Courtesy University of British Columbia

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have created a fiber-reinforced concrete called eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite (EDCC), that can withstand high seismic activity. The engineered material combines "cement with polymer-based fibers, fly ash and other industrial additives," according to a university press release.

A 10-millimeter-thick (0.4 inches) layer of the EDCC is enough to reinforce existing interior walls, which can then withstand quakes of up to a 9.0 magnitude. The product not only makes buildings more durable, but also earns points for sustainability through its use of fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion. The EDCC substitutes 70 percent of the cement used to make concrete with the byproduct material instead. According to Nemy Banthia, a UBC civil engineering professor, "one ton of cement production releases almost a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the cement industry produces close to seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions." Using fly ash, will lessen the environmentally harmful effects of the cement industry.

Courtesy University of British Columbia

This fall, the EDCC will be put to the test in its first real-life application at the Dr. Annie B. Jamieson Elementary School in Vancouver, Canada. Future applications of this product include industrial flooring, resilient homes, sidewalks, and blast-resistant structures.

“This UBC-developed technology has far-reaching impact and could save the lives of not only British Columbians, but citizens throughout the world,” said Melanie Mark, the minister of advanced education, skills and training in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “The earthquake-resistant concrete is a great example of how applied research at our public universities is developing the next generation of agents of change.”

This article first appeared in our sister publication Architect.