Expanded Polystyrene(EPS) has turned out to be an alternative material in the construction industry. This thermoplastic material is a polymer made of using styrene as a monomer by the polymerization process. During this process, the translucent spherical beads of polystyrene are produced. These beads combined to form EPS material. EPS is manufactured at three stages, they are. (i) Pre expansion (ii) Intermediate maturing, and (iii) Final molding. After these steps, we obtain blocks of EPS.
Concrete is a widely used construction material globally. It consists of fine aggregates, coarse aggregates, admixtures, water, and important component cement. The carbon footprint by cement manufacturers is so huge, making it an unsustainable construction material. So the scientists are searching for the best alternative to concrete to prevent or minimize carbon emissions. The alternative must be sustainable, recyclable, and eco-friendly. EPS was found to be sustainable and affordable building material for the construction industry.
Sustainable construction should be done at a much lower cost than traditional ones. The energy consumption and operations costs must be low. The material used must be environmentally friendly and save natural resources. These sustainable features are fulfilled by using EPS as a construction material.
Evolution of EPS in the construction industry
EPS is a plastic material that has got many applications. It has become one such material in the construction industry that can give the same results as conventional construction material. Initially, EPS insulation for roofs, walls, floors, and the ceiling has got recognition in the industry. But the continuous research for innovative solutions, the EPS gained special applications in the construction industry. EPS was recognized as a suitable material in bridge construction, roads, flotations, public buildings, railway lines, family residences, and drainage facilities.
Various types of EPS can be used in building construction; one of the most common ones is wall panels and slabs erected using steel meshes. In this steel, meshes are used for providing reinforcement to increase the tensile strength of the material.
These wall panels are present in two types. (i) Single Panel and (ii) Double Panel
1) Single Panel
It is a polystyrene sheet sandwiched between welded wire mesh. This mesh is covered with shotcrete to form single panel walls. Shotcrete is applying concrete at a very high velocity to an overhead or vertical surface. Shotcrete is applied under pressure with a pneumatic system. A building of four floors can be constructed using single panels.
2) Double Panel
The double panel is made of two single panels, which are brought together with an intermediate cavity. This panel has more strength and stability to withstand the stress. Buildings can go up to 15 floors with double panels.
EPS is a rigid cellular thermo-plastic that is found in different shapes and applications. EPS sheet, which is made of tiny beads of polystyrene mixed with pentane, can be used for goods packaging and insulation panels for the roofs and ceilings.
Reasons to use EPS in the construction industry
The best characteristics of EPS are reliability, versatility, recyclability, and moisture resistance. Following are the major physical, mechanical, thermal, and economic factors that make EPS a sustainable material in the construction industry.
- Reusability potential
- Hot weather resistance
- Fire resistance
- Cold weather resistance
- Strength and stability
- Resistance to the impact of sound
- Water resistance
EPS offers more thermal resistance than concrete. Due to the low thermal conductivity property of EPS, there would be less energy consumption. So the material is suitable to regulate the extreme temperatures within the building. Its closed air-filled structure inhibits the passage of cold or heat. EPS display high thermal insulation and low thermal conductivity.
Low Construction Cost
The unit weight of EPS embedded structure is 35% less than traditional concrete structure. This feature of EPS encourages the builders to use pre-assembled structural units to reduce the overall construction cost of the buildings.
After subjecting to the compression testing, the single finished panel has shown promising results to the researchers. The panel has exhibited high load resistance. It was proved that a single panel could withstand a load of 1530 kN/m. The monolithic joints of the building offer a high level of structural strength.
The densities of the EPS material fall between 10 and 35 kg/m³. The low density of the material results in low weight, which enables easy handling and transportation. EPS ensures increased safety of the construction labor due to its lightweight.
Its excellent mechanical resistance property makes it a good fit for load-bearing roof insulation works, road-building, and sub-pavement flooring.
Generally, the thermal and mechanical properties of the material deteriorate with humidity, dampness, and moisture. EPS has low water-absorbing property. We can expect no change in those properties with the usage of EPS for extended periods. This makes EPS suitable for constructions in swampy conditions.
Compatibility with other materials makes EPS ideal material for construction. This has become possible due to the chemical resistance of EPS. It is compatible with cement, plasters, fresh, saltwater, and admixtures.
The versatility of EPS lies in its flexibility to be cut into required shapes and sizes. EPS stands out from other construction materials due to its ability to fit into any construction project. It can’t be affected by any fungi or parasites as it has no nutritional value.
EPS as a construction material offers technical, environmental, social, and commercial benefits. After knowing these unique features, no one would stop themselves from using EPS for their construction needs. Finally, the aging resistance of EPS makes it an ideal material in retaining all the properties till the existence of the building.
Styrene Insulation Industry (SII) is a prominent and promising expanded polystyrene supplier in the UAE. Approach us for any kind of project you want to build. Our experts are ever ready to help you clear your doubts regarding EPS usage in the construction Industry.