TRL, the innovative research, technology and software solutions provider for the transport sector, and Qatar's Ministry of Municipalities and Environment (MME) announced the launch of ‘VegeBlock’, a new innovative building block designed to help increase sustainability across the country's construction segment, at the recent seminar held at the Ministry of Municipality & Environment Tower. The launch of VegeBlock or the ‘Smart Block’ represents the latest stage in an ongoing collaborative programme between MME and TRL to improve the sustainability and adoption of green construction in Qatar and the rest of the region.
Previous projects have focused on the use of locally available recycled and secondary aggregates in place of imported primary aggregate. Present during the launch were Dr Mohammad bin Saif Al-Kuwari, Head of the Environmental and Municipal Studies Institute - MME and Dr Khaled Hassan Country Director and Head of Middle-East Infrastructure, TRL, and other key stakeholders in the construction industry. The project was funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) at the Qatar Foundation, National Priorities Research Programme.
VegeBlock is composed entirely of recycled aggregates and used vegetable oil, and is manufactured in a similar way to conventional concrete blocks, except that they are cured at higher temperatures for longer periods. By using recycled materials and avoiding the use of cement, the cost of production and the carbon footprint of VegeBlock are significantly lower than that of conventional concrete blocks being used today. The aim of the project was focused on the development of innovative pre-cast blocks for the construction industry without the use of cement or primary aggregates. The project enabled the VegeBlock concept to be adapted to the specific conditions and materials available in Qatar, particularly to maximise the use of recycled and waste materials.
This smart block will contribute to sustainable development and the implementation of the green construction concept through the re-use of materials that might otherwise be disposed of as waste, and avoiding the import of the aggregates and cement that are used in conventional concrete building blocks, said the company. A series of laboratory testing programmes were carried out and the trials demonstrated the diversity of using various types of waste material, including unwashed sand, incinerated bottom ash (IBA) and excavation waste (limestone). Various types of used vegetable oils were also utilised including, palm oil, soybean oil and canola oil. It was found that the optimised mixtures produced VegeBlock—meeting and complying with Qatar Construction Specification (QCS 2014) requirements for compressive strength and water absorption for non-load bearing concrete blocks.
Durability tests indicated that VegeBlock was resistant to damage from water, salts and fuel. Various advantages of the VegeBlock, according to the company, include the use of locally-available waste and recycled materials, avoiding imports; reduced emissions of CO2 compared to conventional concrete blocks; the elimination of the use of cement and imported aggregates; and the new product does not require water for the mix, a significant advantage especially considering the climatic conditions in Qatar.