The Cube, located on the campus of the University of Dresden, is the world’s first building made of concrete reinforced with carbon fibres instead of steel. It was developed by the German architectural firm Henn, in collaboration with researchers from the university.
This 220m2 experimental building is a flagship project of the C³ – Carbon Concrete Composite research initiative on innovative building materials, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
According to its designers, this type of concrete has the same structural strength as concrete reinforced with steel rebars but uses much less concrete. Instead, it is reinforced by carbon fibres, which are linked together by polymers. The fibres then assemble into a kind of mattress on which the concrete is poured.
An innovative and durable material with multiple advantages
The resulting mixture is four times lighter and four times stronger than standard reinforced concrete. It also reduces carbon dioxide emissions from construction by up to 50%.
Other advantages: the carbon fibre material does not corrode, giving it a much longer life than conventional reinforced concrete. It also allows structures to be thinner, as at least half of the concrete in a traditional building element is used to protect the steel reinforcement from any risk of decomposition.
The main disadvantage of this forward-looking building technology is its cost. But it has other advantages which compensate for this negative aspect. For example, carbon concrete saves materials thanks to its durability, stability, and corrosion resistance. Therefore, the costs balance out more.