The Third Annual Portland Cement Association (“PCA”) Concrete Thinking for a Sustainable World Student Design Competition opened for registration in early December and will remain available for both domestic and international students to enter through February 8. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students to “investigate innovative uses of Portland cement-based material to achieve sustainable design objectives.” This year’s competition gives students a choice from two different concepts. The first asks for designs for an environmentally responsible recycling center, while the second seeks designs for “a single element of a building that provides a sustainable solution to real-world environmental challenges.” The competition is not restricted by site or building use, so students will have a great deal of flexibility in crafting their designs.
Last year’s competition winner was Henry Miller of Troy, New York-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whose submission addressed two problems of local interest in neighboring Albany. Mr. Miller noticed that several Upstate municipalities had ended their plastic recycling programs due to the cost, and those plastics were instead finding their way to local landfills. The first piece of his submission took granulated plastic and included it in a cement mix that ultimately formed a concrete equally strong as traditional concrete from a mined aggregate base.
His submission also aimed to assist municipalities in eliminating contaminated soil from their brownfields. Mr. Miller combined the contaminated brownfields soil and cement through a wet and dry process in order to form structural bricks, which withstood testing. Mr. Miller also created a test wall from each of these two materials (see image) to demonstrate that his techniques could be commercially viable. Mr. Miller explained that his intention was “to establish a protocol by which these sites might be addressed using a common denominator [Portland cement] that is inexpensive, regularly available, and easy to work with.”
Final entries for the 2008 competition are due in June- over $50,000 in prizes will be distributed after the jury convenes that month. We’ll keep an eye on the competition and the innovative sustainable designs that it’s certain to solicit.