From construction waste to ecological architecture: CRuMBLE [Concrete Rubble Manufacturing for Building Lifecycle and Environment]

Principal investigator: Joshua Bard, Dana Cupkova and Robert Heard

University: Carnegie Mellon University

Industry partners: ExOne and Michael Brothers Hauling & Recycling

Our research team from Architecture, Material Science and Robotics is partnering with two industry sponsors: ExOne, a world leader in binder jet 3D printing, and Michael Brothers Hauling & Recycling, a Pittsburgh based company exploring new markets for recycled building demolition waste streams. We propose a novel cradle-to-cradle design process for ecological architecture — manufactured directly from construction waste and earthen materials. Our project adapts the recycling of concrete and other building waste materials for binder jet 3D printing in order to significantly reduce the overall CO2 impact of building construction. We will advance the additive manufacturing of recycled building materials through two interconnected strategies: 1. by processing construction waste (e.g. brick, concrete, gypsum) into powders used in large format additive binder-jet manufacturing; 2. by reducing the overall volume of material used in new construction through smart, shape-sensitive design of architectural building components.

Building construction has a significant ecological impact on the state’s cities and towns. By connecting regional manufacturers with local supply streams we aim to improve the resource efficiency of construction related industries. Binder jet 3D printing presents an alternative to traditional concrete construction. The negative environmental impact of traditional concrete construction comes from the embodied energy of cement production and to the large volume of concrete that is used in standard construction. Concrete is the most used person-made material on the planet. To reduce the ecological impact of building construction, we therefore need to reduce the overall volume of new materials used, as well as offset the impact of current waste streams heading to industrial landfills. CRuMBLE proposes to advance the use of the shape-factor in design relative to component strength and material composition to mitigate embodied carbon in design and construction.