Facades made of natural fibers, bio-resin and corrugated cardboard for industrial buildings – is that possible? That’s fine. Researchers at the Technical University of Chemnitz developed elements that consist of 35% of these fibers. And they report that the proportion can still be increased.
A facade has to defy wind and weather on the same side. That means it should be as robust as possible and should last for several decades. On the other hand, there are other requirements that need to be add and depending on types vary in kind.
These include lightweight construction and low production costs. In the meantime, architects and building owners have made completely different demands on elements for facade cladding: they should be produced sustainably and be environmentally friendly. The trend in the industry is towards renewable raw materials and materials that can be easily recycled. Researchers at have now developed facade elements that consist of 35% natural fibers.
Modern, sustainable and structural requirements are sufficient
So far, organically designed and freely shaped facades have mainly been made with wood. The effort involved was comparatively large. The advantage of facade cladding made of natural fibers is obvious: They are products with large dimensions and large volume and a lifespan of several decades. CO2 storage effect is correspondingly large to researchers not only as used biofibers in their project, but also included the shape in their project.
This resulted in three-dimensional elements, some of which are translucent. This makes it possible to install LEDs behind it. In this way, the facade also becomes an animation area on which texts, images and videos can be shown.
The three-dimensional elements weigh significantly less due to their translucency and of course, this also makes assembly easier. Elements that are installed on production buildings must meet high structural requirements. This includes fire and sound insulation, load-bearing capacity and thermal insulation.
The organic facade was also examined for this and met all the necessary requirements. 3D is very much in demand in architecture and construction. Researchers and experts are hoping for a quantum leap, especially with 3D printing. The technology is not only expected to have a freer shape, but also more variety. Because this means that each individual component can be designed individually without incurring additional costs.
Unusual design of unusual materials
The design that the researchers chose is interesting: Under double-curved, partially translucent cover layers, they attached LEDs in the individual corrugated cardboard compartments. They can be animated using software control. Compartments made of corrugated cardboard are actually known from their packaging, but they have also become important in architecture. The most common form is web inserts, with which several bottles can be easily stowed together in a box, for example. At the same time, they are better protected during transport.
The researchers used flax and glass fibers for the top layers. They embedded them in a partially bio-based epoxy resin. The core consists of corrugated cardboard compartments that are insulated with “rock wool”. The researchers also used a coating with sodium water glass. It protects the natural materials from moisture and fire.
This combination is new in the construction sector. This seems unusual, since corrugated cardboard as a recycling material on a biological basis, on the one hand, is recyclable after use and, on the other hand, is of ecological and economic interest.
With their project, researchers have shown what possibilities there are already with renewable building materials. They can be used in industrial construction without problems or disadvantages. This is demonstrated by the prototype of their organic facade: They assembled it on 48 square meters of a production hall – together with a facade made of aluminum and plastic foam.
The production hall belongs to the project partner of the TU Chemnitz, the company “Richter & Heß“. The organic facade received an award as part of the Saxon State Prize for Building Culture in 2019.