By Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 10/27/2009
It appears I may be blessed with a VERY unique opportunity. There is a new class of cementitious materials called geopolymers in the R&D phase at universities, and I may have the opportunity to be one of the first people in the world to use this material in a residential construction project.
Geopolymers have many advantages over Portland cement:
1. higher corrosion resistance
2. higher strength
3. 90% less embodied CO2
4. Divert large volumes of fly-ash waste from landfills.
I serve on the Industry Advisory Board of Louisiana Tech University's Trenchless Technology Center, have peer-reviewed several research projects, mentored grad students, hired two graduates from their program, and done multiple research projects with them. Over the last couple of years, Dr. Erez Allouche has been working on developing geopolymer materials for high corrosion resistance in water and sewer applications. Over a year ago, I pointed out the very large commercial potential for his geopolymer materials in the green building sector, particularly for use with ICF construction. He has since applied for and received research grant money from the DOE, along with other sources, to further develop these materials.
Hopefully, by next spring, the researchers will be ready for field trials, and I have volunteered my property for the experimental pouring of the very first geopolymer ICF wall as a retaining wall. If the field trials go well, the wall can be incorporated into a future guest house structure. If not, I'll landscape around it. I plan on using the retaining wall in my efforts to get formal code approval in the state of Alabama, as needed.
Ultimately, it is my hope to build my "dream home" with geopolymer ICF! The researchers are characterizing the properties of over 40 fly-ash sources from around North America in preparations for establishing volume production capabilities for the future geopolymer industry. One fly-ash source participating in the research is within 100 miles of my future home site, and the researchers have agreed to prioritize the characterization of their materials in preparation for the field trials with me next year.
The coal-fired power industry is happily supporting the effort, because it will GREATLY reduce their landfilling expenses for fly ash. The use of geopolymers may potentially also provide carbon offset credits for the power industry.
Between the water and wastewater sector and the green building sector, I believe we can establish sufficient economies of scale to ultimately bring the cost of geopolymers below the cost of Portland cement, providing a VERY major "green" change to the construction materials world. I'm kind of excited to have the potential to be a guinea pig in such efforts to help "change the world."