Posted by Ben Nicholas on 22 July 2015

With an ever-expanding world population comes more waste, and a greater strain on resources like never before. The word ‘sustainable’ has started to develop into the general ethos of conversation in the construction world, and with up to 70% of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, the need to turn waste into a resource will be greater than ever before.

From re-using plastic bottles for bricks or using scrap metal to build skyscrapers, here we take a look at three developing ideas which could take over a skyline near you in the not so distant future.

1) Urban Recycling

As resources underground slowly deplete, it’s the structures we have created which could hold the key to the constructions future.

The resources that exist in already constructed buildings is vast, with materials such as gravel and sand, often overlooked once knocked down. The impact on the environment from sourcing raw materials is also huge, especially considering elements such as aluminium can be recycled for only 5% of the energy it took to produce them.

Some specialist companies have already discovered ways of turning old electrical cables into metallic substances that can be used in building materials. Copper as a whole is one of the most re-usable materials, with the recycling technology in place over twenty years ago.

Much used materials such as aluminium are often remodelled in a structure over time, whilst some is taken out of a design completely, freeing up the use of the resource for recycling.

Tom Van Soest, a member of the Design Academy in Eindhoven created a new type of building stone from pulverised materials from demolition sites which can be used for surface materials such as tiles or kitchen worktops.

Take a quick look at this video which reveals how a  whole two-story home can be recycled in less than half an hour.

2) Waste Recycling

Design studio Vij5, which is also based in the Netherlands, have created a wood-like material from recycled old newspapers called NewspaperWood.

In the United States a company called ReWall has created a material that can be used for interior wall cladding or for structural purposes made entirely from shredded beverage cartons, in a process that uses no water.

Courtesy Heineken Collection Foundation

Heineken owner Alfred Heineken famously invented the beer brick bottle in the 1960s, where the bottles fitted together almost like Lego once they had been drunk. He came up with the design in an attempt to create more eco-friendly homes after a vacation to the island of Curaçao. Stunned by the poverty, Heineken decided there was a way to turn the littering of the beaches into a positive; by turning the bottles into building tools for the community.

Credit:  Courtesy of the Heineken Collection Foundation

 The United Bottle project was a similar campaign that launched in 2010, where plastic water bottles could be locked into each other without the need for mortar, creating an effective temporary shelter.

3) Biological Recycling

One form of recycling that is hard to convey is the recycling of biological materials that we don’t usually consider to be waste, such as those taken from fungi or bacteria.

One such example is a self-healing concrete that can close small cracks by incorporating calcite-precipitating bacteria into a usual concrete mixture of sand and granite, which was created by Henk Jonkers from the Delft University of Technology.

Meanwhile a company is New York called Ecovative has created a material that is comparable to stone and concrete by reducing the amount of sunlight and heat an element of a mushroom receives.