Formed from the dense carbon mesh and poured concrete, the Cube will consist of two main components.
Henn, an architectural firm based in Germany, recently unveiled the concept for the world’s first carbon-reinforced concrete building in close collaboration with researchers at the Technical University of Dresden (TUD). The so-called Cube will function primarily as an exhibition space and research center for university students, and will also house a classroom and a small kitchen. Formed from a dense carbon mesh and poured concrete, the Cube will consist of two main components, a prefabricated box that will be the floor and walls, and a double-curved roof, twisted from the foldable concrete reinforced with carbon.
The Cube will function as a hub for university students where they can come together for research and learning. TUD researchers have been studying the functionality of carbon-reinforced concrete since 1998. Now, together with Henn Architekten, the new concrete building material can be put to the test. Carbon reinforced concrete essentially replaces steel rebar with carbon fibers to maintain the industrial strength of concrete while reducing the amount of concrete used for construction.
Henn describes: “Carbon concrete could contribute to more flexible and resource efficient construction processes, and the switch to carbon concrete could reduce CO2 emissions from construction by up to 50%. Carbon concrete composite is developed through a thermal decomposition process called pyrolysis which binds carbon fibers together to produce a carbon fiber yarn, which creates a dense mesh that unites and strengthens the concrete. The elimination of steel rebar makes carbon reinforced concrete four times lighter than traditional concrete building material. Carbon reinforced concrete also lasts longer because carbon mesh is rustproof and its technical composition inherently avoids the threat of oxidation. Inside, the Cube houses a single classroom, research facilities, an exhibition space, and a small kitchen.
The unique unit of carbon concrete proves the versatility and malleability of the building material during the stages of building development. “The advantage is that you can make concrete much thinner while still being able to withstand heavy loads, which allows you to design completely different shapes. There are a few examples of finding ultra-thin concrete building elements, benches, or bracing. The goal is to move away from the huge amounts of concrete that are used today.
The Cube’s final shape merges its ceilings and walls into a single unit, as Henn explains: “The design reinterprets the textile nature of carbon fibers through the fluid fusion of the ceiling and walls into a single shape, suggesting a future architecture where environmentally friendly design is combined with formal freedom and a radical overhaul of the most fundamental architectural elements. The wall and the ceiling are no longer separate elements but functionally merge into each other as an organic continuum. Moving away from the stiffness of steel rebar for more versatile building materials like carbon reinforced concrete allows architects to design structures in new forms and with fewer structural parameters. Additionally, the lightweight nature of carbon reinforced concrete means less building materials used and less CO2 emissions during construction.
Designer: Henn Architekten and the Technical University of Dresden