Use of Natural-Fiber Bio-Composites in Construction versus Traditional Solutions: Operational and Embodied Energy Assessment

Materials (Basel). 2016 Jun 13;9(6):465. doi: 10.3390/ma9060465.


During the last decades natural polymers have become more and more frequent to replace traditional inorganic stabilizers in building materials. The purpose of this research is to establish a comparison between the most conventional building material solutions for load-bearing walls and a type of biomaterial. This comparison will focus on load-bearing walls as used in a widespread type of twentieth century dwelling construction in Europe and still used in developing countries nowadays. To carry out this analysis, the structural and thermal insulation characteristics of different construction solutions are balanced. The tool used for this evaluation is the life cycle assessment throughout the whole lifespan of these buildings. This research aims to examine the environmental performance of each material assessed: fired clay brick masonry walls (BW), concrete block masonry walls (CW), and stabilized soil block masonry walls (SW) stabilized with natural fibers and alginates. These conventional and new materials are evaluated from the point of view of both operational and embodied energy.

Keywords: embodied energy; life cycle assessment; load bearing walls; natural composites; natural fibers; operational energy; sustainability.