Constructing Sand

Dirk E. Hebel, Aurel von Richthofen: Emerging selective laser sintering technology applied to an untapped resource – retrieved sand – opens new possibilities in light-weight durable and recyclable construction materials at FCL’s Sand Lab.

Sand is the most used raw material for production of goods of our planet. It is found in concrete, glass, computers, detergents and even toothpaste. But sand is a finite resource: what took millions of years to become into being through erosion and sedimentation, man is mining at rivers and ocean coasts in a so-far unknown speed. Sand is the megastar of the industrial and digital era – our culture is literally built upon this resource. But sand is not equal to sand: The construction industry requires grain sizes and rough shapes that are only found in river beds, lakes and the oceans. Over the turn of millions of years, mountains gradually eroded into gravel, sand and dust. Rainfalls carry these particles through existing watercourses to the sea. Sand is mostly composed of quartz, a mineral form of silicon dioxide. It is one of the most abundant materials on the earth surface and also one of the strongest. These properties make it valuable to various industries. But once it is enclosed into concrete as an aggregate, sand cannot be retrieved. Desert sand on the other hand is presently unsuitable to the construction industry: Gradual wind erosion polishes the sand particles into round and even forms and therefore reduces their friction capacity; desert sand is simply too fine and spherical in shape to act as a high-friction aggregate in the concrete matrix.

related: 

Sand: an (in)finite Resource?

The E4D Summer School 2016 with the topic of "Sand: an (in)finite Resource?" is organised by ETH Global in collaboration with the Chair of Architecture and Construction of ETH Zurich Assistant Professor Dirk E. Hebel, Aurel von Richthofen and the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at TU Delft, The Netherlands.

Coordinator FCL

Aurel von Richthofen has been appointed Module Coordinator at the Chair of Architecture and Construction at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in Singapore since September 2014. He will coordinate the research done at the Advanced Fibre Composite Materials laboratory (also known as Bamboo Lab) and contribute to the interdisciplinary Tropical Town project in Indonesia.

Tetra – City / House

The house of the future is a tetrahedron. In fact, it is a set of tetra- shaped rooms forming a little city of tetra-spaces that form a tetra-shaped house. Fractal in geometry, the ideal house can be applied as ideal city on a different scale. Recursive in time, a partial realization anticipates the future expansion.

Topos Journal: Desert Sprawl

Aurel writes in Topos, the International Review of Landscape, Architecture and Urban Design about landscape destruction in Oman due to rapid urbanization. The essay is accompagnied by a photo series and appears in two versions online 2014 and in print 2015.