According to the construction management software developer Archdesk, the construction industry is responsible for over 50 percent of the waste in landfills. It is therefore important to develop new methods to ensure building materials are used more efficiently. A researcher from UNAM’s Engineering Institute is developing bricks using waste coming from construction projects.
María Rojas, Researcher, UNAM’s Institute of Engineering, is working on the development of a brick created using waste coming from construction projects and minor residues from logging. Rojas’ team recently developed a mixture that used mucilage, a sticky substance from nopales, to stick other elements together, which resulted in the creation of different sizes of bricks that the researchers aim to incorporate into new construction projects.
According to Rojas, just in Mexico City, the construction industry generates 14,000t/d of waste coming from construction and demolition works. Of this waste, only 1,000t/d are recycled. She added the remaining waste is not appropriately disposed of or even taken to unregulated landfills, which results in the pollution of rivers, air and soil.
In recent years, the construction industry has been moving to a sustainable construction approach, which requires developers to build projects without waste and incorporate sustainable technologies as well as materials. Rojas's method, which she said is already patented, aims to offer developers an alternative to conventional bricks used for construction.
Rojas said that her team’s method has proven effective since some of their bricks have been used for the construction of urban structures. She added that the use of construction waste has other applications. For instance, her team used glass and waste to make sidewalks, which after five years of intensive use remain in perfect condition.
Since 2015, Rojas’ team has been working on different material combinations, harnessing waste coming from the sugar, paper, wood, PET, glass and cardboard industries. All the mixtures are subjected to tests in the Engineering Institute’s laboratory, which include erosion and weathering tests including the simulation of UV rays and acid rain. These tests help the team to figure out what could happen to the materials in the future. “We are fortunate to have specialists and equipment at the Institute of Engineering that helps us to test the bricks [like] their resistance to compression. With all of that, we met the requirements posed by norms,” Rojas said.