The Future of Sustainable Construction Materials in India

The construction industry in India is currently facing numerous challenges that need to be addressed. One of the most pressing issues is the depletion of natural sand, which is expected to run out by 2050. Furthermore, the sector is contending with escalating carbon dioxide emissions, particularly from the production of cement and fired clay bricks. Additionally, the generation of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is increasing, with around 150 million tons produced annually in India and only a 1% recycling rate.

Researchers at the Center for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are actively exploring solutions to these challenges. One approach involves storing carbon dioxide from industrial flue gas in excavated soil and C&D waste. These materials could potentially be used to replace natural sand in construction applications, offering both environmental benefits and improved material properties.

Studies conducted by Souradeep Gupta, Assistant Professor at CST, have yielded promising results. By replacing natural sand with carbon dioxide-treated C&D waste in mortar and subjecting it to a controlled, CO2-rich environment, the material’s engineering properties were accelerated and its compressive strength enhanced by 20-22%. Injecting carbon dioxide gas into clayey soil also led to improved stabilization of the soil, reduced surface area, pore volume, and lime reactivity, resulting in enhanced bulk engineering performance.

Gupta’s team has further developed 3D-printable materials using excavated soil stabilized with a combination of binders such as Portland cement, blast furnace slag, and fly ash. These materials have shown superior extrusion and buildability compared to conventional cement-sand mortars. Additionally, they have the potential to reduce the amount of cement and natural sand needed in mortar by up to 30% and 50%, respectively.

Moving forward, the research team intends to investigate the impact of industrial and simulated flue gas on the properties of these sustainable construction materials. By understanding how different gases affect carbon-capturing potential and engineering properties, they aim to optimize the materials for widespread adoption. Discussions are already underway with major construction companies to implement these findings in their manufacturing processes.

The development of sustainable construction materials in India is crucial for combating environmental challenges and reducing the sector’s carbon footprint. Through innovative research and collaboration with industry partners, the Center for Sustainable Technologies is paving the way for a more sustainable future in construction. As the demand for eco-friendly building materials continues to grow, these advancements will play a vital role in reshaping the construction industry and promoting a greener, more sustainable built environment.


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