< terug

Constructing Ecosystems Topic 1: Living Concrete – Bio-Receptive Buildings

Supervisor(s)  Jan Wurm  
Campus BXL 
Language EN 
Studio or individual?   individual 
Max number of students?  1 


Description of the project: 

“Bio-receptivity is the aptitude of a material to be colonised by one or several groups of living organisms without necessarily undergoing any biodeterioration”, Olivier Guillitte 

Concrete in contemporary construction is the counterpart to the natural environment and a living material – it is promoted and used as an affordable, versatile,  inert, durable material that withstands environmental forces over the course of time. 

The current paradigm of sustainable architecture aims to reduce the environmental impact of concrete. This dissertation will explore trajectories for the next generation of sustainable concrete, positively contributing to the health of air, soil and water systems following a regenerative design approach. The underlying hypothesis is that for concrete to become a regenerative material, it would need to display a productive biological agency that balances its footprint over its service time. In this respect the concept of bio-receptivity is key, as it would allow concrete to interact with the environment as a “living rock” and perform ecosystem surfaces in an urban context. The effect of colonization is known form nature, where resilient organisms such as bacteria, algae, fungi, lichen and mosses will form bio-films on rocks and mineral materials.  Key factors for achieving bio-receptivity on mineral materials are high surface roughness, high open porosity, high capillary water content and pH level below 10. With bio-receptivity a relatively new concept, this dissertation will focus on additive manufacturing technologies as a key enabler to realize the potential of bio-receptivity of concrete building structures. 

Based on a systematical review of state of the art in field of concrete technology, maritime and urban ecology, latest additive fabrication technologies and modular construction, this dissertation will develop a framework for bio-receptive design of regenerative, prefabricated concrete buildings to promote multi-species habitats. The framework should address and integrate aspects of micro-scale (organisms, material composition),  component scale (geometry and performance of additively manufactured building elements) and building scale (design potentials and aesthetics) up to ecosystem scale (environmental conditions of context, assessment of regenerative impacts).  

The methodology of this design-led research should combine desk research with material experimentation and prototyping, parametric design and quantitative assessments.  

The concept design of a pilot project should synthesize the research findings, highlighting the ecological, aesthetic and performative potentials of the proposed design framework.  

Expected output: 

  • Dissertation Booklet presenting research, including all documentation  
  • Series of material samples 
  • Prototype of a 1:1 building component  
  • Design Study Demonstration project including environmental impact assessment  

Study trip? (+ timing): 

  • No mandatory study trip, but visits to research institutions such as TU Delft are encouraged and supported 

References/Further reading:  

Cruz, M, Beckett, R. (2016). Bioreceptive design: a novel approach to biodigital materiality. arq, 20.1, 51-64, Cambridge University Press  

Europos Parkas. (1991). Space of Unknown Growth – Europos parkas. Available from https://www.europosparkas.org/route/routes/8neatpazinto-augimo-erdve-en/  

Funktionalisierte Betonoberflächen zur gezielten Einstellung der Biorezeptivität, https://www.bam.de/Content/DE/Projekte/laufend/Biofilme-Baustoffe/biofilme-baustoffe.html 

Guillitte, O. (1995). Bioreceptivity: a new concept for building ecology studies. Science of The Total Environment, 167(1–3), 215–220. https://doi.org/10.1016/0048-9697(95)04582-L 

Jenkin, S., & Zari, M. P. (2009). Rethinking our built environments: Towards a sustainable future: A research document. Ministry for the Environment. 

Jonkers, H.M., and Schlangen, E. (2008) Development of a bacteria-based self-healing concrete. In: J. C. Walraven and D. Stoelhorst (eds). Tailor made concrete structures—new solutions for our society. Proceedings of the International Federation for Structural Concrete (FIB) symposium, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, pp. 425-430. 

Manso, S., Aguado, A. The use of bio-receptive concrete as a new typology of living wall systems, Matériaux & Techniques 104, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2016 

Monteiro, P., Miller, S. & Horvath, A. (2017) Towards sustainable concrete. Nature Materials 16:698–699. https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4930 

Mustafa, K.F.; Prieto, A.; Ottele, M. The Role of Geometry on a Self-Sustaining Bio-Receptive Concrete Panel for Facade Application. Sustainability 2021, 13, 7453 

North Sydney Council. (2022, April 1). Panels turn tide on biodiversity – North Sydney Council. Available from: https://www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au/news/article/25/panels-turn-tide-on-biodiversity 

Respyre. (2023). Our technology | Respyre. https://gorespyre.com/our-technology/  

Riley B., Malécot, V., Dubois-Brugger, I. Living concrete: Democratizing living walls, Science of The Total Environment 673, 2019 

Riley, B. Concrete living walls, École doctorale Sciences sociales (Lyon), 2018 

Riman, R. (2020). Microbial Curing of Cement for Energy Applications. Available from: https://arpa-e.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2020-11/01%20Rutgers%20-%20Richard%20Riman.pdf 

Veeger, M., Ottelé, M., & Prieto, A. (2021). Making bioreceptive concrete: Formulation and testing of bioreceptive concrete mixtures. Journal of Building Engineering, 44, 102545. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JOBE.2021.102545 

Veeger, M., Ottelé, M., Prieto, A. Exploring the Possibility of Using Bioreceptive Concrete in Building Façades, Journal of Facade Design and Engineering 9:73-, 2021 

Wurm, J. (2021). Appell für die Biotransformation des künstlichen Felsens | Modellverfahren Mäusebunker. https://www.modellverfahren-maeusebunker.de/diskurs/appell-fuer-die-biotransformation-des-kuenstlichen-felsens-0 

Reference for the image: Bath, England © Ludwig Heimbach