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Bio-inspiration as a Concept for Sustainable Constructions Illustrated on Graded Concrete

: Horn, Rafael; Albrecht, Stefan; Haase, Walter; Langer, Max; Schmeer, Daniel; Sobek, Werner; Speck, Olga; Leistner, Philip


Journal of bionic engineering 16 (2019), No.4, pp.742-753
ISSN: 1672-6529 (Print)
ISSN: 2543-2141 (Online)
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IBP ()

The building industry is one of the main contributors to worldwide resource consumption and anthropogenic climate change. Therefore, sustainable solutions in construction are particularly urgent. Inspired by the success principles of living nature, biologists and engineers present here an interdisciplinary work: The sustainability assessment of a bio-inspired material technology called graded concrete, which was developed at ILEK. Gradient structural materials can be found in plants on different hierarchical levels, providing a multitude of creative solutions for technology. Graded concrete applies this biological concept of structural optimization to the interior structure of concrete components to minimize material and resource expenditure. To evaluate the sustainability of this innovation, a newly developed quantitative Bio-inspired Sustainability Assessment (BiSA) method is applied. It focuses on the relationship of environmental, social and economic functions and the corresponding burdens quantified basing on life cycle assessment. The BiSA of graded concrete slabs shows significant improvements over conventional concrete for the applied use case. While an overall reduction of environmental burdens by 13% is expected, economic burdens can be reduced by up to 40% and social burdens by 35.7%. The assessment of the graded concrete technology identifies its potential with regard to sustainable construction. The presented work provides a blueprint for the interdisciplinary, integrative work on sustainable, bio-inspired innovations. It shows that the synergies of bio-inspiration and BiSA within technical product development can be fruitful.