Plants, wood, steel, concrete - a lifecycle as construction materials

Construction materials strongly influence performances of buildings. Not only specific material properties are taken into account when selecting latest constructional standards, but rather all life cycle phases will be evaluated starting with the extraction of building materials, the following usage/application phase through to their recycling (via a material cycle). In the area of water and earth works in addition to the conventional building materials such as timber, steel and concrete there are also increasingly used soil bioengineering building materials. Live plants take over technical functions.

The construction technology of soil bioengineering has a long tradition, but at the beginning of the 20th century it sank into oblivion through new river regulation techniques with an increased use of concrete and steel. Initiated through an increased environmental awareness and sustainability thinking this technology in civil engineering now undergoes a renaissance. Soil bioengineering structures use combinations of plants with locally available auxiliary materials (wood and stone) as well as plants with classical conventional building materials.

Classic-conventional living and building materials were evaluated integrally and subjected to a life cycle assessment in the project "ELWIRA". The unique combination of laboratory and field methods based on the scientific expertise of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences at the Department of Civil Engineering and Natural Hazards were applied. The teaching and research activities cover both fields of engineering sciences, the classical as well as the "new" living building materials.

High school students cooperated with scientists of the Department of Soil Bioengineering and Landscape Construction and the Department of Structural Engineering to quantify and evaluate properties of different materials in terms of their life cycle through the use of different laboratory and field methods. These results provide an important contribution to a sustainable, climate-friendly and resource conserving dealing with building materials.

This project has been completed.