Plastics in Construction – Sustainable Civil Engineering

The importance of sustainability and the usage of sustainable materials in construction are gaining a rapid pace in construction industry. According to UNEP report, Buildings are using almost 40% of the global resources and also responsible for one third of green house gas emissions. So, using alternate resources like plastics in favorable applications not only provide the solution for disposal of these materials but also save resources being depleted.

plastics in construction

Where they can be used?

As Thermal and Acoustic Insulation

Plastics can be used in Construction for various purposes like water-proofing, finishing, heat –proofing as per their properties. Building insulation is generally done using materials obtained from natural sources(glass and rock wools) or from petrochemicals (mainly polystyrene). Use of these materials causes adverse effects on the environment because of their high energy consuming production stage and disposal stage. So, using recycled plastics in the place of conventional materials for thermal insulation and acoustic insulation will reduce the carbon footprint of the building manifold.

As a brick

Plastics like PET can be used as brick replacing traditional bricks. This can be achieved by filling PET bottle completely with sand and compacting it to use as a brick.

As a constituent in Road Construction

Plastics can be used in Road Construction. It increases the durability of the roads. Read more about the Plastics in Road Construction here.

The Properties to be considered

Thermal insulation properties like density, thermal conductivity, and specific heat are significant. For acoustic insulation, sound absorption and sound insulation properties play a crucial role.

Which plastics are useful?

Recycled Glass foam

Using foaming process, Glass wastes can be converted into useful glass foam which can be used for Insulation. Some products made of recycled glass are currently commercialized: the thermal conductivity is between 0.038 and 0.050 W/mK and the density between 100 and 165 kg/m3.

Recycled Plastics – PET

PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) is widely used plastic which is used on making plastic bottles and packaging. Disposal of this plastic can be made easy by converting this plastic into usable insulating material. This can be achieved by blending 75% PET with 25% virgin thermobonding PET. The insulation panels made up of this blend has properties: Low Thermal conductivity 0.0355 W/mK and density 30 kg/m3.
Recently, a study revealed that the addition of waste sheep wool to PET fiber reduces thermal conductivity from 0.035 to 0.032 W/mK and it increases sound absorbing coefficient from 0.61 to 0.75 (average value between 50 and 5700 Hz).

In a study conducted on PET bottles filled with fly ash with a jute geotextile wrapped inside, the compressive strength results are much higher. The samples can
resist compressive load of upto 4000 KPa to 5000 KPa.

Also read - Plastics in Construction – Sustainable Civil Engineering Part II

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