Innovation potentials for construction materials with specific focus on the challenges in Africa
Keywords:Urbanisation, Sustainability, Materials research, Cement, Concrete
Africa is urgently in need of adequate basic infrastructure and housing, and it is one of the continents where massive construction activities are on the rise. There is a vast variety of potentially viable resources for sustainable construction on the continents, and consequently, the continent can bring innovative, greener technologies based on local sources effectively into practice. However, unlike established concrete constituents from industrialised countries in the global North, most of the innovation potentials from the African continent have not yet been the focus of intensive fundamental and applied research. This clearly limits the implementation of more sustainable local technologies.
This paper presents a case for the need to first appreciate the rich diversity and versatility of the African continent which is often not realistically perceived and appreciated. It discusses specific innovation potentials and challenges for cementitious materials and concrete technology based on local materials derived from sources on the African continent. The unique African materials solutions are presented and discussed, from mineral binders over chemical admixtures and fibres to reinforcement and aggregates. Due to the pressing challenges faced by Africa, with regards to population growth and urbanisation, the focus is not only put on the technological (durability, robustness and safety) and environmental sustainability, but also strongly on socio-economic applicability, adaptability and scalability. This includes a review of alternative, traditional and vernacular construction technologies such as materials-saving structures that help reducing cementitious materials. Eventually, a strategic research roadmap is hypothesised that points out the most relevant potentials and research needs for quick implementation of more localised construction materials.
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