Worlds first façade system in biocomposites

  • Biocomposites replace steel and concrete
  • Potential to reduce embodied energy by 50%
  • JEC Innovation Awards winner, category: Construction

As part of the BioBuild project consortium, Arup Deutschland and GXN Innovation (Denmark) jointly designed the world’s first biocomposite panel for modular façade systems in building construction. The project was coordinated by NetComposites (UK) and brought together 13 organizations from 7 different countries.

The idea behind the collaboration was to use biocomposites to significantly reduce embodied energy in the building industry while delivering high performance and being commercially competitive. The result is a structural façade system consisting of biocomposites with the potential to reduce the embodied energy by 50% compared to other systems without increasing cost.

Replacement of steel and concrete

The new biocomposites can replace conventional construction materials such as aluminium, steel, brick and concrete. The façade panel is 4 m in height, 2.3 m in width, and has a variable thickness with an average value of 0.3 m. It can be used both in residential and office buildings. The panel is composed of two biocomposite laminates, made of biopolyester and twill Biotex flax fabrics, one facing the exterior and one facing the interior of the building. These have a thickness of 10 mm and 6 mm respectively, and work structurally by withstanding the design loads expected for a façade system.

Open-mold process to produce biocomposite laminates

An open-mold process is used to produce the biocomposite laminates. The external laminate has a clear coating which makes the natural fabric visible, thus creating a unique appearance. The internal laminate is painted white. A number of coating colors and typologies can be chosen for the surface’s finish, also depending on the building’s specific requirements. The gap between the biocomposite laminates is filled with insulation to improve both the acoustic and physical characteristics of the panel. In addition, a timber frame is fixed to the biocomposite laminates to host the gasket profiles and increase the edge stiffness.

“Cradle-to-cradle” approach allows easy recycling

The extended use of biocomposite materials allows improved environmental sustainability with respect to benchmark materials solutions, including traditional glass or carbon fiber composites. Moreover, the panel was designed considering a “cradle-to- cradle” approach in which all parts, and particularly the bio-based materials, can be easily detached from the rest at the end of the life cycle and be either recycled or reused.

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