Eco-friendly concrete protects old buildings from earthquakes


The material, called EDCC, replaces much of the the cement with an industrial byproduct called fly ash. “The cement industry produces close to seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says UBC Professor Nemy Banthia. ” By replacing nearly 70 percent of cement with fly ash, we can reduce the amount of cement used. This is quite an urgent requirement, as one tonne of cement production releases almost a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

The final product is similar to steel, being strong, malleable and much more ductile than regular concrete. Researchers sprayed concrete block walls with about 10mm (a half-inch) of EDCC, then subjected them to a simulated magnitude 9 earthquake, not unlike the one that struck Tohoku, Japan in 2011.

While the unreinforced wall collapsed dramatically at about 65 percent intensity (shown at about 0:50 in the video above), the reinforced wall withstood full intensity shaking, flexing impressively. “A 10 millimeter-thick layer of EDCC … is sufficient to reinforce most interior walls against seismic shocks,” said researcher Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki.

Far from being just an experiment, EDCC cement is a commercial-ready product that has been designated as an official retrofit option in British Columbia, Canada. In many cases, it could be a more cost-effective option than major structural renovations or steel bracing for earthquake protection. For one of the first projects, contractors will use it to upgrade an elementary school in earthquake-prone Vancouver. It’ll also be used to retrofit a school in a seismically active area of northern India.

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