Nanotechnology and green building converge

The convergence of nanotechnology and environmentally sensitive green building is here, according to George Elvin, director of the Green Technology Forum.

In the forum’s latest report, Elvin cites examples of success stories in which costs have been reduced and environmental impacts lessened through the use of nanotechnology. But he cautions that the nanotech and building sectors must get to know each other a lot better in order to realise the potential benefits of the new technologies.

‘Nanotechnology and Green Building’ is a comprehensive research review which suggests that the potential for energy conservation and reduced waste, toxicity, non-renewable resource use and atmospheric carbon emissions through architectural applications of nanotechnology is significant. Current nanotech-based insulation materials and coatings are identified and discussed, as are emerging air and water purification technologies, solar energy gathering and lighting systems.

“Green building is a prime market for nanomaterials because building is a huge – as in trillions of dollars per year worldwide – market,” says Elvin. “Green building is the most rapidly expanding facet of the construction market because it’s not just the right thing to do for the planet; local, state and federal agencies are requiring new buildings to meet stringent environmental standards. Because of this, architects are looking for alternative eco-friendly and energy-efficient materials with increasing urgency.”

Obstacles in the way of widespread adoption of nanotech building solutions include the high price tags of many products and services, health and safety uncertainties, risk aversion and an innate conservatism in the industry. But there exist today a number of nanomaterials that offer substantial environmental improvements over conventional products. These include coatings that reduce the need for harsh chemical cleansers and produce no volatile organic compounds.

Elvin argues that as prices for nanotech building products fall, and building industry leaders become more familiar with the technology, its widespread adoption is inevitable.

Further reading: Nanotechnology and Green Building, George Elvin, Green Technology Forum (2007).

Article first published in Nanomaterials News.