Engineering. Chemistry. Materials science. Applied physics. Applied mathematics. Every applied discipline that touches the supply chain will need to work together—to join up as a community—to solve the problems of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Here we’re sharing thoughts from Jianzhuang Xiao at Tongji University, Shanghai, China.
My research is focused on fundamental research on the material characteristics and structural behaviors of recycled aggregate concrete with recycled coarse aggregates, recycled fine aggregates and recycled powder, including workability, strength development, stress-strain models, shrinkage and creep, material durability, capacity of components as well as seismic performance of different structures. Investigations of the fundamental relationships of the RAC properties from material selection to green construction, such as 3D concrete printing are also put forward. By conducting these studies about sustainable materials, my research group try to solve the landfill problem by utilizing the construction and demolition waste in products, so as to better achieve SDG for urban regeneration in the future.
I think the consumption of virgin materials in building process can definitely be considered as one metric to measure. Indiscriminate use of natural resources and energy-intensive processes for the building materials will not lead to sustainable futures. When we shifted away from natural materials and toward more contemporary materials for building, it seemed inevitable that we would consume more energy and natural resources. In this context, the most important way to measure success against the SDG(s) in our research field is to imply the low-carbon cement-based materials and emphasize the green construction process, which refers to building architecture that is energy-efficient and is built with sustainable materials which consumes much less resource and energy than traditional ones.
Modern construction aims to integrate stability into its planning process to deliver better value and more economical construction. Due to the various social, economic, and ecological needs of constructing projects, it is necessary to integrate sustainable development into project management practices. For this role, the policymakers should always be first reached to control the external perspectives to solve the stability problems based on materials, ecological and economic. Through quantification of the environmental and societal benefits of concrete recycling, stakeholders are assisted in deciding to use recycled materials such as recycled concrete prepared with construction and demolish waste.
I think it is quite important for young researchers to start establishing societal impact as they step into their careers. Submitting papers, participating in conferences or workshops, and accepting interviews (like this blog of course) can all be very effective ways to make societal impact. To maximize the societal impact, a very basic but easily ignored key point is to make your research work solid and insightful. For example, in our research field, early career researchers need to well know the background of the material used for the construction, the tools and techniques that can be utilized for the evaluation of the sustainable benefit prior to engaging in construction, as well as aspects including but not limited to material origin, reliance on recycled materials, energy consumption saving potential, time-saving and recaptured value prior to the investment in concrete. Otherwise, the activities made to enhance societal impact may be ineffective and potentially counter-productive.
By 2050, 70% of the world population will live in cities, providing a well built and functional infrastructure with sustainable materials can greatly reducing environmental strain, and waste disposal and management are key to achieving a circular economy. Although it is widely acknowledged that sustainable material is important to the realization of SDG, various factors are still required to be considered and studied before they can be applied. Publishers can be a pivotal point by promoting and pushing the development of technology from the laboratory scale to on-site scale. As traditional methods make construction productivity flat for its own unique set of challenges and risks. New technologies in construction are being developed at an amazing rate. Publishers can grasp this opportunity to help streamline the technology, achieve better scale and applicability as well as expand its impact on society.
Jianzhuang Xiao is professor and Head of the Department of Building Engineering at Tongji University (Shanghai, China) as well as the chairman of the RILEM Technical Committee for Recycled Concrete Structural Behavior and Innovation, and the director of the Recycled Concrete Committee in China. His major research interests are the fundamental research of recycled concrete, 3D printing concrete, structural sustainability design, high-performance concrete materials & structures, and the application of earthquake-resistant & fire-preventive technologies. He is currently the Executive Editor-in-chief of Springer’s new journal Low-carbon Materials and Green Construction. This new journal will launch in early 2022.