A clever way to bring nature into the urban, concrete jungles, plant-covered buildings are the perfect solution for tackling air pollution, and improving the overall quality of life in the city. There are vertical gardens consisting of as many as seven thousand plants growing up the side of buildings, with the resulting green façades trapping carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air. From vertical forests in China to living walls in Sydney, the vegetation on the buildings provides energy-saving shade, and with vertical veils stretching all the way to the tower tops, the quality of high-rise living is most certainly going to improve. Finally, with constant and excessive alienation of man from nature, the rise of verdant architecture symbolizes humankind’s longing for Mother Nature, which is an integral part of our beings.

In the era of environmental sustainability, it is crucial that all major industries make an effort and shift from processes based on the exploitation of resources towards those that are eco-friendly. With innovative technologies, and a wide range of biological products serving as building blocks for the environmentally-conscious construction industry, fabricating a sustainable future has never been easier or more exciting.

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William Sandford
William Sandford

Will Sandford is a Sydney based wood architect, blogger and contributor on interior design and ecology blogs. Besides that, he is also interested in home improvement and green technology. In spare time, he enjoys surfing and rock climbing.  

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