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TRL and Qatar launch new innovative building block to help improve sustainability
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TRL and Qatar launch new innovative building block to help improve sustainability

TRL, centre for innovation in transport and mobility, and Qatar’s Ministry of Municipalities and Environment has announced the launch of VegeBlock, a new innovative building block designed to help increase sustainability across the country’s construction segment.

The launch of VegeBlock, also described as ‘Smart Block’, represents the latest stage in an ongoing programme of collaborative work between MME and TRL to improve the sustainability and adoption of green construction in Qatar and the rest of the region. Previous projects have focused on the use of locally available recycled and secondary aggregates in place of imported primary aggregate.

The project was funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) at the Qatar Foundation, National Priorities Research Programme (NPRP 6-1472-2-600). During the event, attendees were briefed on how VegeBlock has been developed from small scale samples produced in laboratories to full-size building blocks using materials and techniques specifically suited to Qatari conditions and the GCC region.

VegeBlock is composed entirely of recycled aggregates and used vegetable oil, and is manufactured in a similar way to conventional concrete blocks, except that they are cured at higher temperatures for longer periods. The product has similar properties to low strength concrete and is suitable for use as non-load bearing blocks in buildings. By using recycled materials and avoiding the use of cement, the cost of production and the carbon footprint of VegeBlock are significantly lower than that of conventional concrete blocks being used today.

The aim of the project was focused on the development of innovative pre-cast blocks for the construction industry without the use of cement or primary aggregates. VegeBlock is expected to make a significant contribution to the sustainability of construction in Qatar. The project enabled the VegeBlock concept to be adapted to the specific conditions and materials available in Qatar – particularly to maximise the use of recycled and waste materials. VegeBlock contributes to sustainable development and the implementation of the green construction concept through the re-use of materials that might otherwise be disposed of as waste and avoiding the import of the aggregates and cement that are used in conventional concrete building blocks.

VegeBlock is produced from excavation waste material (limestone) and used vegetable oil. The components are mixed and compacted in a mould and cured in an oven at 170°C for up to two days. The heat treatment results in oxidation and polymerisation of the oil to act as a binder for the aggregate resulting in cured blocks with adequate strength and durability for use as construction blocks. These innovative blocks have strength and durability properties similar to non-load bearing concrete blocks (M4 & M6 in the Qatar Construction Specifications QCS 2014) but do not require the use of cement, water or imported aggregates.

Full scale production trials were then carried out at the Khalid Cement Industries factory in the Industrial Area in Doha. The aggregate used was limestone derived from excavation waste, screened to be finer than eight mm. Used vegetable oil was selected as the binder, thus using only recycled materials as well as avoiding the use of cement and imported aggregate. The production was carried out using the same facilities available for producing conventional concrete blocks in Doha. The process resulted in the production of large sized blocks (400x200x200mm) that met the Qatar Construction Specification requirements for non-load bearing blocks.

VegeBlock also provides environmental benefits in terms of reduced emissions of CO2 compared to conventional concrete blocks. Carbon footprints results indicated that VegeBlock has a distinct advantage by saving 88 per cent in carbon emission over conventional concrete blocks. The advantages of VegeBlock can be seen in the elimination of the use of cement and imported aggregates. The new and innovative product does not require the addition of water to the mix – a significant advantage as compared to concrete blocks in a desert climate like Qatar.

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