Sounds Weird, But...Plastic Roads May Actually 'Surface'
Our infrastructure problem is not going away any time soon.
Lilli Manolis Sherman
Our infrastructure problem is not going away any time soon. So, any fresh ideas, no matter how weird they may sound are surely worth taking a look. Here’s an example from The Netherlands where the first ‘plastic road’ could become a reality within the near future.
Particularly in recent years, Dutch engineers and designers have become increasingly recognized for their innovative and eco-friendly ideas—ranging from self-healing concrete to the first solar bike path. Just within the last month, Dutch construction company VolkerWessels has announced that it is teaming up with the City of Rotterdam to produce a prototype for a prefabricated road consisting of 100% recycle material. If all goes as imagined, this will result in a sustainable alternative to conventional road structures which will be virtually maintenance-free, lightweight, will take a fraction of the construction time, and have a three-fold expected lifespan.
PlasticRoad according to the ambitious company, features numerous advantages both in terms of construction and maintenance. First, plastic is much more sustainable and opens the door for a number of new innovations such as power generation, quieter road surfaces, heated roads and modular construction. Moreover, the design features a ‘hollow’ space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater.
The company’s says its PlasticRoad concept is in line with developments such as Cradle to Cradle and The Ocean Cleanup: the initiative to free the seas of ‘plastic soup’. Recycled plastic is made into prefabricated road parts that can be installed in one piece. The prefabricated production and the lightweight design also make the road’s construction a much simpler task. Roads can be built in weeks instead of months as the road sections fit together like tiles. It is also much easier to control the quality of the roads such as stiffness and water drainage versus traditional asphalt.
Also, because of its hollow structure, the road can simply be installed on a surface of sand or other poor soil, without the need for costly foundations. VolkerWessels also say, that it is possible to integrate other elements in the prefabrication phase including traffic loop sensors, measuring equipment, and connections for light poles.
The next step is to build it and test it in Rotterdam’s street lab to make sure it is safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. The company is interested in hearing from potential partners.
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