The concrete revolution

The concrete revolution is taking place and it’s aimed at turning this material into a lighter and more intelligent version of itself.

Some months ago, researchers in Zurich’s Polytechnic School, launched a video showing the development of a concrete structure with a core of enormous steel cables, held with metallic nodes.

These specially designed nodes, mark the innovation of a construction system that allows the creation of complex geometries. Thanks to an algorithm, the cables can be tensed and un-tensed according to the structure’s needs to distribute the loads towards the ground. Then a textile mesh allows the upper layer of the structure to be coated by spraying concrete and it is then eliminated to proceed with the lower one.

“Block Research Group”, the name of the research group, is leading this revolution and it has already collaborated with renowned firms such as Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects amongst others, and promises to become a benchmark in concrete construction.

Apart from the spectacular geometries that can be achieved, this system allows the weight generated by reinforced concrete to be lightened – it currently represents around 75% of a building’s weight – especially in floor and ceiling slabs. There is no need for formwork or reinforcing steel bars and it’s much thinner; furthermore, the cables are 100% recyclable.

Manufacturers and architects are beginning to assume sustainability as a premise and are already working on ultra-thin cements, those that absorb pollution and even those that self-regenerate. For its part, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is also in the race, working with new mixtures for concrete using recycled plastics.

On the other hand, there is construction by 3D printing, a technology that although incipient, has been in development for more than 20 years. However, it is expected that in the coming years the projects through this system will be truly significant.