All-natural indoor materials offer sustainable health benefits
EU researchers have developed natural building materials to tap growing demand for sustainable construction, and also achieve health benefits.
The novel façade and interior partition solutions being pioneered by the EU-funded OSIRYS (Forest based composites for façades and interior partitions to improve indoor air quality in new builds and restoration) project include bio-composite based insulation panels that use natural fibre nets and cork, bio-composite profiles to substitute metallic ones, bio-composite panels with improved performance, bio-adhesives with low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, and novel photocatalytic coatings for indoor.
‘The industrial partners involved in this four-year project – including SMEs – stand to benefit by developing differentiated materials and products that will give them a real competitive advantage,’ says project coordinator Dr Miriam Garcia from the Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Spain.
‘What makes OSIRYS unique is that it is focused on new solutions to improve health: residents will benefit from a reduction in respiratory diseases associated with humidity, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and microorganisms thanks to these photocatalytic coatings and new insulation techniques.’
Improving indoor air quality and removing emissions from building materials have been a major challenge for the construction sector over the past decade. Traditional construction materials often contain contaminants such as VOCs, particulates and fibres. New eco-innovative building materials could provide a healthier indoor environment by substituting the source of contamination.
For example, project partners have developed new photocatalytic coating for indoor panels to eliminate pollutants such as VOCs and microorganisms. ‘Indoor air quality is improved by using both active methods – like this photocatalytic coating – and passive methods through the absence of dusty and harmful materials,’ explains Garcia. The substitution of energy-intensive, non-renewable materials such as cement, minerals and metal with new bio-based materials – biopolymers and natural fibres – will also bring environmental benefits.
The project estimates that the cost of the new products will not exceed 20 % over traditional materials. Moreover, maintenance operations and costs will be reduced due to the longer life of products.
‘Results so far have been very promising,’ says Garcia. ‘Achievements so far include the development of materials and coatings and the design of final products using the new materials. These are now being assembled into sandwich systems to facilitate the industrialised manufacture of the different components to be used for internal partitions, multilayer facades and curtain walls.’ The facades and interior partitions being developed through the OSIRYS project have been designed to be used in both building retrofitting and new construction.
Next steps include construction and testing of the finalised products, life cycle assessment, cost analysis and an analysis of the recyclability of materials used. The materials will also be demonstrated in real life scenarios. ‘We think that the commercial potential of the project results is high,’ says Garcia. ‘The implementation of these new solutions in traditional markets could be challenging, so we will be looking at innovative ways of promoting our results.’
Indeed the success of the OSIRYS project, due for completion in May 2017, has opened up the possibility of taking the final results forward through further collaborations. ‘This project has helped to establish a good research network with great research capabilities between all involved partners,’ says Garcia. ‘We are confident that future collaborations will take place, not only at the industrial scale but also between the research centres involved.’
Published: 10th December 2015