The World's First Carbon Concrete Building Is Under Construction

The Cube's building process cuts carbon emissions by up to 50 percent.
Chris Young
The Cube.Henn

Researchers from the Technical University of Dresden alongside experts from German architecture firm Henn are developing the world's first carbon concrete building, a report from Dezeen explains.

The team behind the project will use a novel method to reinforce the building's concrete with carbon fibers rather than steel rods, as part of a German Federal Ministry of Education and Research-funded research project aimed at developing construction innovations called "C³ - Carbon Concrete Composite".

Reducing construction CO2 emissions by up to 50%

The building, dubbed The Cube, is currently under construction at the TU Dresden University campus. Henn says that its carbon concrete material is four times stronger than traditional concrete at the same time as being four times lighter, due to the reduced requirement for extra structural sections.

The newly developed carbon concrete allows for the same structural strength while using far less concrete. "With this new building material, the light yet robust carbon fibers allow for flexible and resource-saving construction. The conversion to this innovative material can reduce CO2 emissions from construction up to 50%," Henn explains on its websiteSimilarly, the developers behind the UK's second high-speed rail line recently announced they would use a 3D printing construction method in which concrete is strengthened with graphene instead of steel rods — also reducing the construction's carbon emissions by up to 50 percent.

A 'radical rethinking' of architecture

Specifically, the concrete used for The Cube will be strengthened with carbon fiber yarn, which is made by extracting almost pure carbon crystals via a process of thermal decomposition known as pyrolysis. The yarn is then woven into a mesh that the concrete is poured onto before setting. As the carbon fiber doesn't rust, the carbon concrete is also more durable over a longer period than steel rod-strengthened concrete. As structures can be much thinner due to the lack of steel rods — which often require more thickness to prevent water penetration — Henn says that this will enable "a future architecture where environmentally conscious design is paired with formal freedom and radical rethinking of the most basic architectural elements."

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As such, The Cube will feature a roof that folds to become a wall as well, allowing wall and roof to "functionally merge into one another as an organic continuum," Henn says. Such projects are opening up not only a new form of architectural design but also a method for construction that causes much less damage to the environment. Take a look at a video outlining the construction process of The Cube below.

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