by Zohra KhanDec 12, 2019
Can design offer significant solutions to the grave pollution crisis at hand? Is it possible for green technology to turn hazardous particulate matter into currency for change? Green Charcoal, a biomaterial created from the practice-based research led by Shreyas More with research mentor Meenal Sutaria, aims to bring alternative materiality in the forefront in view of the grave environmental crisis at hand.
The building and construction industry caters to nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and particulate pollution, becoming one of the major causes for the depleting the quality of air. This not only puts at stake lives of millions of people but also raises concerns over the values of architecture that are meant to help improve lives.
To shift the narrative, More and Sutaria’s research sits at the intersection of material innovation and technology and develops biodegradable construction materials for a circular economy. “It is an exploration of developing biomaterials to demonstrate how materials can disrupt the design and economics of built environments,” says More, who is the Co-founder and Co-director at the New Materials Research Centre (NMRC) at the Indian School of Design and Innovation in Mumbai.
The natural composite mixture of Green Charcoal comprises soil, aggregates and cement. A key component in this performance-based material is the organic luffa, which is a network of fibres that offers reinforcement to the mix, increases its compressive strength and flexibility, and ensures a high porosity for better anchorage for plant roots. The pores of the luffa double up as tiny water tanks that provide enough moisture, and further brings down the temperature of the material.
Another primary element is charcoal, which is applied in small portions in the composition. Charcoal, being hyper-porous in nature, absorbs particulate impurities such as nitrates and sulfates and converts them into plant nutrition, thus bringing about a co-dependent system.The project, which is currently in its first stage of pilot research, is aimed at customisation to suit the needs of diverse sites and regions.
“The impetus here is not mass production but local production for targeted performance,” says Sutaria. Green Charcoal promises diverse application across a range of areas that include building interiors and urban landscapes in the form boundary walls, road dividers, and interactive walls in public spaces.
In developing countries, concrete from the demolished buildings ends up in landfills and gives way to expensive, large-scale waste and economic loss. The research looks at the need for a circular loop cycle in designing materials, be it natural or man-made, which can contribute as ‘material resource banks of the future’.
On comparison with the recent innovations in alternate materiality, such as Hempcrete - a composite of concrete with natural Hemp fibre reinforcement – or Coircrete, made of soil, cement, coir and straw – Green Charcoal after its initial stage has come out with a promising 2.1 MPa (megapascal), where standard Hempcrete and Coircrete is typically at 1MPa and 2.03 MPa respectively. “The Green Charcoal material composite has a 90 percent reduction in the use of coarse aggregate, 4 percent reduction in cement, 4 percent reduction in fine aggregate, 21 percent increase in air pockets. Effectively it has a 54 percent increase in organic matter as compared to a standard concrete block,” explains More.
The research merges with the principles of nature, which does not differentiate between aesthetics and functionality. As a wall façade, its surface bears visually impressive patterns that control heat gain and allow for adsorption through the increasing surface area.
The innovation fosters a need to reflect on our perceptions for design and the built environment. It looks at aspects of permanence and transience in building construction, and emphasises that factors such as material longevity, durability, and strength performance need to be designed for specific purposes. Stepping away from the idea of architecture as creating finite enclosures, Green Charcoal envisions a more sustainable future where permeable and porous environments can co-exist with nature.
Read more from the series:
Breathing lungs for Delhi: Aũra towers and drones by Studio Symbiosis
Designing breathable cities: Smog Free Project by Daan Roosegaarde
Turning rice straw into resource: Better Air Now by IKEA
Recycling air pollution into inks: AIR-INK by Graviky Labs
Traditional solutions to air pollution:CoolAnt Coral by Ant Studio