With the advancement in every field, dramatic changes in the properties of recently developed materials will, and indeed have, transformed architecture and design. Still there lies a world, which needs to be explored, a world in which materials will be selected based upon properties relevant to use.
In addition to formal and construction innovations, we have recently become more aware of how materials in architecture and design are extracted, cut, processed, treated with high pressure or temperatures that use vast amount of energy and simultaneously release toxic substances, transported to construction sites, utilized in a building and ultimately discarded as waste or debris at the end of the buildings life cycle.
Sustaining our natural and built environments by avoiding depletion of natural resources, lowering energy consumption during material production, employing recycling processes, and achieving higher performance of materials in their built state, all force artists, designers, engineers, builders and scientists alike to seek material innovations that go beyond what is conventionally available in current building industry.
A composite facade material of clay and hydrogel, which is capable of cooling building interiors by up to 6 degrees centigrade. Entitled Hydro ceramic, the material utilizes the ability of hydrogel to absorb up to five hundred times its own weight in water to create a building system that becomes a living thing as part of nature and not outside of it.
As a response to new construction models, Dr. Jose Carlos Rubio Avalos of the UMSNH of Morelia has developed cement with the capacity to absorb and irradiate light energy, in order to provide greater functionality and versatility to concrete.
The researchers claimed that the applications are very broad, and those, which stand out most, are for the architectural market: facades, swimming pools, bathrooms, kitchens, parking lots, road safety, road signs and also in the energy sector where there is no access to electricity.
In this crucial point in time where the talk about sustainability is a debate, research and development teams are trying to combine natural and man-made components to improvise quality and create pocket-friendly materials. Man-made materials are typically more durable than their natural counterparts.
In fact, the durability of man-made materials, such as plastics, is central to the environmental movement to reduce consumption and waste, because man-made materials accumulate in landfills, quickly approaching their capacity limit when they are not recycled. The care and maintenance is less in comparison to natural materials.
However with the revolution in surface materials, industry professionals are trying to generate a solution which can combine the properties and composition of both and hence, the final output can be a fusion. Natural materials, however, have a shorter lifespan. Wood furniture, unless treated with varnishes and stains, will rot as moisture seeps into the grains, and clothing made from natural materials develop holes and fades.
To be a designer today means having to choose from a broad range of material choices; from the traditional and natural, well explored wood, stone, glass, metal and linear materials to an ever growing base of man-made, scientifically engineered materials from polymers to Nano-fibers, high performance ceramics to active elements.
Re-using buildings, as well as using recycled materials and furnishings, saves virgin materials and reduces the energy required to produce new materials. Sustainable materials typically have lower annual costs. These reduced costs do not have to come at the expense of higher first costs; and if they have so, then it results in cost saving in the long run due to high performance.
In addition to direct cost savings, sustainable materials can provide indirect economic benefits to both the owner and society. They can also promote better health, comfort, well-being, and productivity of occupants.
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