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Concrete In Australia : March 2013
12 Concrete in Australia Vol 39 No 1 NEWS Developing living concrete A new biological concrete has been developed in Spain to construct "living" façades that improve thermal comfort in buildings and help reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. e new concrete, which supports the natural, accelerated growth of pigmented organisms, was developed and patented by the Structural Technology Group of the Technical University of Catalonia (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech). e material, which was designed for the façades of buildings or other constructions in Mediterranean climates, o ers environmental, thermal and aesthetic advantages if compared with other similar construction solutions. e innovative feature of this material is that it acts as a natural biological support for the growth and development of certain families of microalgae, fungi, lichens and mosses. Having patented the idea, the team is investigating the best way to promote the accelerated growth of these types of organisms on the concrete. e goal of the research is to succeed in accelerating the natural colonisation process so that the surface acquires an attractive appearance in less than a year. A further aim is that the appearance of the façades constructed with the new material should evolve over time, showing changes of colour according to the time of year and the predominant families of organisms. In studying this concrete, the researchers at the Structural Technology Group have focused on two cement- based materials. e rst of these is conventional carbonated concrete (based on Portland cement), with which they can obtain a material with a pH of around 8. e second material is manufactured with a magnesium phosphate cement (MPC), a hydraulic conglomerate that does not require any treatment to reduce its pH, since it is slightly acidic. In order to obtain the biological concrete, besides the pH, other parameters that in uence the bioreceptivity of the material have been modi ed, such as porosity and surface roughness. e result obtained is a multilayer element in the form of a panel which, in addition to a structural layer, consists of three other layers: the rst of these is a waterproo ng layer situated on top of the structural layer, protecting the latter from possible damage caused by water seeping through. e next layer is the biological layer, which supports colonisation and allows water to accumulate inside it. It acts as an internal microstructure, aiding retention and expelling moisture; since it has the capacity to capture and Simulation of a vegetated façade at the Aeronautical Cultural Centre in El Prat de Llobregat. Visual simulation made by Escofet.