ESR groundwater scientist, Laura Banasiak, is on environmental watch in a project to develop earthquake-proof building foundations from old tyres.
Dr Banasiak is one of the research leaders on the project, which aims to reuse and recycle waste tyres to develop an innovative eco-rubber seismic isolation foundation, which would make foundations more resilient in earthquakes.
“More than 3.5 million waste tyres annually are either disposed of illegally or end up in landfills,” she says.
“There is an ever growing concern in regards to the environment due to large stockpiles of these waste tyres as they don’t readily degrade in the environment.”
This foundation system, which would be used for medium-density, low-rise buildings, will be composed of two critical elements – a seismic dissipative filter which will be composed of rubber and gravel mixtures, with a raft foundation above that composed of steel fibre –reinforced rubberised concrete.
ESR’s role in the Canterbury University project will be looking at the environment aspects.
“While it’s all well and good to have a foundation system that has benefits such as reduced cost and seismic resilience, we also need to ensure there aren’t any long-term impacts such as the release of toxic chemicals into the environment,” Dr Banasiak says.
“ESR will be undertaking some environmental laboratory tests to identify and quantify the degradation of the shredded rubber and to assess whether there’s any release of any potential contaminants.
“We’ll be doing leaching tests, combining the rubber with the gravel mixtures and exposing them to conditions we expect to be under the foundation system, for a long period of time to see what contamination could occur.”
The results from these tests would be used to assess the environmental impact and also identify any countermeasures which could be needed to remediate any potential contamination.
The project is set to run for two years, with the possibility of a time extension.