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The Role of Geometry on a Self-Sustaining Bio-Receptive Concrete Panel for Facade Application

The Role of Geometry on a Self-Sustaining Bio-Receptive Concrete Panel for Facade Application

Authors: by Kazi Fahriba Mustafa, Alejandro Prieto and Marc Ottele

Bio-receptivity refers to the aptitude of a material to allow for the natural growth of small plant species on stony surfaces with minimum external influence. Despite the numerous associated environmental benefits, the growth of mosses and lichens on facades has always been viewed as a negative phenomenon due to the random and shabby growth conditions. This research dealt with the design of a self-sustaining bio-receptive concrete facade system with an aim to create a more sustainable and green concrete for the construction industry. The research used surface geometry as a design variable to facilitate moss growth on concrete panels in an ordered and systematic manner.

The exercise was an attempt to not only address the functional aspect of bio-receptivity but also its aesthetical quality, which has a primary influence on people’s perception of bio-receptivity and can promote mass use of this type of concrete material. The research was conducted in a top-down approach, where first, through design by research, six distinctly designed concrete panels were fabricated using adapted material composition (blast furnace cement with 75% slag, 0.6 water/cement, sand 0–4 mm and gravel 5–8 mm) as the boundary condition. The concrete mixture together with no curing policy resulted in highly porous concrete panels, suitable for bio-receptive properties. Next in the design validation phase, the influence of surface geometry/roughness on the water retention ability of the panels and the subsequent moss growth on the panels were evaluated through in vitro experiments. The water retention experiment of the panels was based on quantitative measurements for weight, relative humidity and temperature at several time intervals. The moss-growing experiment was carried out within an ideal greenhouse condition where the panels were initially inoculated with moss spores; the results were based on qualitative observation for a period of 4 months. According to the comparative analysis of these results, with the same material composition, Panel 2 showed the highest bio-colonization owing to its prominent surface geometry, whereas Panel 5 showed the least bio-colonization owing to its plain surface despite high absorption capacity. Thus, the role of geometry has been extensively proven in this research and as an outcome a set of general design guidelines have been formulated for a self-sustaining bio-receptive concrete facade panel, using geometry as a design variable for bio-receptivity.

Open access paper here.