Engineered Biomaterials for Construction: A Cradle-to-Cradle Design Methodology for Green Material Development

By Wil V. Srubar III, Aaron T. Michel, Craig S. Criddle, Curtis W. Frank and Sarah L. Billington.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Materials used in a sustainable building application must have low (or zero) embodied energy in order to contribute to the elemental objective in minimizing total carbon footprint. Traditional construction materials are primarily derived and manufactured using nonrenewable resources and, at the end of their useful lives, typically disposed of in landfills where they lie recalcitrant. To address this cradle-to-grave concern in material manufacture, use, and disposal, novel construction materials are being developed with a target of relying only on rapidly renewable resources, including waste streams. The proposed cradle-to-cradle biomaterials are fabricated by using natural fibers as reinforcement in a biodegradable polymeric matrix derived from polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), naturally occurring aliphatic thermoplastic polyesters produced by microbes via bacterial fermentation in carbon-rich environments. The composite material produced exhibits comparable material properties to structural grade wood and is rapidly biodegradable in specific anaerobic conditions at the end of its useful life. Using anaerobic digester sludge from local wastewater treatment plants as the biodegradation medium, the material decomposes into biogas that consists mostly of inert gases and, of particular interest, methane, which can be captured and used either as a biofuel or as a closed-loop carbon source for the production of new PHAs. This paper documents biobased composite material development, durability issues, anaerobic biodegradation, and potential industrial applications.

Keywords: Bioplastic, Biobased Composites, Green Materials, Construction, Natural Fibers, Anaerobic Biodegradation

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp.157-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.761MB).

Wil V. Srubar III

Doctoral Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

Wil V. Srubar III is a Ph.D Student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He received his B.S. degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University with a concentration in structural engineering and architectural history in 2006. He received his M.S. degree in 2008 from The University of Texas at Austin where he studied structural engineering, sustainable architecture, and the durability of cement-based materials. Currently at Stanford, his research focuses on the development and durability of sustainable construction materials with particular interest in the mechanisms, mitigation, and modeling of hygrothermal effects on engineered biobased composites derived from natural fibers and a resin of poly (B-hydroxybutyrate)-co-poly (B-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV), a naturally occurring, biosynthesized polymer.

Aaron T. Michel

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

Aaron Michel received a BS in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University in 2006, and an MS in structural engineering from Stanford University in 2009. As a Ph.D candidate at Stanford, his research focuses on the design and manufacture of biobased polymers, composites, and structural insulated panels for use in the construction industry. His work aims to support the development and incorporation of innovative sustainable technologies in structural engineering.

Craig S. Criddle

Stanford University, California, USA

Curtis W. Frank

Stanford University, California, USA

Sarah L. Billington

Stanford University, California, USA


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