At VolkerFitzpatrick’s Apex site in Camden, the business is combining sustainable alternatives with traditional construction methods by using bricks made from excavated clay from the site to construct the basement perimeter walls.
Working with client, Reef, and architect, Bennetts Associates, on this sustainable project, the subsoil (clay) from site is being sent to brickmakers HG Matthews, who are combining it with sand and straw to create unfired bricks known as earth blocks. The earth blocks, which are tested to British standards, regulations and strengths, are then being sent back to site to be used to create the perimeter walls in the basement of the new buildings, which when complete, will include a mixed-use development with a state-of-the-art laboratory and office space.
The Apex will be the first building of its scale to make use of site subsoil as a construction material, and the aim is to set a pioneering precedent on using earth blocks for the construction industry. In total almost 14,000 earth blocks will be laid, covering over 90m³.
Unlike standard blockwork, which has limited recycling potential, earth blocks can be broken down and reused, or returned to nature at the end of their lifespan. As such, the earth block can store the building resource within the walls of the development throughout the lifetime of the building. This natural material also brings climatic benefits to buildings – it regulates indoor temperature and humidity levels and purifies the air by trapping airborne pollutants.
Rakesh Chavda, senior project manager at The Apex, commented: “We are so proud to be a part of such a sustainable project. The earth blocks will undergo a unique lifecycle in which they are able to end up exactly where they started from and we hope this technique can be applied to other large scale developments in future.”
Alongside the project work, a team from Bennetts Associates architects has created ‘Earthcycle: Earth blocks from subsoil’ which is currently being exhibited in the 2022 Royal Academy of Arts’ Architecture Summer Exhibition. The piece tells the story about the financial and environmental benefit of utilising site subsoil as a construction material.
More info can be found here - https://www.bennettsassociates.com/media/earth-blocks-tribeca/
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