CATHER-POUND DEMOLITION/WHAT TO EXPECT: Making better, greener materials

Calendar Icon Dec 21, 2017      Person Bust Icon By Keith McGuffey     RSS Feed  RSS Submit a Story

Yong-Rak Kim, professor of civil engineering.
Yong-Rak Kim, professor of civil engineering.


Built in the 1960s, Cather and Pound residence halls were made of traditional materials of the time – reinforced concrete, masonry bricks and some woods. It was also usual for buildings built in this era to contain asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), materials harmful to the environment.

“I was told that all materials after demolition would go to the landfill because of contaminations,” said Yong-Rak Kim, professor of civil engineering.

In 2014, about 500 million tons of debris were generated from demolition, and reducing the amount of demolition materials disposed of in landfills and incinerators can significantly contribute to reducing costs, resources, and environmental threats. Kim studies the materials of infrastructure to find alternatives to costly, potentially harmful building materials.

“Cement production requires a tremendous amount of energy to heat and generates nearly one ton of carbon dioxide for every ton of processed cement,” said Kim. “An alternative binding material such as geopolymer, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be fired, and it can be produced by blending by-products such as fly ash, a kind of waste material from coal power plants, with recycled aggregates obtained from demolition sites without losing core engineering properties as a building material.”

“Future structures at the university should be meeting multiple purposes: more environmentally friendly, energy efficient and recyclable in addition to structural safety,” said Kim.

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