Maggie Krantz / Week 6 / Post 5
Architects are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to design. Always looking ahead, they continually champion the creation of a new material or hybrid or technology to better design homes and commercial buildings. But what if the hot, new material is right under our nose? This question was the driving force behind Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology exploration of the viability of a worthless clump of dead seaweed for insulation.
Known as Neptune grass, the Posidonia Oceanica plant continually washes up on Mediterranean beaches in small, compact balls which, until now, have been useless. However, the Fraunhofer Institute has found a purpose for these abundant, environmentally-friendly, and free materials. According to researchers, the grass is valuable because of its natural characteristics similar to manufactured insulations. Without needing chemical additives, this ordinary material is non-flammable and mold-resistant. It can be used in a variety of places like interior walls, the rafters of pitched roofs, or between building envelopes to save energy (1). The plant’s natural fibers allow it to both absorb and release water without affecting the other insulation properties.
The process of manufacturing is fairly easy and only requires the balls to be collected, shaken, and cut to remove sand and lose their spherical form. After this, the loose fibers are stored in bags and transported to be sprayed or hand-packed as insulation. The Institute explains that this abundant resource is 20% more efficient than wood-based insulation as well as less expensive (2).
In a day and age where people are constantly on the lookout for environmentally friendly and cost-effective strategies, Neptune grass is the key to the future. This exciting discovery raises the question: what else are we missing? New technology isn’t always better. Instead of looking forward, we should simply look around.