When you think of concrete, "translucent" is unlikely to be the first thing to come to mind. While concrete has a reputation for being rather opaque, translucent concrete is here and it is real. This innovative form of concrete uses a clever method to transmit light. Optical or other light-transmitting fibers are embedded into the concrete, carrying light from one side to the other. Despite this method of construction, translucent concrete generally does not appear to be porous, producing a striking optical effect as light passes through seemingly solid blocks of cement.
Is It Just A Gimmick?
Transparent concrete may not appear to have many uses at first blush, but this technology has existed for quite some time and it has found use in some surprising areas. Because only a relatively small portion of the concrete is composed of light-transmitting fibers, the concrete itself remains strong and suitable for many typical applications. The small number of fibers (relative to the mass of the concrete) and the properties of the transmission medium also mean that most light does not pass through, creating a filtering effect and preventing the transmission of large amounts of heat.
Transparent concrete has found two primary applications in practice: decorative facades or art and environmentally-friendly light transmission.
The first use should be obvious. Concrete has many properties that make it suitable for use in commercial structures, but its flat appearance is often uninspiring. Although various stains, dyes, and other techniques exist to spruce up concrete, few are as striking as translucent blocks. Although their high cost makes them unsuitable for use across an entire building, they can be applied sparingly to entrance areas, facades, or other areas where designers may want to make a unique impression.
Perhaps less obvious is translucent concrete's use as an environmentally friendly method of light transmission and heat control. Translucent blocks can easily be used in areas where natural light is required, reducing the windows needed to light the same space. By using translucent concrete in this way, heat loading from the outside environment can be reduced without requiring specialized window treatments. Translucent concrete has insulating properties similar to regular concrete as well, helping to keep warm and cool air from escaping to the environment.
Using Translucent Concrete In Your Project
If you are undertaking a major commercial project requiring the use of concrete, then translucent concrete is a technology to keep in mind. Used sparingly, it can be a cost-effective way to add a unique touch to the design of any building while also providing practical gains for energy savings and efficiency. For more information about your concrete project, reach out to a company like Burge Construction.