Tushar Joshi Ar. Tushar Joshi, Senior Associate - Projects, Ozone Designs
Over the centuries, engineers and architects have devised new ways to build taller, stronger and more beautiful creations using game-changing materials like steel girders, earthquake-proof foundations, glass curtain walls, and relooked at traditional materials like bamboo for their characteristics as a building material.

Bamboo to build an entire city
Most people in the West think of bamboo as a decorative material. But it is actually an incredible construction resource. Bamboo is fast growing, stronger than steel, and more resilient than cement. This is why Penda, an architecture studio in Beijing, China, wants to use bamboo as the main resource to build an entire city. The city would be sustainable, environment-friendly, and inexpensive. The building would be constructed by putting bamboo rods together to make an X-joint and then tying them together with rope. Using this technique, Penda thinks they could build a city that would house 200,000 people by 2023. Once a structure is completed, additions can be easily installed both horizontally and vertically. Also, a room or even an entire structure can be disassembled without much effort, and the bamboo rods and ropes can be reused.

Ichibanya RestaurantIchibanya Restaurant, Jakarta, by DSA Architects (source: archdaily.com)

Road printers for paving 300 - 500 sqm per day
It takes a long time to pave a road. On an average, a worker can pave 100 sqm per day in the traditional manner. Looking to shorten that process are road printers like the Tiger Stone paving machine, which can "print" 300 sqm of cobblestone road in a day. Another is the RPS Road Printer, which can do 500 sqm per day. One to three operators feed loose bricks into the machine. Then the pusher sorts the bricks into a pattern like a carpet. At that point, gravity takes over, and the machine lays down the brick road. Afterward, a steamroller presses the bricks into place. The printers are electrically powered and don't have many moving parts, which makes them easy to use and maintain. Also, they don't make much noise, especially when compared to traditional methods of paving roads. Ofcourse, the major difference between most roads and the machine-printed ones is that the machines lay down brick instead of asphalt. However, brick roads are also better than asphalt because they filter water, expand when they are frozen, and last longer.

equipamento-roadprinterEquipamento construcao estradas roadprinter

Topmix concrete with crushed granite, not sand
Use of concrete becomes worse in urban areas because there is less soil to absorb the water. To reduce flooding, UK company Tarmac has created an asphalt product called Topmix Permeable. Most concrete allows some water to soak in. When an area starts to flood, there aren't enough places for the water to drain to the ground, so only about 300 mm of water gets through per hour. Topmix can allow 36,000 mm of water to get through per hour, which is about 3,300 litres per minute. Instead of using sand like most concrete, Topmix makes its product with pieces of crushed granite that are packed together. Water drains through these pieces of granite, where it can be absorbed into the ground, routed to a sewer system, or collected in a water reserve. Besides reducing the chances of flooding, Topmix keeps the streets drier, which makes them safer. Also, the water can be routed to a reservoir for reuse in any number of ways. The problem with permeable concrete is that it can only be used in areas where it doesn't get too cold. Cold weather would make the concrete expand, which would destroy it. It is also much more expensive to install than traditional concrete, but cities may save money in the long run if the product reduces flooding.


Spray-on solar cell/paint
One of the biggest complaints about solar panels is that they are large, clunky eyesores that aren't powerful enough. To change that, a few researchers are producing solar cells that are so small and flexible that they can be painted onto surfaces. In fact, a team of researchers at the University of Alberta has created a spray-on solar cell with nanoparticles of zinc and phosphorus. If every homeowner painted his roof with this type of solar paint, it could generate more than enough energy for the house and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. No retrofitting would be needed, which would minimize construction work. Also, solar paint is much less expensive to produce than traditional solar panels. The solar cells used in the paint are not efficient yet, but the researchers are working to fix that problem.