On the other hand, always adhering to the best of performance standardization has some drawbacks. It can put a severe damper on innovation. Material testing is expensive, making it hard for start-ups and dis-incentivizing material changes in products. This is also true of using recycled material, for which the source cannot be certified, and thus the properties are unpredictable. Fortunately, code allows for a range of materials properties per type of use. And this may be the “back-door” for a product to get into production, into the market, and then start the testing.
A good example for this is brick – such as a hard-fired, clay material – an architectural facing brick. These were the qualities that CalStar was chasing with its Fly-Ash Brick, which has a “greener” footprint with 40% recycled materials and a manufacturing process that eliminates the need for firing. This addresses the need for commercial grade durable building material while reducing the CO2 by 85%. The goal is to maintain the existing materials properties, but with a lower carbon footprint.
Another route to innovation was taken by scientists in Spain and India, both seeking to incorporate paper waste into a brick. A Spanish research team at the University of Jaen is working with waste paper from paper mills, mixing it with clay, extruding this mixture into long logs, and then cutting it into blocks prior to baking. The cellulose is a good use of industrial waste, but it reduces the strength of the brick. These scientists are seeking replacements to meet all the quality of clay brick, and thus are “continuing to find a balance between sustainability and strength.” The goal is to reduce the use of the existing resource, clay, by extending it with waste.On the other hand, the Indian researchers were motivated by a shortage of building materials, cost, and the availability of waste material from the Recycle Paper Mills. Professors Mandavgane and Ralegaonkar (of VNIT) mixed 9 parts of this sludge material with 1 part concrete as a binder for a mixture that is then processed in traditional brick molds and sun cured. The resulting bricks are half the cost and can be used for the interior demising walls, which were traditionally brick (not frame), but are non-load bearing and not exposed to the weather. The team continues to experiment with other industrial by-products: rice husk ash, waste tea, blast furnace slag and fly ash, and the improvement of the weather resistance of the brick. This goal here seems to be to innovate something new out of a waste stream.
Think of it this way. There are “vegetarian” diets which are based on all sorts of replacement products and recipes that try to replicate the SAD (Standard American Diet) - vegeburgers, meatless lasagna, tofurkey. Other vegetarian diets that simply celebrate the vegetable, and the many non-meat foods: grains, seeds, fruits. These two approaches typically have different followers with distinctly different goals and produce different innovations. There is room for both, and much to be gained in cross-referencing the two. And so it is with bricks, and other building materials.