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Innovative materials for construction

In the field of construction, new materials have emerged to meet the challenges of modern buildings. The energy transition is at the heart of processes and contemporary materials are therefore ecological, sustainable, environmentally friendly and less energy intensive. Masonry and insulation are the two main poles of innovation of the manufacturers.

The impact of thermal regulations

Since the thermal regulation of 2012 (RT 2012) new buildings must meet a number of rules to meet the limits set in terms of overall energy performance of the building. Intended to be replaced by the energy regulation of 2018 (the RE 2018), the RT 2012 has nonetheless pushed manufacturers to offer innovative materials that can be closer to a little more passive house, or even positive energy.

Towards the passive house
A passive house is a house whose insulation and energy consumption are so efficient that it can function almost entirely thanks to the calories emitted by internal sources (electrical appliances and inhabitants) or by contributions from solar energy.

It produces more energy (heat and electricity) than it needs for its operation and for the comfort of its inhabitants.
The new construction market has seen more and more buildings of this type, alongside ecological and bioclimatic houses. But in the old, it is still the reduction of energy consumption that is the most realistic, thanks to better thermal insulation and a heating system that consumes less energy.

Materials have evolved to adapt and offer solutions that respond to ecological issues, while taking into account the speed and ease of installation.

Isolation, a major challenge

Due to the different regulations and policies in favor of the energy transition, insulation has become the major issue of recent years in construction and renovation. Innovations sometimes very innovative have appeared on the market.
Recycled glass
Insulations made from recycled glass meet both a logic of sustainable development and a desire to build with natural materials. Sometimes associated with sand, lime or dolomite, they are mainly used for insulation from the outside. They have the advantage of being particularly durable (they deteriorate little in time) and to be extremely tight. By not emitting volatile compounds or noxious gases, they respond perfectly to contemporary concerns about the quality of the air.

Recycled fabric
Another insulation particularly noted for its ecological qualities, recycled fabric insulation is distinguished by its excellent properties in thermal insulation, but also acoustic. Previously treated against insects and molds, this type of insulation lets the walls breathe and its ecological footprint is virtually zero.

Silica airgel
Another novelty, silica airgel has been developed by nanotechnology engineers and is composed of almost 100% air (99.8%). Light and strong, it is in the form of a transparent gel that contains a gas with low thermal conductivity. It is 37 times more effective than glass wool and it is fully recyclable.

Vacuum insulation
If air and rare gases are remarkable insulators, the vacuum is even better. This has led to the development of vacuum insulating panels (VIP) insulating performance 6 to 8 times superior to those of the best mineral wool. Such performance can significantly reduce the thickness of the insulation (1 cm of VIP is 6 cm of expanded polystyrene and 9 cm of glass wool). The only disadvantage of the product is that it can not be pierced, which imposes certain constraints of implementation.

Ecological walls, but also faster to climb

Insulating blocks
Another strategy adopted by manufacturers for the construction of low energy house (BBC) is the implementation of blocks that are both insulating and easier to assemble. Here, the challenge is not only to reduce the need for insulation from the inside or in isolation from the outside, but also to speed up construction sites. The principle is the manufacture of ground blocks (thus strictly calibrated) allowing assembly by thin joints, whose cells are filled with insulators.
New block models are offered with lighter and more insulating aggregates (eg pumice). Hemp concrete blocks are not new (they exist since the 1990s), but they find a new lease of life thanks to machining and local production techniques that make them more accessible, more efficient and easier to assemble.

Insulated concrete
Concrete solutions are not left out of innovation. The BCI technique (for Insulating Cement Block) also represents an important time saver: the concrete is poured directly between two sheets of insulating expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Alveolar brick
In the early 2000s, the brick of terracotta multi-alveolar (Monomur) has emerged as the ideal solution to meet the requirements of thermal regulations of the time, without the need for reported insulation (it is called distributed insulation). The increased requirements of the RT 2012 and future regulations no longer allow the Monomur brick to meet these requirements in reasonable thickness (37 cm) without additional insulation. As for the concrete block, the filling of the cells of conventional honeycomb structure with an insulator (here, rockwool) can solve this problem.

The wooden bricks
Already widespread in the countries of northern Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon countries, the wood brick makes a shy appearance in France. Its principle is simple: hollow wood bricks are assembled without mortar or nails, screws or glue (on a nesting principle close to that of the Lego). The void inside the bricks is then filled with wood chips to ensure good insulation of the walls. There are also solid wood bricks, a solution that is not really new and is struggling to impose because of a relatively high manufacturing cost.

Mixed solutions
The advantages of these new materials come at a cost and it is sometimes interesting to consider mixed solutions, which combine innovative materials and traditional materials, in order to respect its budget. For their implementation, it is important to call on a qualified professional, who master the technical challenges of their installation.

On the same topic

  • DIY tips
    • What are the administrative steps to enlarge his house
    • Isolation of the house: the priorities
    • Overall insulation of a roof
    • Overall insulation of the walls from the outside
    • Technical Benefits of Monomur Brick
  • Questions answers
    • What is the reliability of a timber frame house?
    • Is the Monomur brick compatible with the BBC label?
    • Wood frame house with brick cladding

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