A new biological form of concrete has been developed by a group of Spanish scientists at the Structural Technology Group in Barcelona that captures rainwater in order to create living walls of moss and fungi. This living, breathing façade called biological concrete enhances sustainable architecture by supporting the growth of pigmented organisms on building surfaces.
This new technology integrates the use of concrete into already established buildings and encourages a variety of biological organisms to grow on the surface. These plants include microalgae, lichens, fungi, and mosses. The idea is to have myriad colors of plants and mosses that will change with the seasons, creating an ever-evolving living picture.
Most structures are built from normal concrete, which usually has high pH levels and does not allow for biological growth.
Biological concrete, however, uses a concrete that is based on Portland cement. This particular cement is acidic, manufactured with magnesium phosphate, and creates optimal growing conditions for different types of mosses. Therefore, biological concrete is designed to allow for specific organisms to thrive.
Although vertical gardens have been integrated into building facades for quite some time, this new biological concrete is very different due to its function as part of the building’s structure.
This new type of concrete is composed of three different layers. First is a waterproofing layer, which protects the structural layer from potential damages caused by water. The second layer is the biological layer, where the development and colonization of organisms takes place. The organisms are supported by the biological layer, which can capture and store rainwater in order for the plants to grow. The third and final layer is the discontinuous coating layer, which has a reverse waterproofing ability. This layer allows rainwater to enter and blocks it from escaping, which encourages more growth.
Biological concrete has many advantages and has helped further evolve sustainability as an integral part of the design process. This particular concrete absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide, and in turn releases oxygen into the air. The concrete also regulates temperatures inside the building, capturing heat in the winter and keeping the inside cool during the summer.