Modern Building Materials

The construction industry consumes more natural resources than any other industry. With increasing public awareness of the needs and demands of sustainable development and environmental conservation, no other industry is called on as much as the country's construction and building industry to evolve their practices to satisfy the needs of our current generation, without curtailing the resources of future generations to meet theirs. For example, concrete is by far the most important building material, with billions of tons produced each year worldwide, and without which the nation's infrastructure is unthinkable. Considerable progress and breakthroughs have been made in recent years in concrete technology, which have largely gone unnoticed by the public at large.

It has been said that more progress has been made in the last 25 years than in the previous 150 years since Portland cement was invented. Modern cement composites can now be engineered to have strengths approaching those of steel, energy dissipation capacities of body armor, and durability properties that can make products last basically indefinitely, and be as decorative and aesthetically pleasing as natural stone, yet with superior mechanical properties. Fiber-reinforced composites permeated the aerospace and automotive industries decades ago and are now slowly finding their way into civil engineering structures. Smart materials, defined as those materials that can change their properties in response to external conditions, are also being introduced into civil infrastructure systems, and so are new developments in metals, with new high-strength steel alloys and non-corrosive steels that are changing engineering practice. All of these advanced materials are essential for an efficient renewal and maintenance of our infrastructure and offer exciting prospects for vibrant research areas. Yet, all of these research efforts should be guided by the overarching goal of reducing the construction industry’s footprint on planet Earth.

One important series of research projects completed under the direction of Professor Meyer resulted in the successful use of recycled glass as aggregate for concrete products such as floor tiles, wall panels, table counter tops, etc. Several other projects dealing with the beneficial use of recycled materials are briefly described on his Web site as well.


 

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