Chemistry, Sustainability, and Construction

13 Jan 2014

The earliest known dwellings had to be simple affairs, taking advantage of the local topography. Caves and crevices were modified and customised using rudimentary tools, with the intent of providing shelter from the onslaught of the prevailing environmental conditions.

Moving forward through the ages, buildings began to serve various additional purposes: protection from attack, impressive displays of wealth and power, and a place of comfort from the often harsh surroundings. Archaeologists have observed that the foundations of the earliest extant structures contain not only typical contemporary building materials, but also layers of ritual and symbolism; churches, mausoleums and tombs are common among such finds.

Within this timescale, the historical use of recycled stone and other locally sourced materials are perhaps the earliest examples of sustainable building practices in a world which was even then short of resources. Concepts such as sustainability, cradle-to-cradle, carbon-neutrality and novel building fabrics have arisen relatively recently, yet they are becoming increasingly important as we face the demands and realities of modern life and the scarcity of resources.

SCI's Science and Enterprise Group is partnering with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to host a one-day symposium to ask 'How Can Chemistry Make Buildings More Sustainable?' on Wednesday 26 March 2014, sponsored by the Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network (MBE KTN) and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

The overarching theme of the event will be the creation and application of materials for more sustainable buildings; bio-renewables, recycling and carbon reduction all have their place here, and tie in with the Chemistry Innovation KTN's recently launched Strategy for Innovation. With the present emphasis on austerity, the retrofitting of existing structures will be central to the discussions.

Deborah Pullen, Director of MBE KTN, will introduce and chair the morning session, which will focus largely on innovative construction materials. Tata Steel Europe will lay the foundations for the day, with Dr Louis Brimacombe (Head of Environmental Management) offering an insight into the current status of the industry.

The course of the morning will bring forward issues such as high-performance insulation from BASF, pitched roofing from CRH, and the role of the British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) in research, consultancy and testing. Ibstock Brick's discussion of retrofit cladding and the Paint Research Association's consideration of new coatings and paints will round off the morning.

During lunch there will be an opportunity to view posters on the topic of materials for more sustainable buildings, and discuss the R&D projects with the presenters. Alan Maries of the Mineral Industry Research Organisation (MIRO) and chair of SCI's Environment, Health and Safety Group will chair the afternoon programme, with a focus on the design, application and implementation of new materials. Innovations such as low-carbon cement from the BRE, carbon-negative concrete from Carbon8, and Cristal Global's application of photocatalytic materials to building surfaces will surely be of significant interest for all in the sector.

The final presentation, from Deborah Mullen, will explore opportunities for the partnership of academia and industry to make the most of emerging technology for the future built environment. A panel Q&A session and presentation of the poster prize will close out the day.

This event promises to be of value to anyone involved in R&D of new materials, innovation in construction, and related disciplines; together with the opportunity for networking and brokering solid links between scientists and the construction industry.

'How Can Chemistry Make Buildings More Sustainable?' will be held on Wednesday 26 March 2014, and registration is already open. Poster submissions are invited on the topic of R&D into materials for more sustainable buildings. To make a submission please send a 250 word abstract entitled 'How can chemistry make buildings more sustainable? - poster abstract', by 7 March 2014 to All submissions will be acknowledged.

Dr Vishal Gulati
Science and Enterprise Group

Unfortunately, this event has been cancelled.

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