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Houses

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Ultra-lightweight building technologies

In Switzerland, researchers and architects have teamed up on a project dubbed NEST (Next Evolution in Sustainable Building Technologies) to develop innovative building technologies, including ultra-lightweight and thin components. Their flagship project is HiLo, a prototype residence and office building that will be constructed with an ultra-slim roof shell. 

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Resource Fix: A Thinner Insulating Panel from BASF

Reducing the amount of energy required to heat buildings - even eliminating the need for central heating altogether in some cases - can require a lot of mass. Walls in passive homes, like this newly certified brownstone in New York City, can reach upwards of two feet thick. BASF is developing a new insulating panel that is expected to be up to 50 percent thinner than similar panels, while delivering higher insulating properties. The company’s insulating panel incorporates organic aerogels for a strong, lightweight solution to better building envelopes with less mass. According to BASF, the panels will be highly adaptable and allow for more effective retrofits in historic buildings and interiors. The product also has potential applications in making more energy efficient refrigerators.

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Resource Fix: A lightweight board

BASF and Swiss Krono Group have developed a lightweight board for furniture and interior construction that’s 30 percent lighter than typical particle board without sacrificing needed strength. The board not only saves on resources initially, but reduces resource use associated with shipping. It’s made from a polymer from BASF called Kaurit Light, combined with chipped wood and glue. It can be ground up and reused in new chipboard.

More interesting than the board itself is where it will be showcased next week - a special exhibit on lightweight materials at the timber and woodworking trade show Ligna. “lightweight.network” will include a number of advances in lightweight construction, particularly in the furniture industry. There’s also a parallel conference on lightweight panels, with talks on production methods, honeycomb construction, and other technologies.

We hear a lot about lightweighting in the auto and aviation industries, and now in wood products. It will be interesting to see where the idea will go next - what about applications in your industry?

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