09-01 sustainable housing development

[Image above] A partnership between the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at UNSW Sydney and Australian property group Mirvac looks to develop apartments that are made primarily with green ceramics and other repurposed waste materials. Credit: SMaRT UNSW, YouTube

For those who work in the ceramic and glass industry, this week marks a milestone in the return to live events with Ceramics Expo, the free-to-attend leading annual supply chain exhibition and conference for advanced ceramic and glass materials, manufacturing, technologies, and components.

A full summary of Ceramics Expo, which is taking place August 31–September 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, will appear on CTT this Friday. (Check out our photo gallery from the first day of the event.) Until then, we’ll highlight just one of the many topics touched on during the first day of the conference—sustainable manufacturing.

Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.

During the first panel discussion of Ceramics Expo, industry representatives said that the COVID-19 pandemic heightened awareness of the weaknesses in current supply chain systems. Now many companies are using sustainable manufacturing principles to help them derisk their supply chains and establish new expectations for suppliers.

For people outside of the industry, recycling is one technique that immediately comes to mind as a move toward sustainability. However, sustainability is much more than just recycling waste materials.

“[Sustainability] is redesigning, rethinking the way that we collect, we process, we reuse, as well as recycle everything,” Hugh Durrant-Whyte says in a recent video.

Durrant-Whyte is chief scientist and engineer at the University of Sydney in Australia. Though he was not one of the panelists at Ceramics Expo, he is part of an Australian-based network that exemplifies the move toward sustainable manufacturing.

The Circular Economy Innovation Network, known as NSW Circular, launched in 2019 to help boost manufacturing jobs in New South Wales as the state moved away from the traditional “take, make, and dispose” model. The network is led by Veena Sahajwalla, Scientia Professor and director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).

One of the first projects following the establishment of NSW Circular involves a partnership between SMaRT and Australian property group Mirvac to use green ceramics in commercial development.

Green ceramics are produced using a variety of waste materials, such as glass and textiles, that are traditionally not subject to recycling. SMaRT has been developing green ceramics that can be used as kitchen benches, tabletops, floor tiles, furnishings, and other built environment applications through their Green Ceramics MICROfactorie project, which you can learn more about in the video below.

Credit: SMaRT UNSW, YouTube

In March 2021, SMaRT and Mirvac announced the results of their collaboration—an apartment made primarily with green ceramics and other repurposed waste materials, located in the Pavilions apartment at Sydney Olympic Park. In a UNSW Sydney press release, Mirvac CEO and managing director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz expresses her excitement for the project.

“In Australia, the building industry is responsible for around 60 percent of the waste we generate. At Pavilions, we have been able to demonstrate a better way to build, using reformed waste, which not only helps our industry but provides a valuable second life for the mountains of glass and clothing, much of which would otherwise find its way to landfill,” she says.

“Just as important, we are demonstrating to the broader industry that there are viable commercial and sustainable alternatives that can lead to a more sustainable future, where we consider the whole life cycle of the resources and materials we use in housing and construction,” she adds.

Take a look at the waste-based apartment in the video below.

Credit: SMaRT UNSW, YouTube