High Performance, Economical & Sustainable Biocomposite Building Materials

Aims & Objectives

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The aim of BioBuild was to use biocomposite materials to bring about a step-change in the reduction of embodied energy in building-façade and internal-partition systems, whilst being commercially competitive and, of course, delivering state-of-the-art-performance.

Project overview

BioBuild was a collaborative project part-funded by the European Commission. It had 13 partners from seven European countries and a total budget of nearly €7.7m. The project had a duration of three-and-a-half years, and will ended on 31 May 2015.

The aim of the BioBuild project was to use biocomposite materials to reduce the embodied energy in building-façade, supporting-structure and internal-partition systems by at least 50% over current materials, with no increase in cost. This will lead to a step-change in the use of sustainable, low-carbon construction materials, by replacing aluminium, steel, fibre-reinforced polymers (FRPs), brick and concrete in new-build and refurbished structures.

Biocomposite materials

Biocomposite is a term for a fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) where either the reinforcement or matrix or both is substantially derived from biological sources. For example composites comprising natural fibres, such as flax, jute or hemp, in a polymer matrix derived from agricultural wastes, vegetable oils or corn starches. The low embodied energy of biocomposite materials offers significant potential for reducing the environmental impact of building products.

The specific mechanical properties of natural fibres are competitive with those of glass fibres. Flax and other natural fibres also have excellent resistance to fatigue, and good vibration- and acoustic-damping characteristics, compared with glass and carbon fibres.

Although biocomposites offer many characteristics equal to or better than conventional composite materials, in the service conditions of many building components their durability is currently too low. The BioBuild project has addressed this through the development of fibre treatments and bio-resin formulations, to provide resistance to moisture absorption and other degrading agents. These treatments also enhance other characteristics, such as fire performance.

Funding

This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 285689.