An investigation into the relationship between technical design, fabrication process and material development for the production of thin, lightweight, high-performance concrete cladding components for the construction of beautiful, durable and resilient building envelopes.

  • Roisin Hyde

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


'There exists a new spirit! Industry, overwhelming us like a flood which rolls towards its destined end, has furnished us with new tools adapted to this new epoch, animated by the new spirit.'
Le Corbusier, Vers une Architecture (1923)

This Modernist appeal to Architects at the beginning of the last century was to embrace the tools of their age in tackling the social and economic challenges they faced from urbanisation and a lack of suitable housing. Corbusier's vision was the mass production of 'healthy and beautiful' modular homes made with 'new materials', 'tried and proved in the laboratory'. Materials such as concrete which could be 'poured in from above as you would fill a bottle'. The model was rapidly adopted and in the years that followed tens of millions of people displaced by two World Wars were accommodated in multi-storey precast concrete structures. While delivering on the objectives of rapid and economic construction, the legacy of our initial attempts at the mass production of housing has also been energy inefficient buildings, the depletion of natural resources, production of large volumes of waste and greenhouse gases which have destabilised the unique and delicate balance of our planets' atmosphere. More than one hundred years later, Corbusier's observation that 'The problem of the house is a problem of the epoch. The equilibrium of society to-day depends upon it ' is even more relevant. This century as Architect's we face the dual challenge of balancing the need to accommodate our rapidly increasing urban populations with its impact on our planet.

According to the UN Environment Global Status Report 2021 the construction industry currently consumes 40% of all raw materials, generating 40% of solid waste and 39% of global CO2 emissions. 28% of these emissions arising from the energy consumed in heating, cooling, ventilation and light; with the remaining 11% from construction and materials. Concrete, the second most commonly used material in the world after water, is responsible for almost 8% of global CO2 emissions, for every ton of cement we produce almost 1 ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.
Our current take, make and dispose model is unsustainable, our task now is to utilise the tools available to us as Architects for the production of a new generation of high-performance, low carbon building components. This study investigates the relationship between the technical design, manufacturing process and mix development for the production of a thin, lightweight high-performance, modular concrete cladding component for the construction of durable and resilient building envelopes. The tools utilised are digital modelling and material characterisation, the methodology an agile iterative prototyping process, the model a circular economic cycle of production and consumption, the objectives a reduction in the consumption of raw materials, generation of waste and CO2 emissions.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 July 2026.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMichael McGarry (Supervisor) & Sree Nanukuttan (Supervisor)


  • Concrete Technology
  • geopolymer
  • circular economy
  • digital fabrication
  • material science
  • alkali activated materials
  • industrial symbiosis
  • integrated design process
  • sustainable architecture
  • 3D concrete printing
  • additive manufacturing
  • material characterisation

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