Lighter, stronger, greener: the world’s first “carbon concrete” building


German architect Henn has teamed up with the Technical University of Dresden to design the first “carbon concrete” building, reinforced with carbon fiber instead of steel.

Much lighter and stronger than normal concrete, the carbon variety is said to halve a structure’s embodied carbon due to the smaller amounts required.

Carbon fiber is used as a matrix into which a mixture of concrete and polymers is cast. According to Henn, this results in concrete that is four times lighter and four times stronger than normal, allowing for thinner and more flexible designs. And because it contains no steel reinforcing bars, it is immune to corrosion.

The Cube in carbon composite concrete, with a floor area of ​​220 m², will serve as a meeting and exhibition space.

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and built on Fritz-Foerster-Platz south of Dresden, it is a flagship project of the “C³ – Concrete Carbon Composite” research initiative.

Cube’s design nods to the possibilities of C-cubed, as the material is known. Henn said the fusion of roof and wall suggests “a future architecture where environmentally friendly design is combined with formal freedom and the radical redesign of the most basic architectural elements”.

The Allplan website Remarks that one of the possible uses of the material is bridges. He says most of Germany’s 200,000 bridges need to be restored because their average lifespan is around 40 to 50 years. “Bridges made of textile reinforced concrete … will be able to last about 80 years without any large-scale renovation.”

He adds that carbon concrete is about 20 times more expensive than conventional concrete, but the disparity is reduced because less material is needed and the durability of the material means its lifetime cost is reduced. Cost savings will also be realized in the future as techniques for adding carbon fiber to concrete are refined.

  • Article corrected on August 5, 2021 to clarify that Cube is not yet complete

Image: The Cube exhibition center in Dresden (Henn.)

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