Textile reinforced INSU-SHELL bestowed with an environment award
Six phases of development of textile reinforced façade elements were needed jointly by German ITA Institute of Textile Technology of RWTH Aachen-University, IMB Institute of Concrete Structures (member of the faculty Civil Engineering; there are around 70 emplyees, thereof 18 research engineers, 17 industrial collaborators, 11 trainees and 25 student researchers) of the same university and by the industrial partners DuraPact, Aachen (D, developer and manufacturer of fibre reinforced concrete applications), glass specialist Saint Gobain Technical Fabrics, Chambery (F) and German Engineering firm Gimpel GmbH (Aachen) until environmentally friendly Life INSU-SHELL made of Textile Reinforced Concrete (TRC), hand in hand with a polyurethane foam insulation, was born. On May 24, 2012 the EU co-funded project was bestowed with The Best of the Best Life Environments Award of the EU Commission and presented to the Head of ITA, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Gries(photograph below:on the right, left Prof. Josef Hegger (IMB) and project head Silke Tomoscheit (ITA)
The innovative sandwich (composite) elements – the first ones were mounted to the ITA INNOTEX building already in 2009 – allow a reduction of concrete by 70 to 80 % leading to the saving of up to 50 % of CO2 emissions. Annually around five percent of such emissions are accounted to the cement industry thus the new product adds to reach the goals of the Kyoto protocol.
TRC disposes of various advantages as to conventional building techniques, for instance reinforced textiles do not corrode and they allow at the same the production of thin elements with a concrete overlapping of only 2 mm (6 cm are custom for ferrous concrete), a fact leading to savings of concrete up to 80 % as well as savings of energy, CO2 emissions, weight and this during production, transportation, mounting and use. The composite offers design flexibility and filigree building elements. As mentioned typical applications of TRC are besides façade systems, integrated formwork, bridges and roofing elements. It serves also as reinforcing material in retrofitting of existing buildings.
Actually we are impressed by the wave of earthquakes in Northern Italy – it was hitting badly the center of Italy’s knitting industry – and the many collapsed buildings and cultural values. If some of these buildings would have been made or reinforced by TRC the buildings would not collapse instantly but only deform under compressive and bending stress actions, leading to the saving of lives (evacuation is possible) and only fine cracks in the construction thus guaranteeing a ductile and robust structural behaviour. The described very small concrete overlapping will let fall off only fractions of fragments not creating damages.
Due to a growing world population the construction industry is expanding and thriving and concrete is the most popular construction material. In 2012 the German construction industry will grow another time by 10 % as this was already the case in 2011 (source Cemex AG, Germany).
It is worth to note that the cement based concrete creates an alkali medium in combination with water and the reinforcing fibres have to withstand an aggressive chemical environment. This led to the fact that for INSU-SHELL that the zirconia content in the melted glass mixture (St-Gobain) had to be increased to secure a sufficient lifetime application.